This Homily was given at 9AM Morning Prayer on July 8, 2018 by Pat Vine, Spiritual Director
Ezekiel 2:1-5 ~ Psalm 123 ~ 2 Corinthians 12:2-10 ~ Mark 6:1-13
We see in today’s gospel that the account begins with Jesus teaching in the synagogue and with the many who hear him who are astounded. They say, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands?!” They are initially amazed at the gifts that Jesus displays in ministering one-on-one to people.
But in a matter of seconds, the atmosphere changes from one of amazement to one of judgment. They say “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” Their focus changes from looking with amazement at what Jesus has done, to one of looking at his occupation and lineage. How can a carpenter, a laborer who works with his hands, have the ability to fix people’s lives by healing them physically and spiritually? How can a carpenter display such wisdom in the synagogue?
Let’s look at the irony here. What does a carpenter do but build and fix things. So Jesus’ earthly occupation hints at the fact that his ministry is a spiritual one of building people’s lives, fixing their illnesses, in both physical and spiritual ways. Jesus the carpenter ultimately repairs our lives by dying on the wood of the cross in place of you and me. The wood on which he dies for the redemption of our sins turns out to be the very same substance that gives life. As a carpenter, he fashioned wood into items that would enable people to have a better life.
Perhaps when the townspeople refer to Jesus as son of Mary was an inference to his being an illegitimate child, a cause of shame in the first century. This sounds like a passive aggressive statement since I found out that sons are referred to by the lineage of the father, so Jesus would have been referred to as the son of Joseph, not of Mary. This judgment fuels their ammunition to discount Jesus and his mission and to take offense at him.
Only in his home town, among his own people, is a prophet without honor. His family and neighbors knew Jesus growing up and when he had begun his third decade of life to all of a sudden see him preaching and healing had to be a hard pill for them to swallow. I remember how difficult it was for me to explain to my mother and father my initial spiritual experience when Jesus first touched my life. Their reaction was, “I hope you’re not becoming one of those Jesus freaks!” Well, in essence, I did become a Jesus freak but I was lacking in wisdom. After a few hard knocks of experience, I calmed down to no longer run ahead of the Holy Spirit but to allow that Spirit to work through me to others.
“Jesus could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.” Perhaps Jesus could do so few deeds of power because there were so few people who would come and ask for help and healing, given the fact that a prophet is without honor in his hometown. So there were few in his hometown who believed in him.
The gospel takes us next from the unbelief of the townspeople in Nazareth to the belief of the twelve apostles. The twelve believe Jesus, so they receive the authority that he gives them and they are ready to use that authority.
I looked up the meaning of the word “authority” and here’s what I found:
- the power to give orders or make decisions
- the power or right to direct or control someone or something
- the confident quality of someone who knows a lot about something or who is respected or obeyed by other people.
So Jesus sends out the twelve two by two, who are given authority by Jesus over unclean spirits. He orders them to take nothing for their journey except a staff, sandals, one tunic. The twelve have to let go of everything else that would have sustained them or enabled them to purchase what they needed on their journey (bread, bag, money). The call is to put their total trust in God for what they would need. They are to enter a house and stay there until they leave. And if any place does not welcome them and they refuse to hear what you have to say, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them. Notice that Jesus doesn’t want the twelve to convince those who refuse to hear what they have to say. They are to leave, knowing that they have done their best.
So, as followers of Jesus, what authority is He giving to you and to me? We get answers at the end of the gospels of Matthew and Mark, where the authority that we are given by Jesus is made very clear.
- We are to make disciples of all nations, teaching them to observe all that Jesus commanded us
- We are to go into all the world and preach the gospel (and if necessary, use words)
- We are told that these signs will accompany those who have believed: in Jesus’ name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues, they will lay hands on the sick and they will recover.
How are we doing as followers of Jesus in doing these things? I believe we are doing some of them at St. Michael’s, but we can do more. I applaud those of you who are already doing these things.
But some of you may say to yourself, I am not a preacher or a teacher…I am only a widow, or a housewife, a single man, a husband, or perhaps a carpenter. How can I do these things that Jesus has done? You may be looking at yourself as the people looked at Jesus in his home town of Nazareth. Remember that Jesus chooses ordinary people to be his disciples and apostles. Ordinary people like you and me. There is a saying attributed to Mother Theresa: “Do small things with great love.” Jesus ministered one-on-one with the people he met as he went on with his day. This is what we need to do to change the world as He did more than 2,000 years ago.
- Place your hand on the hand of a homebound person, giving them reassurance, perhaps saying a simple prayer with them—this is laying hands on the sick so they will recover.
- Share a simple story with another of how you experience the coincidences of God in your life—this is sharing the gospel.
- Encourage discouraged persons to turn to God in their troubles and pray—this is sharing the gospel.
- Teach a child to forgive another child for a wrong done to him or her—this is teaching the child to observe all that Jesus commanded us.
These are examples of the simple things that you and I can do to take the authority that Jesus is giving us and to use it in our everyday lives.
We are given 168 hours in a seven-day week, 112 hours of which we are awake. Is it possible to give one or two hours out of the 112 to give of yourself to another person or organization that needs the gifts that you have to give?
I am talking about lighting a fire under each and every one of us, myself included, so that we become active disciples following our Lord Jesus Christ. Pray that God’s Holy Spirit makes us aware of the many opportunities throughout our day when we are one-on-one with another—so that we are able to be tuned in to a word or a touch that the person may need to bring that person one step closer to the Kingdom of God. This is the challenge and the authority given us by our Lord Jesus Christ.