Simply click on the appropriate sermon series below. Within that series you will find individual sermons which you can review.
What is your ideal vision of home? What is your ideal vision of family, whether we have experienced it or not? My ideal vision of home is a place where you are accepted, cared for, at ease, comfortable, and loved. Home has been described as “… a place where love lets us be ourselves, pride shares our achievements, and understanding covers our faults.” We might say the same thing about family, “Family is a place where you are accepted, cared for, at ease, comfortable, loved. Family is a place where love lets us be ourselves, pride shares our achievement, compassion shares our sorrows, and understanding covers our faults.”
The gap in life is where our beliefs or ideals do not match up with our experiences or our actions. Jesus does not receive the kind of homecoming one might have thought he would receive. We’re looking at a story of homecoming today which sounds a loud warning to those who count themselves as members of Jesus’ family – those who look to Jesus and say “This is the God to whom I belong.” The story sounds a warning. The story issues a challenge to the family of God, which we do well to consider as we prepare today to gather around the Family Table. Let’s ask God for help this morning as we look at God’s word for us today.
Last week we looked at the story of Jesus calming the storm at the end of Mark 4. This is the first of four deeds of power that Jesus performs as we read through Mark 5 and come to our story today. They all point to the life-saving/life-giving power of Jesus. A storm is stilled and lives are saved. A man who is suffering a kind of living death among tombs in the country of the Gerasenes is delivered. A woman who is literally losing her lifeblood is healed. The dead daughter of a synagogue leader named Jairus is brought to life. All of these are preludes to a resurrection. Preludes to new life. This is what is happening. We might think that this good news would be received warmly by the people of Nazareth including Jesus’ own family. Hometown hero returns! Small town boy makes good! We love this kind of story. Local boy puts Nazareth on the map! We get that. I don’t think I would have heard of Cole Harbour, NS were it not for Sydney Crosby. Rogers Hometown Hockey has been a thing now for some years. The broadcast crew goes to a community, featuring local stories (usually about but not limited to hockey) and featuring players who come from that town. Local girl makes good! Local boy makes good! Wonderful!
A little town on the rocky road to nowhere. Can anything good come from there? A town of around 400 people where everyone knows everyone. Jesus goes to the synagogue on the sabbath day as is his usual (and we’ll come back to the importance of gathering together in a while) and he begins to teach. Wonderful! Many who heard him were astonished and said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands?” All good questions and as followers of Christ, we need to keep on asking them, in awe and wonder.
The problem comes in the answer, which comes in the form of a question. This question can be summed up like this - Who does he think he is? “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” Who does he think he is? Familiarity is breeding contempt. Of course, there’s a lot of irony going on in these questions. When we hear “son of Mary” we hear echoes of how Mark opens his gospel – “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” They’re asking “Is not this the carpenter?” The word here translated carpenter doesn’t strictly have to do with working with wood as we know the word. The word is tekton. It’s a Greek word for handyman. A kind of all-purpose fixer. If you wanted something fixed, you called a tekton. This man that they are talking about, who is the son of Mary and the son of God is the all-purpose fixer of all. If he were a carpenter if he were a tekton, would you follow him anyway?
This is the question that is always before us. The sad thing in the story is the rejection. They took offense at him. They are scandalized by him. This is not a complete surprise when we look back at an earlier event in Mark. Jesus is preaching and healing in Galilee. He’s just appointed the twelve apostles. The crowds are so big and pressing that they can’t even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” (3:21) Jesus’ family went out to bring him home. “Come back to Nazareth son. Come back to Nazareth brother, they’re saying you have lost it.” This gives Jesus a chance to redefine what it means to be part of his family: “Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” (3:31-35)
Don’t reject him. This message is not just for those who’ve never taken up Jesus’ call to follow him, though it’s for you too if you’re in that place this morning. Get behind him. Believe in, take hold of, hold onto, the extraordinary ordinariness of Jesus. Jesus still stands on that beach we looked at a couple of weeks ago and he’s still saying “Follow me…” Let us ask ourselves “Where did this man get all this and what is this wisdom that has been given to him and what deeds of power are being done by his hands?” Let us ask those questions in awe and wonder and pray to God to give us ears to hear wisdom and eyes to see what God is doing all around us. Let us then ask ourselves, “What does this mean for me? What does this mean in my life?” Let our first answer be “It means don’t reject him.”
