If someone were to ask you what it’s like to be called by God to a particular mission or work how would you describe it? When God called you how did you respond? Do people who know you know that you’ve been called by God? How do they accept that? Did they know you when you were growing up and making the usual teenage mistakes? Do they remember those mistakes and have a hard time believing that you’ve grown up, both physically and mentally?
That’s kind of the problem Jesus encountered when he went home to Nazareth. He went to the meeting place to teach. More than likely he was invited because they knew he was a rabbi and they’d heard about the things he’d taught and the people he’d helped.
Mark tells us they were amazed at his teaching. They knew him when and they couldn’t believe that he’d become so wise. How’d that happen? Has anyone ever said the same thing about you?
They were amazed at his wisdom and his debating abilities but then just as quickly they turned. After all they’d seen him grow up and he wasn’t anything special then. He was just a carpenter’s son who repaired doors, roofs, wagons, anything made out of wood he fixed it or learned how to fix it. His home town “friends” couldn’t believe it was possible for him to be a learned rabbi with disciples.
And so Jesus wasn’t able to do much good there because his hometown just didn’t believe in him. Not that they needed to have faith to be healed but even if he had cured lepers, made lame people walk, and cast out demons would they have believed that he was God’s Son? Not likely so why expend the energy to do something that wouldn’t make any difference in their belief. There were others in Galilee who wanted to hear the Good News and were willing to have their faith made stronger.
Have you ever experienced anything like that? Have you ever been rejected by your old friends because they couldn’t believe that you could ever change from what you were when you were growing up? If you have, then you have some idea what that feels like and you can empathize with Jesus.
Mark doesn’t say that Jesus knocked the dust from his sandals in Nazareth but he does say that he left there and went to other villages where he taught.
So he wasn’t received well in his hometown. He just moved on. There was no need to waste anymore time there. There were others who needed to hear the Message of the Way.
Jesus knew at some point his work here would end. Spreading the Good News would then rest solely on the shoulders of his disciples. Before he left them he had to be sure that they understood what it was they were being called to do.
So Jesus sent them out in pairs to preach. If someone called and said you will be leaving today with a friend to go to, oh let’s say Alabama, you would immediately begin thinking about what clothes and shoes you should pack and how much money you would need so you could buy food and so forth. But Jesus didn’t give his disciples time to do any of that. They were to go with just what they had right then, nothing extra. They didn’t have any vouchers that would allow them to stay in any Super 8’s or Comfort Inns or even a Motel 6. No, they were going to have to depend on the hospitality of strangers they would meet in the towns they traveled to. What about that? That required quite a leap of faith.
Now before you jump to the conclusion that you could never do that remember that they had been with Jesus for a while. They had been sitting at the feet of the Rabbi listening and learning. He had been preparing them for this work. And he sent them out in pairs so that they could encourage each other, help each other, and protect each other. He gave them authority, power over evil opposition, unclean spirits.
He didn’t promise them that they would be accepted everywhere they went. But he told them what to do if they weren’t. Just shrug your shoulders, accept that they weren’t interested in hearing the Message and go on their way to the next village.
But still, we can see that this required a huge amount of faith, not only in God’s providence but in the hospitality of their fellowmen. I’m trying to imagine what that would be like for me if I used this philosophy when I take off on RAGBRAI. Just ride into town and stop at a house and ask if I can camp in their yard. And, “Oh by the way would you be able to put me up for supper? And do you suppose I could use your shower?”
It sounds funny doesn’t it? But I’m not going on RAGBRAI to spread the Good News. I guess I don’t really know what God has planned for me. Who knows who I might meet.
The whole point of this gospel lesson is about faith, trusting in God’s providence. It forces us to think about our own faith, the strength of it or the lack of it whichever the case may be.
The Twelve trusted that Jesus knew what he was doing and so they went out. They may have had some doubts when they first stepped out but that changed as they began to teach and heal and cast out evil. Their faith grew and they came back filled with excitement over what they were able to accomplish.
So what about you? You knew I was going to come to this point sooner or later, didn’t you? What has God called you to do? What is he calling you to do? What is he asking you to leave behind or to give up before you begin?
It’s at this point, when the question is directed at us, that we begin to look at our lives and do an assessment. We come face to face with our priorities and they may not match what God is calling us to do.
Jesus calls us to give up our old life and follow him. We are called to leave everything behind, pick up our cross, put on the yoke of Jesus, and go out and make disciples of the world.
Friends, Jesus is calling us to go out into the world and spread the Good News. Leave all our bags behind and trust in God to provide. If no one listens to our story, so what, we move on to the next place down the street.
I don’t know for sure if God is asking us to give up our savings entirely but I do believe that God is asking us to go out and share our stories about how God is working in our lives with our families and friends so that they can hear and see what a great God we worship.
I believe that God would like us to make our lives less complicated so that we could work for him with fewer things to worry about.
Last week I talked about when healing began. I said that I believe healing begins when we have faith. It may not be a very big faith but it is faith. I also believe that we can be sent by God to proclaim the Good News if we just have faith, faith in God and faith in the folks we are sent to visit.
As John Ortberg said, “If you want to walk on water, you’ve got to get out of the boat.” If others are going to know about Jesus and God’s love for them we all have to tell our stories.
You’ve been tagged by God. You’re it. It’s your turn to step out onto the road with faith that God is beside you all the way.
Friends, God loves you and so do I. Thanks be to God. Amen.