Monday, July 9, 2012

Sermon for 6th Sunday after Pentecost: "Rejected"

+ 6th Sunday after Pentecost– July 8, 2012 +
Series B, Proper 9: Ezekiel 2:1-5; 2 Cor. 12:-10; Mark 6:1-13

 In the Name of + Jesus. Amen.

            St. Mark has a remarkably ordinary way of depicting the part of the Creed we often take for granted: He was made man. Is this not Joseph’s son? Yup, that’s Jesus, the ordinary carpenter’s son. When he’s hungry his stomach growls like yours. When loved ones die he weeps like you do. After walking around all day he’s tired and worn out like you. Cut him and he bleeds like you. He’s like you in every respect…yet without sin.

            Next to the Lutheran hymn writers of the Reformation, I’ve found that country music singers understand this better than most things that pass for Christian music out there today…

Cause I heard Jesus he drank wine
And I bet we'd get along just fine
He could calm a storm and heal the blind
And I bet he'd understand a heart like mine

            But not his own family in his hometown. They don’t get Jesus. What a contrast from last week’s readings. Last week: faith in Jesus. This week: rejection. Last week the believing un-named woman and Jairus believed and confessed. Jesus was their Savior: doing extraordinary things for them in the most ordinary of ways. This week: unbelief and scandal.
            Nazareth was about as ordinary as a town could be. Simple. Lowly. Humble. A town of little wealth. Just like her most famous resident: Jesus.
           In Nazareth People knew Jesus. They remembered when He was just a wee little Hebrew. He’d played with kids in the streets. He attended the synagogue. Everyone knew Mary and Joseph. He’d probably done most of their carpentry work. And now Jesus, the wandering teacher comes back. No homecoming party. No sign on the way into town that reads: Nazareth: hometown of Jesus Christ!

It wasn’t just that Jesus rubbed the hometown crowd the wrong way. Ruffled a few feathers.  No, they took offense at him. They were disgusted. Reviled. Scandalized. Where did He get the wisdom of Solomon? Where did He learn to teach like Moses? How can plain old carpenter’s hands do such great things? He’s so ordinary.

             And that’s what offended them. Just plain old Jesus, the guy next door with the calloused hands who built our tables and chairs. They knew His folks, they knew His family, they knew all about Him. No one thought anything out of the ordinary. Jesus wasn’t some child prodigy the way those bogus tales from the Gospel of Thomas depict: building clay pigeons and turning them into real birds or smiting down little children that picked on him. He had no glowing nimbus hovering over His head when He was a kid. He was holy in a hidden sort of way. Imagine that – the sinless Son of God in human flesh goes completely unnoticed.
            Jesus was right: “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” His Word is so deeply hidden in humility that even those who should know better overlook it. Mary forgot who Jesus was. His family forgot who He was and thought He was crazy or worse. Even his disciples wanted more in a Messiah.
            We’re no different; we think holiness is something unnatural or ethereal, something surreal, above and beyond us. That’s a testimony to how much sin has corrupted us. We’ve become so accustom to sin we call it “normal,” as if that’s what it means to be human. “We’re born that way,” we sing with pride. But in truth, sin and death are abnormal. So, along comes God in human flesh, not simply a sinless man but God in the flesh, and He is unrecognizable.
            This puzzles people, and well it should. Jesus takes our twisted notions of holiness wads them up and throws them in the dust. Jesus turns our notions about how God works upside down and inside out. No displays of power, no coercion. Jesus didn’t do great miracles in Nazareth save a few healings. He doesn’t use miracles to coerce people. The miracles are for the broken few, not the skeptical many. Jesus doesn’t put on a show. He’s not a used-car salesman; He needs no gimmicks.
             And neither does His Church. Learn well from this. You can dress the up the Gospel all you want but then it ceases to be the Gospel. Evangelism needs no gimmicks. Christ’s Word and Sacraments need no parlor tricks. Yes, share the Gospel. Tell people their sins are forgiven; Jesus died for you. Invite them to church. But know this: Christ Crucified will never be palatable to our culture any more than Jesus was in his hometown. The Gospel is far too scandalous. Free forgiveness is absolutely outrageous. People will be offended today just as they were in Nazareth.

            Jesus knows this. His disciples knew it too. So Jesus gives the apostles an exit strategy if they aren’t welcome – shake the dust off your feet and move on. Jesus sending out the 12 foreshadows the church being sent out. We carry the same message: Christ Crucified for you and for the world. It’s simple, really. Jesus does His saving work in the most unlikely, ordinary ways: water and bread and wine and words.

            His holiness is hidden in weakness. God’s great glory is hidden in suffering. This is the great mystery of the Gospel: the greatest gift in the world and yet people reject it.
Look at the Word Jesus gives us; it’s vulnerable and rejectable. It’s like seed in soil that can be choked out or scorched or eaten up by birds. Nothing flashy or shiny. No golden plates delivered by angels. No strange visions in caves. Nothing to make us go: oooooh aaahhhhh.
            Like Jesus in the hometown synagogue, the Scriptures are easily dismissed by people seeking “something more.” It’s simply a cobbled collection of sixty-six books assembled over more than 1500 or echoing one constant refrain: God’s promises for you in Jesus. The glorious Word is hidden under the frailty of men.
            And look at how the Word comes to us in weakness – Word, Baptismal water, Eucharistic bread and wine. The strength is hidden. The glory muted. The gift is rejectable.

            This is how God has chosen to deal with us – hiddenly, quietly, gently, humbly, rejectably. You may want it some other way; you may want more; but there is nothing more than what Christ has given you. For this is the way God has provides for you. This way your faith, hope, and trust rests not in displays of power but in the hidden strength of the cross.

For he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
            So ordinary. So weak. So humble. So poor and lowly. Jesus’ rejection in Nazareth points forward to his greater rejection on the cross. And by his rejection you are redeemed. He is betrayed and you are blessed. He becomes the least among men and you are named greatest in the Kingdom of God.
            This is how the Scriptures depict the “victorious life” of the Christian. Not that our prayers are answered the way a can of Coke comes out of vending machine. Not that we have no ills or troubles in the world. Not that we don’t fail many times over. Not that we don’t suffer and even die. But that in all these things we are content in the fact that God’s grace, His undeserved mercy toward us in Christ, is far more sufficient than anything and everything else in the world.

            For it is through these backwards, upside down, ordinary ways that Jesus is working extraordinarily good things for you.
            Your Baptism may only look like plain water. But behind it lies the power of sins forgiven, washed away by the blood of Christ crucified.
            The Absolution may only look like words spoken by a sinner. And yet through that sinner Christ’s Word Christ announces the forgive all your sins.
            The Lord’s Supper you receive may only look like plain bread and wine. But behind it lies the power of the open, empty tomb – the crucified and risen Christ who conquers death forever.
            How can water, word, bread and wine do such great things? The Crucified and Risen Christ comes to you, his family, once again in the most ordinary of ways and fills the Church with Himself.
             And just as Christ works in the Church so too He works in our daily lives: ordinary, everyday holiness: in your vocation serving neighbor, friend, or family; in your vocation here at church: serving on boards and committees and being involved, often in nameless, thankless tasks. And yet each one of us is a member of Christ’s body. God hides his mercy and service in your mercy and service to others. And Christ is hidden in the neighbor for you to love.

             Today we rejoice with Mark in the ordinary. The hidden. The true wisdom of God: Christ Crucified.

For your salvation from sin, death and hell is found in none other than this ordinary, carpenter’s son from Nazareth. Let us not be offended by him.

In the Name of + Jesus. Amen.

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