Sermon for the 6th Sunday after Pentecost (Lectionary 14, Year B)
Sunday, July 8, 2012
Grace Lutheran Church, St Paul, MN
The Rev. Chris Duckworth
Sermon text: Mark 6:1-13 (Common English Bible)
When my dear wife was doing her graduate study,
we belonged to Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Princeton Junction, NJ.
We arrived at the same time their new pastor, The Rev. Paul Lutz, arrived there.
He had just completed a several-year call
at our denomination’s central offices in Chicago, IL,
where he directed our church’s approach to and training for adult education,
which was shaped largely by a dynamic understanding of and approach to “discipleship.”
One of the simpler, yet most memorable, things he did at Prince of Peace
immediately upon his arrival there
was to abandon language around being church “members.”
Instead, he talked of us being disciples.
He sent emails and letters addressed to “the disciples of Christ at Prince of Peace,”
and in his sermons he called us Christ’s disciples.
Members belong to clubs. Disciples follow their Lord.
So, we were disciples.
Now, let’s be honest.
New pastor arrives and starts calling you disciples. Kinda strange, huh?
Yes, we all understand, in some abstract sense, that we are disciples.
But we are not used to, we’re not comfortable with, using that language.
Because, after all, that puts us in the Biblical story.
That puts us up there with the, well, the disciples of Jesus!
And perhaps in good Lutheran – in good Minnesotan – modesty,
we don’t want to put ourselves on that pedestal,
as if we were in the same league with the disciples …
but I also think this modesty – be it Lutheran, Minnesotan, or something else –
I think this modesty also becomes a bit convenient,
because who really wants to be a disciple?
Being a disciple is hard. Being a members sounds easier.
In today’s Gospel reading Jesus goes to his hometown.
Oh, I can identify. I’m heading back to my childhood hometown later this month,
as my family and I make a crazy road trip that will include Philadelphia,
and perhaps a stop at my favorite youth hangout,
a great hamburger and milkshake joint called Nifty Fifty’s.
Now, I don’t expect to be rejected when I go into Nifty Fifty’s
and order a Butterfinger milkshake and a cheesesteak with fried onions.
But Jesus was rejected, and upon his homecoming he was immediately questioned
by the crowd in an accusing, suspicious tone.
Who does this guy think he is? Isn’t he the carpenter? So what’s he doing all these things for?
And isn’t he Mary’s son? Aren’t his siblings here?
And so, dear disciples, we see here our Lord returning home … and not having a great time of it.
Lesson number one: disciples of our Lord might not have a place to call “home.”
Who wants that?
Well, seeing that “home” was not all that it was cracked up to be,
Jesus and his disciples move on,
and rather than settle in one place and make a new home,
they decide instead to spread out and go into the homes of others.
Sending out his disciples two by two,
Jesus instructs them to take nothing – except for a walking stick, shirt, sandals …
and the authority that Jesus gives to them,
the authority to cast out unclean spirits.
But the other creature comforts –
extra clothes, money, food, etc.?
Knick knacks that could make a place feel like home?
Nope. Take none of it.
Lesson number two: disciples don’t have lots of stuff.
You’re not going to have a home.
Instead, you’re going to go into the homes of others.
Don’t depend on your own efforts to feed yourself, clothe yourself, care for yourself.
Depend on the hospitality of others.
And those others are strangers.
Lesson number three: disciples need compete strangers,
not just to hear their message, but to survive and, indeed, to do the work of the Gospel.
Then, Jesus tells them that they will be rejected, perhaps by many, of these strangers,
and that the disciples are simply to shake the dust off their feet when that happens,
a non-violent but strong rebuke of those who fail to offer the simple gift of hospitality.
Lesson number four: disciples face rejection.
So, let’s review:
Disciples don’t have a place to call home.
Disciples don’t have lots of stuff.
Disciples depend on complete strangers for just about everything.
Disciples face rejection.
Alright! Woo hoo! This sounds …. awful. Who wants to sign up?
No wonder it took some time for discipleship language
to settle in at my church back in New Jersey.
Discipleship just plain stinks. It is a hard, uncomfortable, disconcerting lifestyle.
We who strive for comfort, for stability, for familiarity would be quite unhappy
with this disciple lifestyle.
Well, let’s keep reading.
The Gospel reading ends today with a report of the disciples’ success –
they proclaimed Jesus’ message, cast out demons, and healed the sick.
Of course, this harkens back to something else that Jesus gave his disciples
authority over unclean spirits, which I only mentioned briefly earlier.
Jesus gives his disciples authority,
and it is by that authority, not by any other power,
that these disciples were able to do so much.
Lesson number five: God gives disciples authority.
God gives disciples authority over unclean spirits,
over all things which would deny people the full extent of what God has called them to be.
And it is by this authority that the disciples went out and did some amazing things.
Heal the sick.
Restore to health, and to the community,
those who were believed to be possessed by demons,
those who were shut out from the community’s life and livelihood.
Disciples have this authority.
Disciples have the authority to heal and to restore.
With this authority,
the authority to set things right in the world,
and with the assurance that we don’t need much else –
we don’t need to worry about money or shelter,
nor do we need to invest in a home since disciples don’t have a true sense of home –
all we need is each other – remember, the disciples went out in pairs,
and later returned to each other –
and with the promise of God guiding us and providing for us …
with all of this being given to the disciples, to us disciples, what is stopping us?
God has given us authority.
God has promised that we will have what we need for the mission.
God has given us each other …
and the strangers yet unknown to us who God calls as partners in this mission.
Yes, God has given us so much, so that we can do what we’re called to do ….
to be workers and proclaimers of God’s transformation in the world.
For God is ushering in his Kingdom here and now.
God is doing this in and through us,
and through other disciples in our community and in our world.
God has given us all we need.
And most importantly, God is with us.
With all that God has given us,
may we go forth, together, to heal, to restore, to proclaim God’s love and grace.