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  • Jack and Ssuan Blalock

 

Mark 6: 1-6                   Finding Jesus At Home                     September 25, 2016

The story of Jesus returning home in retold in three of the four gospels. Which tells us it is especially important. Today we will hear the version from the gospel of Mark. Let us listen for the Word of God.

 

While reading this passage, I couldn’t help but think of all the sayings and songs about home. “Home is where the heart is.” “There is no place like home,” tapped Dorothy. “Home is the place where when you are not there, people notice.” “Home, Home on the range.” And, one of my favorite “home” quotes is from Robert Frost who said, “Home is the place where when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” But the home quote which fits for the passage from Mark today is: “You can’t go home again.” This is the quote which best described Jesus’ return to his home in Nazareth.

 

It can be tough going home. People still think of us the way we were and they don’t imagine how we might have changed.

I can remember being in seminary and being asked to preach at my hometown in Indiana. I arrived a little early and so I decided to sit in on the youth Sunday school class. I was there for only a few minutes when the teacher walked in. I recognized her as someone who had lived only a mile or so from my home out in the country when I was in high school. She obviously had recognized me too because she brightened up a bit and said, “Why aren’t you, Steve Melton?”

I straightened up in my chair - and I have to say I felt pretty good about being recognized - And so I said with a little pride, “Why, yes I am!”

Then she said, “I thought so. I knew you when you were just a little nothing!”

Not knowing what else to say, I responded, “Yes, and now I am a big nothing.”

So, I can imagine that Jesus had their own notions about Jesus when he came home.

          It must have been awful for Jesus, don’t you think?

The people he probably knew best in the world and the people who probably knew him best in the world, were among those who rejected him first. Jesus would eventually make lots of enemies but I am sure it was tough for him to make some of his first right at home.

In Mark’s gospel and in Matthew’s the people don’t say much. All they say is that - at first - when they hear Jesus, they are impressed: “Wow, that Jesus sure has a good speaking voice!” “He really seems to know something. Boy, is he talented – that Jesus, something else.” But no sooner are they impressed than they turn on him.

Maybe the reason Mark and Matthew don’t say much more than that is because it doesn’t need much explanation?

Think about it = Anyone who comes home to speak to their home church is speaking to people who knew him or her when they were “a little nothing.” And, anytime we go to preach about this virtue or that value, there is someone out in the congregation who is going to whisper, “Yea, he says that now, but do you remember what he did when he was fifteen!”

Now, I don’t suspect Jesus had the pressure of people remembering the foolish things he did as a teenager. I don’t know. But, we can sure imagine that many of the adults still saw him as someone who was that odd young man who kept coming to temple long after Confirmation Class was over. He was speaking to people who were his elders growing up.  And, even if Jesus was a wise 12 year-old, for some, he was still just that and no more: a wise 12 year-old.

I mean do you ever go to a family reunion and start talking to an uncle or an aunt and suddenly feel either like you are ten years old again?

So, I am sure for some, Jesus was the kid they always knew and they were not able to see any more than just that and so when he started preaching, they had a hard time hearing him. But, Jesus really pushes their buttons.

You see in Luke’s version of the story, there is a lot more detail, details which really explain why Jesus was almost thrown off a cliff.

 

According to Luke, Jesus has just returned from the wilderness where he has been tested by Satan. He gets up into the pulpit. He opens the scripture and he reads Isaiah 61. “The Lord has called me to preach good news to the poor, to give sight to the blind, freedom for people in chains and, to say the day of the Kingdom of God has come.” And then Jesus said, “Today, these words, these promises are fulfilled.”

Now, if he had stopped at that, they might have just slapped him on the back and been real proud of him. But, Jesus goes on.

He starts talking about God chose a foreign widow to bless instead of a Hebrew woman to bless in the time of Elijah. AND, he said, God would rather heal a foreign leper than heal a Hebrew with the same ailment during the time of Elisha. He went on and on like that…

Well, that got them mad. According to Luke that they nearly killed him.

All three of the gospels say that Jesus was unable to do much of any good in his hometown. Either they just couldn’t hear him or they simply heard him too well and they didn’t like it.

But they all say, when he was done speaking, they rejected him. And, what is so sad, is that he couldn’t do much about it. Amazing isn’t it? Jesus, the great teacher, the loving healer, the savior of the world, but he couldn’t do much in the place where they knew him the best. They just saw the Child.

Jesus could do amazing things in places where people were open to him but he could do nothing with people whose minds were already set.

 

I wonder how often we still see Jesus as we saw him as a child. I wonder if the Jesus of our adulthood is still like the Jesus of our childhood? Many of the Jesus stories we heard when we were little are so sweet and endearing, but the Jesus we read about in the Bible as adults is often a little different. I have a Bible story book I read to my children and now I read to my grandchildren. It shows the lovable Jesus. But the Jesus we read about is not just lovable. He is confrontational. Jesus turns over tables in Temple courtyard. He calls the religious leaders tombs. He uses some words that I can’t even say in worship. Jesus is not just comforting. Jesus is challenging. Jesus is not just wise.  Jesus is demanding. He gets weary. He becomes short-tempered. He loves his disciples but he gets fed-up with their provincialism. There are grown-up things Jesus wants us to think about when it comes to Syrian refugees, empathy towards African Americans in the inner city and gays and lesbians in our community. We need to move beyond the simplicity of our childhood Jesus to the maturity of our adult savior with adult expectations or else we may just be like the crowd who simply couldn’t hear him.  

