The Gospel: Mark 6:1-13
Jesus came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! 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?” And they took offense at him. Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” 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.
Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.
Prayer: Lord, you have promised that when two or three gather in your name you will be present with them. We depend on that promise today and pray that you will move among us. Lord, we pray that have you inspired Mike's preparation, that you will enliven his presentation and that you will empower our application. Amen
The Message: I find the reading from The Gospel of Mark this morning one of the most interesting in all of Scripture. Jesus returns to his home town and is blocked from performing any "deeds of power there."
In the last couple of weeks as we have been considering the impact of the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost each of the readings has contained at least one account of the miraculous works that Jesus has been involved in. Last week, you will recall, we heard about one miracle story surrounded by the longer story of another miracle. The woman who has been bleeding for 12 years is healed by a simple touch while Jesus is responding to Jairus plea to come and heal his 12 year old daughter. Jesus does it all.
And yet Jesus comes to his home town and rather than expecting or hoping or asking for "signs and wonders" his elders and neighbors confine him to being: "the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” In fact "they took offense at him."
It was like Jesus' miraculous healing power hit a brick wall. Mark records the events this way: "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."
Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.”
This morning I would like to suggest that the people of Jesus' home town were suffering from heart disease. Now this is not a physical ailment, although it certainly had physical repercussions. These folks were suffering from spiritual heart disease.
Perhaps I can illustrate what I mean by looking at what we call in our modern scientific medical based society as heart disease. From what I learned as a Chaplain at Mercy St Vincent in Toledo before coming here to Huron and what I have seen in my ministry since being ordained is that the primary form of heart disease is caused by the blockage of the arteries leading to the heart. There are other forms of heart disease but this one is the most common.
This is what happens when the free flow of blood to the heart is blocked? The arteries no longer allow the flow of blood to the heart and over time the heart tries harder and harder to compensate for that. Unless something is done to clear the blockage or blockages the heart can be permanently damaged, or death may occur.
Now, because of the incredible advances in medical science Drs and surgeons know how to identify this disease and there are things that can be done to prevent damage and death. Although you would probably be surprised how many people end up in hospital Emergency Rooms because of heart disease. Or how many people have to undergo emergency surgery to repair the damage of heart disease.
So, this of course leads to the question what things can cause this kind of blockage? It is usually a slow build-up. A gradual accumulation of material that slowly blocks the free flow of life-giving sustenance to the heart. Diet, exercise, or the lack of exercise, can all contribute to this process. Sometimes early detection can provide the opportunity for raised awareness and changes in the patient's lifestyle can help prevent the need for an emergency room visit or surgery.
I would like to suggest this morning that this can happen spiritually as well as physically? That we, as the people in the story from Mark's Gospel this morning, may well be at risk of spiritual heart disease.
We all know, I am sure, the old saying "familiarity breeds contempt." As we look at the people from Jesus' home town what s central to their problem with acknowledging Jesus as anything more than "the little boy that they remember running around the village." They thought they knew who he was and they in, their hearts, were not able see him any other way. Their spiritual arteries were blocked. There had been a gradual accumulation of material that slowly blocked the free flow of life-giving sustenance to their heart.
Now, is this also true or possible for us? I am going to say what I have said often in the time that I have been here: "the best thing about being an Episcopalian is that we do the same thing every week. The most challenging thing about being an Episcopalian is that we do the same thing every week." We have to look at our spiritual diet and we have to consider if we are willing to engage in some spiritual exercise to enliven and refresh or renew our worship each Sunday. When our heart is sluggish how does the impact and affect our responsiveness spiritually?
We are moving into a new experience of the life and community here at Christ Church. The work we are doing as part of the Planting for Tomorrow II project is preparing this place to be a mission station sending out people into the world to affect and change the world. That is all I am going to say about the second half of the Gospel from Mark this morning. Maybe you could read that part when you get home today. Jesus called his follows in so that he could send them out.
I want to briefly touch on another factor of heart disease this morning. Unfortunately, I believe that one of the other contributing factors to our spiritual heart disease can often be what has happened, or because of what is happening to us emotionally? I believe that often our spiritual journey is very much affected by how we think we should be treated or how we think we have been treated by others in our community.
Barbara Steinmetz encouraged the Vestry last week to consider the "love chapter" from Corinthians to be a guide and challenge for our work together. I was so touched by the Devotional I had it printed in the Weekly Update. If you don't receive the Weekly Update by email can I encourage you to sign up. Or call the office this week and ask for a copy of Barbara's devotional.
What can be done about the hurts and rejections, we receive on a daily basis? What do we need to hear to break us free from the lack that we feel we suffer from? What will be necessary to unblock the blockages in our spiritual arteries? Can I suggest some heart orientated scriptures for you this week:
Psalm 51: 6 - 12
"You desire truth in the inward being;
therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit."
Ezekiel 36: 24-28
”I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. Then you shall live in the land that I gave to your ancestors; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God."
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Luke 12: 25 - 34
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."