There is a warning here too for those of us who consider ourselves to be part of Jesus’ family. We hear it in Jesus’ words “Prophets are not without honour, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” Who are the kin of Jesus? Who is the body of Christ? Who is living in Jesus’ house and invited to gather around the family table?
Has familiarity with Christ bred contempt in us? Have we in the church stopped believing in the extraordinary ordinariness of Christ? Have we domesticated Jesus in order to use him toward our own ends rather than kingdom ends?
This rejection might not be manifested in what we do or say. It might be manifested by what we don’t do or what we don’t say. Someone has put it like this: “Has Jesus become too familiar? Have we given up on meeting Jesus in the everyday? In the familiar rhythms of our worship together? In song? In praying together? In gathering around his table together? In knowing new life? In living life newly? In living our lives together?”
Do we say, in some way, ”Who does he think he is?” A lot of these ordinary rhythms of life together with God have been disrupted over the last two years. Do we want to reclaim them and in so doing reclaim Jesus? It’s an important question. There is a double sadness about this story, you see. The initial sadness is in Jesus being rejected by those who knew him best. This is a sad, sad state of affairs when Jesus is rejected by those who know him best. There is a second sadness, though. “And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.” (6:5-6) Let the thing that amazes Jesus about us be our faith, not our rejection of him. The same word for amazed is used by Luke when a Roman centurion’s servant is dying. The centurion sends friends to Jesus with this message - “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” (Luke 7:6a-8) Jesus is amazed and tells the crowd “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” He hadn’t found such faith at home. This is the only time this word amazed is used about Jesus in Mark, and what a sad thing for Jesus to be amazed by. He could do no deed of power there, and sure, nothing is impossible with God. But it seems that our reaction to Jesus makes a difference in what God will do in and through a community of people who claim to belong to him, who claim him as one of their own. How many people who needed healing in Nazareth were not healed? How many who longed to hear good news in Nazareth did not hear it? A man named Lamar Williamson Jr, once professor emeritus of Biblical Studies at Union Theological Seminary and the Presbyterian School of Christian Education in Richmond VA had this to say:
“The spiritual climate of a congregation, its sense of expectancy, its openness to the power of God at work through Jesus Christ, will in fact have a great deal to do with how much God’s power can accomplish in that particular community. Our unbelief does not render God impotent, but when it is dominant in a congregation its dampening effect on the mighty acts of God in that time and place is evident and sad.”
I pray that God moves our hearts here at Blythwood to accept Jesus and not to reject or neglect him. I don’t want to be living in a sad reality here. What is all of this going to mean in our lives and in the life of the church? The story doesn’t end here. I said that this was a story of warning, of challenge, and of comfort. The story doesn’t end here. It goes on with us.
Here’s the comforting thing. Remember Jesus’ promise to his disciples that he would make them something else. We know that for some members of Jesus’ family, rejection is not the final word. James will go on to become the anchor of the church in Jerusalem. We looked at his letter at the end of last year. A serious brother. He’s the one who will pen those words that I keep repeating, “It has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…” Speaking of Jerusalem, we will read of Jesus’ mother Mary and his brothers being with the apostles in Acts 1:14 – “All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.” Rejection, neglect, and lack of understanding need not have the last word, sisters and brothers in Christ.
Finally, we have these words at the beginning of our story that we might almost miss (if you will allow me to end with the beginning). He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. His disciples were with him, their follow is never in question. God grant that we might be like them. The people to whom Jesus entrusts his work. The people who long to do the will of God and who do the will of God. May God make us such people. Jesus calls them family. Jesus calls us family. Let us mark our inclusion into that family as we answer the call to follow, and to give thanks around the Family Table.