The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
Pastor George Pejakovich
Mark 6:1-13

 


THE AMERICAN AUTHOR THOMAS WOLFE WROTE A NOVEL CALLED, “YOU CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN.” IT IS ABOUT A WRITER WHO BECOMES FAMOUS FOR WRITING A NOVEL BASED ON HIS EXPERIENCES IN HIS SMALL HOME TOWN. WHEN HE FINALLY RETURNS TO HIS HOME TOWN, HE IS SHUNNED BY HIS FORMER FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS BECAUSE OF THE WAY THEY THOUGHT HE PORTRAYED THEM IN HIS BOOK. EVENTUALLY, THEY FORCE HIM TO LEAVE, NEVER TO RETURN. BECAUSE OF WOLFE’S NOVEL, THE IDEA THAT YOU REALLY CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN HAS BECOME A WELL ACCEPTED CONCEPT. OF COURSE, THIS IDEA IS A LOT OLDER THAN WOLFE’S BOOK; WE SEE IT CLEARLY IN THE GOSPEL READING FOR TODAY.

JESUS HAD BEEN DOING AMAZING THINGS AROUND THE SEA OF GALILLE AS HE WAS BASED OUT OF CAPERNAUM, AND HIS FAME HAD SPREAD FAR AND WIDE. HE HAD BECOME SO FAMEOUS THAT THE SCRIBES FOR THE TEMPLE IN JERUSALEM HAD COME NORTH TO SPREAD RUMORS THAT HE WAS IN LEAGUE WITH THE DEVIL, AND THE PHARISEES WERE UPSET OVER HIS APPARENT DISREGARD FOR KEEPING THE RITUAL LAWS. SO HE WAS BOTH FAMEOUS AND INFAMEOUS AS HE AND HIS DISCIPLES MADE THE TWENTY- FIVE MILE JOURNEY FROM CAPERNAUM TO HIS HOME TOWN OF NAZARETH. AS HE WAS THERE ON THE SABBATH, HE WENT TO THE SYNAGOGUE, AND, BECAUSE OF HIS FAME, HE WAS INVITED TO GIVE A BRIEF HOMILY AFTER READING THE APPOINTED TEXT.

WE DON’T KNOW WHAT HE SAID, BUT IT WAS PROBABLY ALONG THE LINES OF “REPENT, FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS AT HAND.” WHATEVER IT WAS, HE SHOCKED AND AMAZED HIS HEARERS AT FIRST, BECAUSE HE PREACHED WITH UNEXPECTED POWER AND AUTHORITY. “WHERE DID HE GET THIS STUFF,” THEY ASKED EACH OTHER; “WHO TAUGHT HIM ALL THIS, AND HOW CAN HE DO ALL THOSE DEEDS OF POWER WE HEARD ABOUT?” UNABLE TO ACCEPT OR COUNTER HIS MESSAGE, THEY TURNED ON HIM. WE SEE THIS KIND OF BEHAVIOR ALL THE TIME; WHEN THEY CAN’T REFUTE AN ARGUMENT, THEY ATTACK THE PERSON. “HOW CAN THIS CARPENTER TALK TO US LIKE THIS? WHAT CAN HE POSSIBLY HAVE TO TELL US?” THEY EVEN QUESTION HIS LEGITIMACY BY CALLING HIM THE SON OF MARY, IMPLYING THAT HE WAS A RESULT OF MARY’S ADULTERY. THEY STOPPED UP THEIR EARS, AND TOOK OFFENSE AT HIM AND REFUSED TO LISTEN TO HIM. TO WHICH JESUS REPLIED, “PROPHETS ARE NOT WITHOUT HONOR, EXCEPT IN THEIR HOMETOWN, AND AMOUNG THEIR OWN KIN, AND IN THEIR OWN HOUSE.”

JESUS WAS AMAZED AT THEIR UNBELIEF. THE ONLY OTHER TIME HE WAS AMAZED WAS AT THE FAITH OF A ROMAN CENTURIAN. BECAUSE OF THEIR UNBELIEF, HE COULD DO NOTHING; NOT BECAUSE HE WAS POWERLESS, BUT BECAUSE NO ONE WOULD COME TO HIM, EXCEPT FOR A FEW SICK PEOPLE WHO HE RESTORED TO HEALTH. IN THE FACE OF THIS REJECTION, JESUS TURNED AWAY AND WENT AMOUNG THE SURROUNDING VILLAGES AND CONTINUED TEACHING ABOUT THE KINGDOM OF GOD. HE DID NOT POUT; HE DID NOT PUT HIS FACE IN HIS HANDS AND WONDERED WHAT HE COULD HAVE DONE BETTER. HE GOT ON WITH THE MISSION OF PROCLAIMING THE KINGDOM OF GOD, AND COMMISSIONED HIS DISCIPLES TO GO IN HIS NAME AND DO THE SAME.

