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Comfortable or called?


Pentecost 6B, Sunday July 5th, 2015 St Petri.

Mark 6:1-13 Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. 2 When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. “Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? 3 Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph,[a] Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. 4 Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honour except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” 5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 He was amazed at their lack of faith. Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. 7 Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits. 8 These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. 9 Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. 10 Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. 11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” 12 They went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.

Accepting change is a difficult thing for most people. Accepting that something so familiar is now very different to what you thought it was either delights the heart with joyful acceptance or hardens our heart against this ‘impossible’ thing. It’s like watching the kids grow up. They get to adulthood and you can be so surprised at them. You either be transformed in your thinking or you resist and become a grumpy old man even more!

They used to poo their nappies and hare around on their bikes and skin their knees. They use to wear you out wanting you to push them on the swing for hours. They got themselves into a real mess eating chocolate cake.

But then the same gifts of God transform you. They look all responsible and grown up. They drive a car. They have relationships you don’t know much about. They work in a job you know only a little about.

What was so familiar and accepted now is unfamiliar and needs new acceptance so that relationships continue to flourish and be transformed from one joy to another. The familiar gift transforms me.

Jesus heads home and does not find an accepting hometown community. Like his own family prior to this, the whole town just cannot accept that Jesus could be anything special – anything different than what they already know him to be.

They know his background, his family, his home, his trade. They ask each other, “How can Jesus the local tradesman now be an instrument of God’s mighty hand bringing in the long promised new era of the Anointed One, the new King David, the new age promised by all the Prophets, the new Moses….? They answer their own question. “He can’t be”.

They are offended that he says otherwise. These familiar folks can see that the man has a divine power and presence but they cannot believe what these signs and wonders and this new preaching with new authority show – that Jesus is God present and willing to transform them.

As a result of this lack of faith and taking offence at him and his kingdom message, Jesus can’t do much transforming serving among them. Even though he has all the authority and power in the world his Word needs a receptive human heart. He finds few of these. The Lord’s kingdom work is limited. People are left in their old behaviours and beliefs. Relationships stay unreconciled, disease runs its human course with no hope and peace, suffering is joyless and life in this town remains largely untouched by the transforming faith, hope and love that Jesus offers in sheer grace.

Friends, the message in this account that Mark chooses to share with us is clear – for us long-term disciples living 2 millennia after the resurrection, it can all become far too familiar to us.

The problem we face is that we can be like the folks in Jesus’ home town – the problem of comfortable familiarity – when we are unable or unwilling to believe that the Lord is bringing a new thing to bear in or midst.

When we sense a new call, a new movement of God’s Spirit, a new Word from God that requires new thinking, new belief or new behaviour, we can go back into the default position of familiarity – treat a 20 year old like she is still 12. We can dismiss what the Lord is requiring of us and be of little use in his mission to get to the other side of the sea where unclean, sinning, unaware people live.

As a result nothing changes for us or them. Most importantly, they don’t hear him and so cannot be transformed by God’s amazing grace. We are so much less than we could be as we settle back into life in our own hands.

But, thanks be to God that he does not stop at our unbelief or over-familiarity. He shows us what can we be too? We can be carriers of the Apostle’s Word, no matter who we are.

After this hometown experience of lack of faith, he shows us the Twelve in action. They are the model of faith here, not the settled hometown community. They are sent at Jesus command to other people in his name and authority.

That is us – the church now – sent by him for him and with his authority to even forgiven the sins of sinners, as well as to pray for their healing of body, mind and spirit, their release from evil things and powers.

In a community that is nearly 150 years long, the obvious challenge Jesus puts today is this: Have you grown so familiar with the gospel and the gracious gifts of God on offer as we gather in his name that you don’t expect or actually want him to send you into anything new and challenging for their sake and his?

The great thing about being in a liturgical church that has a high value on God’s gifts of preaching and sacraments of grace is that we do indeed passively receive these wonderful transforming gifts all the time. He serves us with the very best and we say thank you very much!

Because of what life throws at us, it is true that sometimes all we can do is be carried along by each other and the Lord as we gather in his name and this is good.

But those same wonderfully familiar gifts of the Spirit’s power and grace like baptism, Holy Communion, Absolution, the whole framework of how we gather in worship, the songs, the prayers, the fellowship we share are also transforming gifts.