What does it mean that in a Roman Centurion Jesus said he had seen no greater faith any place in Israel? What do we make of Jesus allowing a woman to wipe his feet with her tears and dry them with her hair. What do we take away from Jesus who doesn’t just see a wee little man like Zacchaeus in a tree but sees a man ready for a second chance.

If we want to move beyond the crowd who still see Jesus in childhood, we need to ask ourselves, how our church can respond to the world around us like the adult Jesus? Who is the Roman Centurion in our community? Who is the woman with tears? Who is Zacchaeus? How can we receive them or be like them?

The crowd sees Jesus and cannot tolerate or except anything new from him. They only want to hear the childhood Jesus. BUT, Jesus had an adult message for them and no doubt he has a new adult message for us. May we hear him and not drive him away.

 

          TO GOD BE THE GLORY FOREVER AND EVER. AMEN.

 

 

 

 
 

[1] Constance and Daniel Pollock, Editors. The Book of Uncommon Prayer. (Dallas: Word, 1996),153.

 

 

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Prayer in Response to Gun Tragedies

God of mercy, whose presence sustains us in every circumstance, in the midst of unfolding violence and the aftermath of terror and loss, we seek the grounding power of your love and compassion.

In these days of fearful danger and division, we need to believe somehow that your kingdom of peace in which all nations and tribes and languages dwell together in peace is still a possibility.

Give us hope and courage that we may not yield our humanity to fear.., even in these endless days of dwelling in the valley of the shadow of death. We pray for neighbors in Orlando, Minneapolis, and Dallas who have been violently assaulted, their lives cut off without mercy.

We often feel like we are hostages to fear, caught in an escalating cycle of violence whose source is evasive and whose end cannot be seen.

We open our hearts in anger, sorrow and hope: that those who have been spared as well as those whose lives are changed forever may find strength in the days of recovery and reflection that come. We give thanks for strangers who comfort the wounded and first responders who run toward the sound of gunfire and danger..

We pray in grief, remembering the lives that have been lost and maimed, in body or spirit.

O Lord, we pray for that time when the lion and the lamb will dwell together, and terror will not hold sway over our common life.

In these days of sorrow, open our eyes, our hearts, and our hands to the movements of your Spirit, who flows in us like the river whose streams makes glad the city of God, and the hearts of all who dwell in it, and in You.

In the name of Christ, our Healer and our Light, we pray, Amen.

Pastor Steve

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“A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH”

The Presbyterian Church was an unexpected offspring of a religious movement called “The Reformation.”  Two of the leading Reformers of the time, Martin Luther (1483-1546) and John Calvin (1509-1564), had no intention of forming a new church, at least not initially.  Their desire was to reform the present day Catholic Church, to purge the Church of corruptions and set it more in line with the traditions and theology of Scripture and of the early church.  The Reformers became known as “Protestants” because their requests for change sounded more and more like protests.

The Presbyterian Church is one of several churches that can trace their origins to the Reformation.  Presbyterians get their name from the Greek word “presbuteros” which means “elder.”  The term refers to the system, in apostolic times, of choosing leaders from among the wisest members of the church.  A prominent doctrine of the Reformation was “the priesthood of all believers.”  Reformed churches designed themselves in ways that gave more power to the congregation.  The Presbyterians established a representative system where elders, presbyters and commissioners were elected.

The French organized the first congregation in 1555 and the French Huguenots were one of the first Presbyterians to reach America, followed closely by the English, Dutch, German, Irish and Scottish.  In 1706 the first American presbytery was formed in Philadelphia and soon after the Synod of Philadelphia in 1716.  1789 marked the First General Assembly in Philadelphia.

The Church grew and diversified as it headed westward.  By 1800 there were 20,000 members.  In another thirty-seven years, there were 220,000.  With the growth in numbers came an increase of conflict, separation and sometimes reunion.  “Old School” and “New School” divisions plagued Presbyterians for years.  The most infamous of issues was slavery.  The Civil War severely divided the Church.

The next 120 years saw movements toward reunification.  In 1958 the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA) and the United Presbyterian Church of North America merged to form the Presbyterian Church in the United States of American (UPCUSA).  In 1983 the two largest Presbyterian Churches united at the Atlanta General Assembly (G.A.): the southern-based Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS) and the northern-based (UPCUSA).  In 1985 the G.A. approved a seal for the new Church. There are some powerful images in the symbol which reveal what is important to us as Presbyterians. Today there are about 2,000,000 members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A), the largest of the mainline Presbyterian denominations.

“Unexpected” may seem like a good way to describe the beginnings of the Presbyterian Church.  But for Presbyterians it has always been the “providence of God.”

Together in Christ,

Stephen

 
 
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