(Mark 6: 1-13)


It was a little over eight years ago as I was finishing up my last Certified Lay Ministry class when our District Superintendent Daniel Foster approached me and said: “I think you’re ready.”  Ready for what I asked?  “Ready for your own church” he replied.  I recovered quickly and asked where, to which he replied that he couldn’t tell me yet but would get back to me soon.  Well, that gave me something to think about on the ferry as I headed home.  When I told Teresa the look on her face was not one of surprise but of concern.  She asked me where I could be assigned, and I told her anywhere within the Pacific Northwest Conference which included Alaska, Oregon, Idaho, and Washington states.  Her response was: “Make sure you write!” She then said: “I thought they would appoint you to help out at Trinity,” and “I don’t want to move!”  I told her we just needed to wait and hear back from the District Superintendent and that I could always turn down the appointment regardless.  I’m not sure that eased her mind any.  In any event, it wasn’t long before I heard back from the DS who said: “I, the Bishop, and God want to appoint you to Community United Methodist Church in Port Hadlock, and the authority is not necessarily in that order.  I laughed and said that there was good and bad news regarding the appointment.  Good as in they know me, and bad as in at least 64% of them voted me out of office.  The DS laughed and assured me I would be just fine.  Well, I thought, this ought to be interesting, but if it’s by God’s authority what could possibly go wrong?


And that, I have little doubt, is what I am sure more than one of the twelve disciples was asking himself when Jesus gave them their marching orders to go our and preach his gospel in pairs without him.  What could possibly go wrong?


My sermon for today comes from the sixth chapter of Mark’s gospel right after Jesus had returned to his hometown of Nazareth after preaching the gospel around the Sea of Galilee, casting out demons, curing a woman of her bleeding disorder, and bringing a twelve-year-old girl back from the dead.  Mark tells us that on the Sabbath Jesus began to teach in the synagogue and that many who heard him were surprised wondering where did he get all of this, what’s this wisdom he’s been given, and what of these powerful acts that have been accomplished through him?  Amongst themselves they asked if this wasn’t the carpenter they knew, Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon, and weren’t his sisters there living among them?  It’s like they’re saying: “Hey, we know this guy, he grew up here and went to school with our sons, his dad is just a local carpenter, and so is he.  What or who gives him the authority to preach such things in our synagogue?  Mark tells us that they were repulsed by the thought of Jesus teaching them what the word of God really meant.  The nerve of this guy!  In response, Jesus said to them: Prophets are honored everywhere except in their own hometowns, among their relatives, and in their own households.  They would rather hear the word of God from a perfect stranger than someone they knew.  They weren’t saying that Jesus came from a bad family or ran with a bad crowd growing up, or generally was just a bad person.  They just couldn’t accept the fact that God had given one of their own the authority to preach His Word.  And because of this Jesus was unable to do any miracles there, other than placing his hands on a few sick people and healing them.  He was appalled by their disbelief so he and his disciples left Nazareth and traveled through the surrounding villages teaching and preaching to those who would listen.


This was a tipping point in Jesus’ ministry, for he has now been rejected by family, Jewish leaders, and his hometown, and on top of all this, this would be the last time that he is welcomed as a teacher in a synagogue.  He realizes that their rejection and lack of faith are now limiting his ability to perform mighty acts of power, healing, and teachings.  So, Jesus makes the decision to call his twelve disciples together and send them out in pairs so they can cover more ground and spread the Good News to more and more people.  In doing this he gives them the authority and power to cast our unclean spirits which will separate them from all of the other itinerant preachers roaming the countryside.  He tells them to take nothing for their journey other than a walking stick, no bread, no bags, and no money in their belts.  He instructs them to wear sandals but not to put on two shirts.  He says: Whatever house you enter, remain there until you leave that place.  If a place doesn’t welcome you or listen to you, as you leave, shake the dust off your feet as a witness against them.  He’s not telling them to go home and get their things together, to tie up any loose ends, to consult their families, or run it by their wives.  Just go and teach people about the Good News.  Now this thing about shaking the dust from your feet is interesting as you can assume it is some sort of insult.  Pious Jews at the time would shake the dust from their feet after passing through Gentile cities or territories to show their separation from Gentile influence and practices.  So now, when the disciples shook the dust from their feet after leaving a Jewish town it said that they wished to remain separate from the people who had rejected Jesus and his message.  Ouch!  Jesus was making it clear that the listeners were responsible for what they did with the gospel as presented through his disciples and the disciples were not to blame if the message was rejected, as long as they had faithfully and carefully presented it.  So, they went, and Mark tells us the disciples went out and proclaimed that people should change their hearts and lives and that as they did this, they cast out many demons and anointed many sick people with olive oil and healed them.


Now, at this point, you might be thinking that they could have covered more ground and reached more people if they had been sent out individually.  Such was not Christ’s plan.  He knew that if they went out in pairs they could strengthen and encourage each other, they could provide comfort in rejection, they could give each other discernment, and fewer mistakes would be made, and they could stir each other to action as a counter to idleness or indifference.  What this does is to illustrate that our strength comes from God, and he meets many of our needs through our teamwork with others reminding us that as we rise to meet the challenges of serving Christ, we don’t have to go it alone.


Jesus gives the command to proclaim, heal, and overcome evil, but he also gives authority.  We are to go in his name, spirit, and power.  And our mission may seem overwhelming until we remember that with mission comes authority.  However, we are not in this ministry on our own, for every true call to Christian mission comes with authority as we go in the name, spirit, and power of God.  And we are not responsible when others reject Christ’s message of salvation, but we do have the responsibility to share the gospel clearly and faithfully.  So, if friends, neighbors, family, or society in general don’t respect your Christian work and witness, don’t let their rejection keep you from serving God.  Just remember by whose authority you are sent and go.  Go in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.


Let us pray.


Gracious God, when you call may we answer.  May we not question your authority or second guess your wisdom and go where you direct.  May we feel confident in our abilities and know that you are with us all along the way, giving us the courage to move forward and the conviction that what we are doing will change lives for the better.  We pray that you not only give us the right words to say, but that you send others with us who will stand by us, encourage us, help steel our resolve, comfort us when we are rejected, and lift us up when we become indifferent to our task.  This we ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.

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