They are given to raise us, resurrect us, heal us, call us and empower us to join the load-bearing Twelve.

Church is meant to change us and make us more like Jesus – more loving, more courageous, more confident, more aware of our reliance on him, less inclined to trust money, power or try to control our lives. The gifts of grace are for our comfort and peace it is true. And yet at the same time in these same gifts are his authority and power to make changes, believe and act and go to the other side of things for others.

Baptism pushes back evil and darkness and death. Absolution unties the bound and frees the captive. Holy Communion heals the broken hearted and bodied, calms the troubled conscience, renews the confused mind, the Blessing empowers the weak, re-sends the fearful and reignites confidence to live and tell of Jesus, like they all did even though Jesus commanded them to keep quiet about what he had given them. They just had to say something!

He has been calling us as a church to change – change the way we organise our leadership, the way we prioritise our activities, reaching out for new staff to do new roles, calling us to spend more of our time and focus more of our heart in his Word. All of this change is for the gospel – the transforming message of Jesus that heals the world right here. The hometown folks could not believe that something so familiar and so ordinary could be so extraordinary. Can we? Will we?

Will we choose to continue in all familiar ways, believing the same familiar things about St Petri, about each of our part in this church, what I am as a Pastor, what this congregation has been in the past, or will we all accept his newness, his transforming Word of good news that melts the heart, enlivens the mind and sends us into the fray where we live – always together, never alone; like the Twelve – two-by-two at least?

I am praying that we are not the hometown crowd. I am praying that we are with the Twelve with Jesus – on the move, active, attached to his Word, powered by his Spirit, together, trusting him for the outcome, witness to his transforming presence and power among people not here – yet.

This town needs Jesus. This church needs Jesus. Your family needs Jesus. The goal of your marriage is to bring your spouse to Jesus. The goal of your parenting is to teach the kids Jesus. The goal of all of our ministries is to bring Jesus to bear in peoples lives – so his kingdom work continues and his mission to draw all people into his transforming grace is fulfilled in our community now.


Share or reflect on your high and low for the day or the week…

PRAY: Lord, open the eyes of my heart to this Word so that I may know you better.

Listen to the text making note of the place, the situation, the people and what Jesus says and to who….. Share your insights.

This is the second time we have heard that Jesus family have had a lot of trouble accepting him and his message. See Mark 3:20ff. It must have been difficult for Mary and Jesus’ brothers and sisters to believe that their very own son and sibling was God! I mentioned the surprise a parent can get as their children become adults and become so much kore than they used to be. Reflect on your own experiences of having to accept the change in a child or a person or even a situation and how that has been for you.

The whole town is not coping with Jesus’ message and the change it requires in their assumptions about him, about God and about themselves. What do the four questions they ask reveal about them? (v 2-3)

I suggested that Jesus’ gifts of grace in all that happens in worship are for our comfort and healing. He serves us and helps us and we rest in his gifts given in worship. But on the other hand, this same Jesus gives these same gifts for transformation. His gifts of preached word, baptism, Lord’s Supper, Blessing, song, prayer and fellowship we share in him are given to send us out like the Twelve. Share your thoughts on this belief…..

How is the message of the Twelve like that of John the Baptist and Jesus himself (Mark 1:4) and 1:14-15).

How has familiarity with Jesus and his Word and gifts blocked you from trusting him for who he is? How has familiarity sometimes stopped you from hearing his call to go, to be called by him, to work with him and others in his kingdom work among the people with whom you work and live….?

How does your family react to Jesus’ and the Apostle’s message in the Bible that we are sinners who need to repent and believe in the good news of God’s grace and love? Share your experiences? How does this affect you?

Where else is Jesus sending you to be his messenger of good news? How is that going for you? What kind of things would help you be more confident with this calling and where might you get those things?

Jesus, certainly does not let his hometown people stop his mission or the weaknesses or flaws of his Apostles. He is a teacher. He teaches them instead of condemning them in this text. Same for us. We share this mission to bear his good news message where we live. We share it as a local church. Do you think we are taking up our calling well? How could we improve?

PRAY: Lord, we thank you for our calling and for the grace we receive by your Word every day. Help us to live in the freedom that comes from your acceptance and love and speak of this when and where able wit confidence in your power and authority to transform us and others in the process. Amen.

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