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Pentecost 7B          July 7, 2024           Mark 6:1-13

 

We see in our gospel reading for today the continuation of a theme that has been running through the life and ministry of Jesus from the beginning. Again and again, Jesus has been forced to deal with rejection: rejection for what he teaches, rejection for what he does, and rejection for who he is.

 

The Pharisees criticize him for healing on the Sabbath. His disciples chastise him for sleeping in the middle of a stormy sea. Even his mother and his family try to get him to stop working so hard because his zealousness is proving to be an embarrassment to them. And today, Jesus returns to his hometown of Nazareth and it happens again. The people who sat next to him in worship, who celebrated with him at festivals, who watched him play and grow up, can’t accept what he has become.

 

At first, listening to Jesus teach in the synagogue, these family friends and neighbors are astonished by his eloquence and spiritual insight. They are impressed: “Where did he learn all of this?” they ask each other. “How did he get to be this good?” they wonder. “When did he get so wise all of a sudden?” they question. “After all, he is one of us. Up until recently he was just a local handyman, patching our roofs, framing our doors, and fixing our wobbly tables and chairs.” What happened? Where did Jesus get all of this?

 

Well, the answer to their questions is that he got all of this from them. He got it from his parents and siblings and relatives. He got it from his teachers at the synagogue. He got it from the values kept by his neighbors and from the stories he learned of his hometown heroes and his local scallywags. Jesus, in essence, is a mirror, showing them who they are and the role they played in shaping his identity and his place in the world. And the same is true for us. So much of what it is that makes us who we are and the things we do is shaped by our environment. And the history we carry and the people who have left a mark on our lives play a big part in our identity.

But their amazement suddenly shifts and they take offense at him. Someone in the crowd – perhaps a jealous neighbor, or maybe a childhood rival, or possibly the village gossip who loves to stir up trouble – questions the fact that Jesus has stepped out of his lane and ignored his place in the community. “He was one of us and now he thinks he’s something more – he has become something we didn’t expect him to be – something that doesn’t fit into the box we put him in.” And their doubts leave him powerless to do what he would love to do for them – what he has done for so many others.

 

But before we judge them too harshly, let’s imagine that we are also standing among his homies wondering the same thing ourselves. Like them, how often have we missed the holy among us because we could only see what we wanted to see? How often have we missed the new thing God is doing in Jesus because what we could only see is the old and familiar? How often have we not allowed Jesus to surprise us?

 

I remember something a wise friend told Pam and me when we were newly married. She said that we should surprise each other every once in a while with something unexpected. That surprise, she said, keeps the intrigue and the mystery of love alive in a relationship. I believe that part of the gospel mission for us involves an element of surprise. Because our openness to being surprised, keeps us open to the intrigue and mystery of God’s deep love for us so that it doesn’t get old and boring and meaningless.

 

My prayer for you, my friends, is that when you listen to Jesus you can hear a new thing God is doing underneath the comfortable traditions and the familiar habits of your faith. I pray you will be surprised by the mystery of the abundant life God has for you in Jesus – a life filled with love and grace … with mercy and forgiveness … with freedom and peace. May you have the eyes to see and the ears to hear the surprising good news God has for you in Jesus Christ, our Lord.

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