The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
Mark 6:1-13

The Very Reverend Steve Lipscomb, Dean

Jesus has come home. After a long absence from Nazareth, from family and old-time friends, after dusty roads and preaching and performing miracles all over, now is his homecoming. Home to the place where he grew up. Home to the people who know him. Home to those who are most familiar with him.

And he amazes them with his teachings—at first. But it isn’t long before they start saying, “Wait a minute. Hold it. We know this guy. We’ve known him since he was a little kid. This can’t be a miracle worker. This can’t be a prophet. And this certainly can’t be the Son of God.”

“Surely God wouldn’t come to us in such an ordinary way. Surely God wouldn’t come to us in someone we already know, in someone so familiar.”

You see, the Nazarenes, Jesus neighbors, had read their Bibles. They knew that the Creator of the Universe made very dramatic appearances far removed from ordinary living. God showed up as burning bushes and pillars of fire, or as thunder and trumpet blasts, or, at the very least, as a disembodied voice.

But as the kid from down the street? They didn’t think so. God’s more dramatic than that. God is not that ordinary

And so the people of Nazareth, the people who knew Jesus, take offense at him. They just can’t believe that God would be so ordinary as to enter into their familiar surroundings without one blast from a trumpet, or one whisper from a disembodied voice.

And because they don’t believe that God comes to them as one so familiar, they don’t become disciples. Instead of becoming followers, they become scoffers.

And Jesus is “amazed at their unbelief,” and goes away to strangers. To strangers whose receptivity hasn’t been dulled by familiarity. To strangers who could SEE God in their midst and, therefore, BE disciples.

Seeing and Being: that’s what discipleship is all about. Seeing and Being, not just in the new and unusual, in the emotional and miracle moments of life, but in the ordinary, familiar, everydayness of life. Seeing and Being is what familiarity dulled in the Nazarenes. And that, I’m afraid, is what familiarity dulls in us.

We don’t have a problem seeing God present in the dramatic lives of distant people in distant places. We know God was present with the Israelites in the Exodus, with the disciples in the early church, and with all the saints of so long ago. We know that God was present with the Bishop Tutu and Mother Teresa in their work, is with the persecuted Christians in Africa and others in the exotic mission fields around the world.

But sometimes we find it terribly hard to see God’s presence and to feel God’s presence in us, and here, in this place. To believe that God is around in our plain ‘ol lives.

In our worship, it’s easy to See and Be God’s presence in those unusual moment—those special occasions, such as Easter, or Pentecost, or Christmas Eve, or Baptisms, or Confirmations when the Bishop comes to visit, or “when they’re finally doing the music I like.”

The rest of time we are subject to being dulled by familiarity–the ordinary. We come to church because it’s Sunday and that’s what we do on Sunday, and thus, many times, we come here expecting nothing and without joy for the opportunity of simply coming together to worship God.

We coast through the liturgy, not really listening to the words of the collect or the lessons or the hymns we sing, and we then we leave, either not giving it a second thought or disappointed because the preacher didn’t “move” us, or we didn’t get goosebumps by the experience.

It’s the same in our everyday lives. We get up, we go to work, we come home, we cut the grass, we cook dinner, we do the laundry, we take a bath, we go to bed, and we sigh, “…No miracles today.” Like the Nazarenes, we think, “Surely, God isn’t present in this ordinary, everyday drudgery.” But the truth is God is with us in all of that and in every point in between. We just don’t realize it because familiarity has dulled our Seeing and our Being.

Like the Nazarenes, we say to Jesus, “You run along. It can’t be plain old you. We’re waiting for God to appear in some sensational, dramatic way, not where we really live.

We’re waiting for the big show, the one with the fireworks, and the parades and the trumpets. In the meantime, we’re going to sit right here and wait. So we’ll be ready. So we’ll know when it’s God.

And when we start thinking like that, it blocks us from being disciples and effective witnesses of Christ. When we don’t see God in the ordinary – in the familiar – we cease being disciples in the place where we live, and where we worship, and among the people who know us best. & we don’t see their discipleship, either.

And when that happens, it’s time to ask ourselves, “Why is it so tempting and so necessary to wait for the dramatic opportunity, the big show, before we can claim and welcome the presence of God?” Why is it so much easier to say, “Okay, God, I’ll be ready when the big one comes along,” than to realize that all the day to day little ones are the big one?

I’ll hazard a guess based on my own experience. I think the reason is because if we see God in the familiar and are disciples in our most ordinary lives, it’s threatening. There are no excuses like an un-inspirational Sunday worship service, or a disagreement with the national church, or even a bad day at work to fall back on. We’ll have to proclaim the good news, and we’ll have to proclaim it every day, and we’ll have to proclaim it to the very people who are in the best position to know whether we’re just talking the talk or walking the walk. And that is scary!

But I invite you this morning to put away that fear. Because unlike the Nazarenes at Jesus’ homecoming, who thought they knew him so well, we know the whole story of Jesus—Of God’s radical identification with all of life, even the ordinary, even the mundane—perhaps especially the ordinary and the mundane.

We know that the Creator of the universe did come among us barefooted & worked in a carpenter’s shop, & hung out with people who liked to fish, & celebrated the everydayness of life and God’s presence in it.

So, therefore, be assured that whenever ordinary people living ordinary lives come together and feed one another with ordinary bread and ordinary wine in the memory of Christ, the most extra-ordinary thing happens. God is present—every time. God comes to the real world, to our world, to our hometown. To that table.

And from this feast, we know that God is present in every aspect of our lives. And we are enabled to SEE God. And we are empowered to BE Christ’s disciples even in the most ordinary of places, even with the most familiar of people. So that Jesus or anyone else we’ll ever meet will never have to go to strangers to find his disciples.

In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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