Sermon - Pentecost 9
Readings: 2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10 Psalm 48 2 Corinthians 12:2-10 Mark 6:1-13
I must admit I was tempted to take the easy way out on sermon prep this weekend, and simply bring my laptop and a projector and let you listen to our Presiding Bishop Elect Michael Curry who preached the sermon at the General Convention closing Eucharist on Friday. If you haven't heard it, I commend it to you. He is a powerful preacher and his sermon called on all who heard it to "Go, make disciples of all nations" as he quoted the Great Commission from the end of Matthew's gospel. He reminded his listeners that God is a loving God. God came into this world in the person of Jesus of Nazareth to show us the way to be reconciled with God, our creator, who deeply and passionately loves us. He also showed us the way to be reconciled with each other, to truly become the human family of God, brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus.
One of my favorite lines was when he quoted Christian writer Max Lucado who said, God loves each and every one of us just the way we are, . . . but he doesn't intend to leave us that way.
God came into this world in the person of Jesus to change us and to change the world. Look what he did during his life. Look at the difference he made in the lives of his disciples, and in the lives of all those whom he touched.
Our lessons today point to that very message, how God works in us and through us to change the world. In our first lesson from 2 Samuel we hear the tribes of Israel proclaim David their king, uniting the lands of Judah and Israel under one ruler. Young David, the shepherd boy, anointed by Samuel many years before as the one God chose to b
David, who faced down Goliath, and became a military leader in his own right. David, who challenged Saul's authority as king, yet mourned for Saul when he was killed by the enemy.
The same David, who led the people of Judah against Saul's successors and was forced into exile, was proclaimed king of both Judah and Israel.
Although David, in his humanity made many mistakes, Scripture tells us "David became greater and greater, for the LORD, the God of hosts, was with him." God worked through David, uniting the lands, providing peace and security for the people, a way forward when there seemed to be none, and that beacon of hope that transcended the generations. God made a covenant with David, proclaimed by the prophets, foretelling the coming of the Messiah, who would come from David's line to reconcile the world to God, the Father.
In Mark's gospel, we have witnessed the early days of Jesus' public ministry. From his calling of the twelve, through teaching in the synagogues, preaching the power of God's word to spread and grow like scattered seeds, to his driving out demons, curing illness and raising a young girl from the dead. Although his fame spread, in his hometown, many are skeptical. How could Jesus, son of Mary, brother of James and Joses, Judas and Simon, a simple carpenter by trade. . . how could this man each them anything, much less teach them about God? How could this young man whom they had watched play in the streets and fields of Nazareth with their own children, how could he be God's chosen one? Why should they listen to him? Why should they believe God is working through him to change the world?
I think it must be with great sadness that Jesus left Nazareth, sad that those whom he knows best chose to turn away from God's message of love and reconciliation. Jesus offered to heal their bodies, hearts and souls, offered to teach them about God's abiding love, and to show them the way to bring about the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. But they would not listen. They would not participate. They rejected him outright. In Luke's account of the same story (Luke 4: 16-30), the crowd was so incensed that they tried to throw Jesus off high hill, but he slipped through the crowd and disappeared.
Jesus knew his calling was to spread the good news of the kingdom of God to all. He knew his disciples had been watching and listening and learning. Mark tells us Jesus left Nazareth, "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."
It is interesting that this gospel passage in which Jesus sends his disciples out 2 by 2 to teach, preach and cure those suffering from unclean spirits of every type should come in our lectionary cycle today, two days after the close of General Convention. Two days after PB-elect Michael Curry challenged us with Jesus' words, "Go therefore, and make disciples of all people. . . and I will be with you for all time even unto the end of the ages." Less than a month since our own Special Convention affirmed the work of the Discernment Committee, and called for us to work together, telling our story, stepping out beyond our walls, to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ in word and deed.
Bishop Curry challenges us, as Jesus challenged his followers 2000 years ago, to love God, love our neighbor, and change the world. His words challenge us to be God's hands and feet on earth, to fully live into our baptismal covenant. As I talk with people throughout the diocese of Easton, I sense a surge of energy and enthusiasm to come together as the people of God, God's human family here on earth and do just that.
If we look around, we have wonderful examples of how individuals and groups are working together to do what is right and to shine the light of God's love throughout the world.
During the past week, we were reminded of the work done by Nicholas Winton in 1939 when he organized the escape of 669 children most of whom were Jewish from Czechoslovakia to Britain on the eve of WWII.
We heard about a barber in Australia who spends his day off traveling around the city on his skateboard giving haircuts to the homeless telling those he serves "I hope with this clean-cut, you will have a clean start in your life."
Police officers in a crime-ridden section of Chicago are volunteering to coach baseball teams for neighborhood boys and girls in a effort to combat violence through sports.
In the Diocese of Easton, Camp Agape works with the children of incarcerated parents to provide those children with caring mentors and an opportunity to enjoy all the positives of a summer vacation at Camp.
Right here at St. Paul's you hosted Camp Dayspring for children in need here in the community.
God is working in and among us to show us that there is a better way, God's way. As we leave here today, continuing our celebrations for Independence Day and remembering all God has done for us and calls us to do, I offer you this 4-part Franciscan blessing:
May God bless you with a restless discomfort about easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships, so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your hearts. May you be blessed with holy anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may tirelessly work for justice, freedom, and peace among all people. May you be blessed with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy. May you be blessed with enough foolishness to believe that you really CAN make a difference in this world, so that you are able, with the grace of God, to do what others claim cannot be done. Amen.