HE SENT THEM IN PAIRS, BECAUSE AT LEAST ONE OTHER IS NECESSARY TO TESTIFY TO THE TRUTH, AND TO ENCOURAGE AND SUPPORT EACH OTHER. PERHAPS THIS IS WHY THE MORMON MISSIONARIES GO TWO BY TWO, AS DO THE JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES. HE SENT THEM WITH THE ABSOLUTE MINIMUM OF EQUIPMENT, AND SENT THEM INTO THE HOMES OF THE PEOPLE OF THE LAND TO RELY ON THEIR HOSPITALITY. HE WARNED THEM AND PREPARED THEM FOR REJECTION BY TELLING THEM IF THEY ARE REJECTED AND PEOPLE WON’T LISTEN, THEN SHAKE OFF THE DUST FROM YOUR SANDLES AS YOU LEAVE. THIS IS WHAT THE JEWS DID WHEN THEY LEFT GENTILE LANDS. GET RID OF THE DUST OF THAT PLACE AND GO ON. A VERY GOOD EXAMPLE OF HOW WE ARE TO HANDLE REJECTION WHEN WE PROCLAIM THE KINGDOM OF GOD TO OTHERS. DO AS JESUS DID, AS HE TOLD THE DISCIPLES TO DO, SHAKE OFF THE DUST AND GO ON; DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY, IT IS GOD’S KINGDOM WE PROCLAIM, NOT OURS.

WHEN I WAS THE DIVISION CHAPLAIN FOR THE 9TH INFANTRY DIVISION AT FORT LEWIS, WASHINGTON, I SUPERVISED 32 CHAPLAINS OF ALL DENOMINATIONS, SO I WOULD OFTEN VISIT THE CHAPELS WHERE THEY PREACHED AND LED WORSHIP. ONE SUNDAY, IN A SMALL CHAPEL WITH A CONGREGATION OF ABOUT TWENTY, THE NEW YOUNG CHAPLAIN PREACHING WAS FROM JERRY FALWELL’S DENOMINATION. THE SERMON WAS AT THE END OF THE SERVICE, AND, AS WAS USUAL FOR CONSERVATIVE BAPTISTS, ENDED WITH AN ALTAR CALL. NO ONE CAME FORWARD. THE PREACHER AGAIN INVITED THOSE WHO DIDN’T HAVE JESUS IN THEIR HEARTS TO COME FORWARD. NO ONE MOVED, AND HE GOT RED IN THE FACE. AGAIN HE CALLED, AND THE CHAPEL WAS STILL, AND THE VEIN ON THE SIDE OF HIS FACE BULGED TO THE POINT I THOUGHT HE WAS GOING TO HAVE A STROKE. AGAIN HE CALLED, AND WHEN NO ONE MOVED, SWEAT RAN DOWN HIS FACE AND SOAKED HIS COLLAR. AT LAST, HE ALMOST SNARLED, “GOD BLESS YOU!” AND STORMED OUT OF THE CHAPEL.

I WAITED TWO DAYS BEFORE I WENT TO SEE HIM AT HIS OFFICE. HE JUMPED UP WHEN I CAME IN THE DOOR, WHICH I GENTLY CLOSED AND TOLD HIM TO TAKE A SEAT AND RELAX, WHICH HE HAD SOME TROUBLE DOING WITH ME IN HIS OFFICE. I ASSURED HIM THAT I WAS NOT QUESTIONING HIS THEOLOGY, OR THE PRACTICE OF HIS CHURCH, BUT WAS CONCERNED THAT WHEN NO ONE CAME FORWARD IT WAS CLEAR THAT HE TOOK IT AS A PERSONAL REJECTION. WHAT HE FAILED TO CONSIDER, I SAID, WAS FIRST THAT THERE WERE FOLKS FROM ALL DENOMINATIONS IN THAT CONGREGATION, AND FOR SOME AN ALTAR CALL IS RATHER STRANGE. SECOND, A LOT OF THOSE PEOPLE HAVE BEEN FAITHFUL FOLLOWERS OF JESUS SINCE BEFORE YOU WERE BORN. THIRD, IT IS NOT UP TO YOU TO MOVE THEIR HEARTS, THAT IS THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, SO IF ANYONE WAS RESISTING YOUR CALL TO THE ALTAR, YOU WERE NOT THE ONE BEING REJECTED. I DON’T KNOW IF I REALLY GOT THROUGH TO HIM, BUT I SAID WHAT I HAD TO SAY AND LEFT HIM SITTING THERE.

SINCE THE LAST TIME JESUS PREACHED IN THE SYNAGOGUE AT NAZARTEH, WHEN HE ANNOUNCED THAT THIS DAY THE SCRIPTURE IS FULFILLED IN YOUR HEARING, THE PEOPLE WERE SO ENRAGED THEY WANTED TO THROW HIM OFF A CLIFF, YOU MIGHT WONDER WHY HE WENT BACK. PERHAPS IT WAS TO ALLOW THE DISCIPLES TO SEE THAT SOME WILL REJECT EVEN HIM IN PERSON TO PREPARE THEM FOR THEIR MISSION TO PROCLAIM THE KINGDOM OF GOD. TO PREPARE THEM FOR POSSIBLE REJECTION, AND TO GO ON DESPITE IT. TO PREPARE THEM SO THEY WOULDN’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY, AS WE OUGHT NOT; FOR THE KINGDOM WE PROCLAIM BELONGS TO GOD AND GOD ALONE. AMEN

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