Saturday, July 06, 2024

Pentecost 7B

My grace is sufficient for you
for my power is made perfect in weakness.
2 Corinthians 12:9
Mark 6:1-13

1 Jesus left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. 2 On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, "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! 3 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?" And they took offense at him.

4 Then Jesus said to them, "Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house." 5 And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. 6 And he was amazed at their unbelief.

Then he went about among the villages teaching. 7 He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8 He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; 9 but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. 10 He said to them, "Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. 11 If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them."

12 So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. 13 They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

So far in Mark

We've heard the opening announcement of Good News – "Gospel" – followed by Jesus' preparation for public ministry by receiving John's baptism of repentance, his retreat into deeper wilderness for a time of solitary prayer and temptation, then ministries of healing, exorcism (casting out demons, evil spirits, and what we might consider mental or psychological illnesses), calling followers or disciples, demonstrating the inclusive reign of God by eating with all comers, teaching theology with parables or comparisons, demonstrating his authority over the created order by taming a storm, *even* restoring life to a young girl who was "at the point of death."

Today's Gospel Reading

Jesus returns to his hometown and his disciples follow him. He's on his own turf, with his own people—both family and friends. His teaching on the Sabbath in his home synagogue causes friends and family (not religious experts this time) to wonder about the source of his authority; after all, this Jesus is a regular person like everyone else.

To paraphrase Pastor Eugene Peterson's version, "All of us know who Jesus is, but who on earth does Jesus think he is?"

Jesus and his siblings would have grown up learning scripture, probably memorizing long passages. Any Jew in that time and place would have been scripturally and theologically literate. In addition, it wasn't unusual for a regular person like Jesus to read and teach in the Sabbath assembly; as in synagogues today, they had a custom of inviting congregants to read Torah on Sabbath.

Models for Ministry

Jesus' friends and relatives didn't get who he was; we can commiserate from knowing about how it feels when people don't understand us, the pain of being rejected or not welcome. Those can be important discussions in light of scripture. But for today, we hear about Jesus sending disciples to do the same ministry he has done. Jesus doesn't wait until their understanding and actions all are perfect; Jesus trusts and sends them as they are. They go out as sent people (apostles) because Jesus has authorized them.

At this particular time, Jesus sends his disciples out in pairs of two. He tells them to go with only bare basics: sandals to protect their feet, a walking stick to help trudging over rough terrain—maybe to chase away snakes and vermin. He tells them not to take food or money! This is far from the only biblical model for reaching-out, invitational evangelism, yet many still follow the two by two, minimal supplies, relying on people we encounter example.

Guests and Hosts: Where We Live

6:10: Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place (locale).

Preaching, teaching, and healing are important aspects of twenty-first century Christian ministry for individuals and for entities like congregations, schools, and hospitals. Besides, we love to host people. Every city has dozens of church-related food ministries of different types and several housing/shelter services for various populations.

Related to hosting, typically we think of food and shelter, but why not count ministries of music, visual arts, and dance in the ways we host others, whether they're in the audience or we're instructing them? We're still the hosts-givers; they're our guests-recipients.

But here Jesus tells us let other people host you! Enjoy their hospitality; let them give to you. Make yourselves at home among strangers.

We need to contextualize what we do in order to relate well to others' cultures and experience. We want them to feel welcomed and definitely puzzled or offended. How can we learn to host in ways they relate to… maybe by letting them host us?!

We can learn about our neighbors' food by eating it, watching or helping them prepare it, along with table manners that may be different from ours. After all, western European food etiquette departs from our usual North American habits. Engage newcomers to learn about their music, traditions, geography, and other features in their countries of origin. Countries of origin? How about families and individuals from other sections of the USA? We can learn basic words and phrases in others' languages. If they're native speakers of English, pick up some of their colloquial phrases and use them properly.

If because of space, too remote a location, or other concerns activities can't happen in someone's home, we can invite them to a meal or other activity in a park, rec or community center, maybe in our church building. I'll add in here it's absolutely okay to offer financial support to help offset the cost of food or other supplies. Ministries and outreach can't occur without bodies, minds, and spirits, but don't underestimate how essential funding is.

6:11 "If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them." Move right on! What about that advice? How long do we wait? I always say, "people are going to say and do whatever they're doing to say and do. Don't let them wag you." My own advice often has worked well for me, but how do we discern it's time to move on?

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