Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

GOSPEL Mark 6:1-13 

The holy gospel according to Mark.
Glory to you, O Lord. 

[Jesus] came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, a“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! 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. Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” And he 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. Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. 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.” So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them. 

The gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, O Christ. 

Grace to you and peace from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

I’m going to start off with a couple of stories about knowing people.

About 8 months ago, Paula and I became grandparents. His name is Paul, and like most grandkids, he is a joy to us. He has an easy grin, especially when he’s getting attention. He usually lights up a little when he sees Paula or I, more so with Paula, but he really lights up when he sees his mom or dad. Now if you think I could talk about him and not show a picture, you’re wrong. Here he is with his dad, Evan.

He lights up when he sees his mom and dad because he has total trust in them. He doesn’t really know his mom and dad yet. He knows their faces and voices and that’s about it. If he could talk, all he’d probably be able to tell you about them is that they are always there for him and he trusts them. With everything. He is completely and utterly dependent on them and they’ve never let him down.He has faith that they will take care of him.

My mom died in 1996. After a couple of years my dad started dating again. I was good with that. One October, maybe a year or say after he started dating, we made plans to meet at Lutheran Memorial Camp for their fall Apple Butter Festival. It’s about halfway between our houses so it was convenient place to meet. Paula and I were standing by one of the exhibits when my dad came walking up, with a lady on his arm whom I didn’t recognize. When they approached my dad said “hi, DB,” to me and the lady said “Hi, Donnie!”

Now you need to understand that when I was little, I was called Donnie by nearly everyone. Around middle school age I decided that that was a little kid’s name and I wanted to go by by Don. One of my friends couldn’t get used to that and started calling me by initials, DB. So most people called me either Don or DB. The only people to still call me Donnie were my aunts and uncles and a few select long-time friends.

So, when this lady, whom I didn’t recognize, called me by my childhood name, I was somewhat taken aback. The gears in my brain ran about as fast as they could and I finally stammered, “ I’m sorry, but how do you know me?” 

It turned out that she was Judy Lane. Her family were our next door neighbors from when I was an infant until I was eight years old. She had been one of my early babysitters and her mom, Goldie, was my God-mother. Judy moved away when I was still pretty young so I can’t say that I ever really knew her from that time, but she knew me. She and dad ended up getting married and now we know each other pretty well and get along great, even after my dad has passed away. I’d say we trust each other as much as any family does.We know each other and trust each other far beyond what we did when I was a little boy.

Our gospel today talks about two groups of people who knew Jesus. One group is the people of his home town. These people had known Jesus as a kid. They had seen him grow up and were aware of any mishaps he might have had early on. Some of them might have changed whatever they used for for diapers in those days. They were probably aware that he was conceived out of wedlock since they called him “the son of Mary” and not “the son of Joseph.”

Up until now in the gospel of Mark, Jesus had  been traveling around performing miracles and preaching. Word had surely gotten back to the people of his hometown about him. You would think that the people there would be excited to have him arrive. “Local kid makes good” kind of thing. Maybe Jesus was thinking that too. However, instead of honoring him and urging him to maybe show off little bit, it says that they took offense at him. In the gospel of Luke’s version of the story, they even attempted to throw him off a cliff! Jesus was amazed at their unbelief and because of it, he couldn’t do any deeds of power other than healing a few sick people.

The people of his town knew who Jesus was in the framework of a small town boy and they were unable to see him as anything beyond that. Can’t you just hear them? “ This bastard mama’s boy, goody two shoes, is trying to tell us how we should live? Hah!” This inability to see him for who who he really was fostered their unbelief and that led to their missing out on witnessing the power of God let loose in the world.

The other group of people in the passage who knew Jesus were his disciples. They hadn’t known Jesus for that long, certainly less than three years. Now they didn’t know what he was like as a child or young man, but they had walked the roads with him listening to his preaching and his thoughts during their conversations. They had been hungry with him and seen how he’d reacted. They had told jokes together and knew which ones he thought were funny and which ones weren’t. They had had tired feet and legs together and knew how he’d reacted. They had seen the way he interacted with others and how he treated others, especially the underprivileged and the poor. They’d seen him healing the lame and the sick and casting out demons. They believed this man. They believed him so much that when he told them to out to the villages to preach the good news and take nothing with you, they did.

Because of their belief, their faith, they were treated to great works of God’s power. They were also able to cure people and cast out demons in his name, just like he did.

So, we have two groups of people who knew Jesus rather well. We can see from these two groups that knowing him doesn’t equate exactly with trusting or having faith in him.

So where are you today? 

First of all, how well do you know him? Do you know him the way an old married couple knows each other, often finishing each other’s sentences? Or do you know him like some high school classmate that you’re friends with on Facebook and you only see at the occasional class reunion? It’s hard to put your faith in someone that you barely know in the first place.

Luckily, it’s not hard to start getting to him better. Attending worship or participating online is a great start. Reading your Bible helps. Attending a Bible study either online or in person is another great way. At Bible studies you can hear and tell about how God is moving in people’s lives today, not just in Biblical days. We have multiple bible studies available and if you’d like to know more about them, just get in touch with Pastor, Pam Bauser, or me.

So let’s say you have a reasonable knowledge of Jesus. Does that knowledge lead you to disregard or even despise his teachings, like the of the people of his hometown? I have some friends like that. They are well versed in the Bible and know many of the stories from the Old Testament or the gospel books and yet they treat Jesus as some kind of fictional character at best. Instead of seeing Jesus as someone who loves humanity so much that he gave his own life up for it in a horrific manner, they see him as someone who is always telling them what to do and demands to be groveled too.

Perhaps your knowledge of Jesus leads you to react with like his disciples. Perhaps because of your knowledge you look for ways where you can step out in faith or at least are willing to act in faith when the situation arises. Perhaps your knowledge of Jesus has led you to a faith so strong that you are aware of every little prod of the Spirit’s leading and respond accordingly.

If you’re like me, it depends on the day or circumstances which group your faith is more like. Some days, I’m full of the faith that says , “I know you have this, God, just show how I can help.” This is the faith my grandson, Paul, currently has in his mom dad.

Other days my lack of faith says, “I know what your word says about this, but I don’t care. I’m going to handle this my way, even if you say it’s sinful.” This is the faith in his mom and dad that Paul will probably have when he’s a teenager.

Regardless of how much knowledge of or faith we have in Jesus, here’s the good news. God has knowledge of us. He knew us while we were still in our mothers womb before our birth. He knows how many hairs are on our heads and he knows our thoughts. 

When I was young, this used to freak me out a little, especially the knowing our thoughts part.I also knew my thoughts and they weren’t always the most holy ones. I sort of felt that God was always waiting to put the hammer down on me. As I grew older and my knowledge of him grew, I came to understand that his knowledge of us isn’t there waiting to punish us, instead it’s waiting to bless us!

When we came forward to be baptized, either carried by our parents or under our own power, we were adopted into God’s family. God became our father. Just like my daughter, Maryann and her husband, Evan, will never stop having faith in or stop loving Paul, regardless of how Paul ends up, even if Paul ends up rejecting him, God will never stop loving us. Maryann and Evan love and will continue to love Paul as unconditionally as humans can.

In the same way, God loves us unconditionally only without the human limitations of that love. Gos loves you and has faith in you. I urge you this week to try and grow in your knowledge of God and to stretch or test your faith in him. You may some great works of God occur as a result!

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.