6th Sunday after Pentecost July 4, 2021
First Reading: Ezekiel 2:1-5
Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 12:2-10
Gospel: Mark 6:1-13
Prayer of the Day:
God of the covenant, in our baptism you call us to proclaim the coming of your kingdom. Give us the courage you gave the apostles, that we may faithfully witness to your love and peace in every circumstance in life, in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
Hymns of the Day
If you don’t have hymnals at home,
lookup the hymns on YouTube or other websites.
Lord, You Give the Great Commission (ELW 579)
We All Are One in Mission (ELW 576)
In Christ Called to Baptize (ELW 575)
Listen, God Is Calling (ELW 513)
Everlasting God (Chris Tomlin) (YouTube)
Reflection on Mark Mark 6:1-13
by Pastor Tim Dean
Mark’s story is essentially one of disruption. At the beginning, the Holy Spirit disrupts the heavens and descends on Jesus (1:10). At the end, when Jesus is publicly executed, the temple curtain is ripped in two (15:38). Yet women at his tomb discover that Jesus is not dead and buried, but alive and going ahead of them (16:5-7). Normal expectations and certainties are upended and disrupted.
The word “disruption” may be the last word we want to hear, after nearly 16 months of having our lives disrupted by the Covid pandemic.
Yet there are times when disruption can be a good thing. When family dynamics are not healthy, disruption can change the status quo and bring healing. When someone experiences dehumanizing comments or behavior, a disruption from the situation can be freeing.
Even the holiday we celebrate today, July 4th, can be seen as a disruption against abuse of power. At a time when kings ruled by divine right, the Declaration of Independence proclaimed the idea that every person has God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Disruptive forces throughout our nation’s history have continually arisen to make sure that our nation lives up to this promise, especially for women, people of color, refugees, and LGBT people.
In Mark’s story, disruption is a key to understanding the kingdom, or reign of God.
How does the reign of God turn the world upside down? Who is being disrupted and why? What conventions, certainties, and beliefs does Jesus disrupt for the sake of the good news?
Disruption comes into play as we consider this part of the story in chapter 6. In the first part of our reading, Jesus returns to his hometown in Nazareth of Galilee. Then, Jesus sends his disciples to proclaim the reign of God in villages beyond Nazareth.
Jesus’ homecoming gets mixed reviews. The locals are astounded by his teaching, but they refer to him as “the son of Mary” (6:3a). In the honor/shame culture of Mark’s world, this is an insult. The implication is that Jesus is not the “good son” because he abandons his family and goes around Galilee preaching and teaching instead.
Then Mark adds that the locals take offense at him (6:3b), which implies hostile rejection.
We don’t really know why Jesus’ hometown rejects him. They are not evil people. Perhaps it’s just that the disruptive force of the reign of God, upending the conventions and expectations of the culture, is too much to bear. Too threatening.
Jesus himself compares his rejection to the prophets, like Ezekiel in our first reading. Often prophets are sent to take God’s disrupting, liberating message to those who don’t want to hear it.
The next scene provides contrasts. While Jesus is blocked in his hometown, his followers are sent on an outward journey. They enter homes of strangers and bring good news. Jesus’ ministry fizzles because of unbelieving Nazarenes; the disciples, while having some success, are warned that they will also face rejection.
That is one of the lessons of this story: to face rejection with a huge measure of grace. Jesus fell short with the hometown crowd. The success of the kingdom is not up to us; it comes to disrupt and transform by God’s activity and grace.
Maybe that’s why Jesus sends the disciples out in pairs. We need the support and care of one another when facing hard tasks, and especially when we fall down.
The overarching message of this second scene is that the disciples receive Jesus’ authority to preach, teach and heal. We don’t act on our own but follow the lead of Jesus.
But as Luther Seminary professor Matt Skinner points out, “this transformative authority expresses itself in powerlessness, dependency, and relationships.” (Skinner, “Connections,” Year B, vol. 3, p. 141) Jesus’ authority disrupts, not by controlling others, not by divine mandate, but in the upside-down way of the cross.
This is good news for us, dear friends.
You and I are given Jesus’ authority to proclaim a disruptive kingdom that brings a new way of life.
In baptism, we die and rise in Christ—which causes our old lives and loyalties to be washed away.
Serving in Christ’s love, powerlessness, and genuine humility is not easy.
Yet we are called only to be faithful to the disruptive movements of the Spirit. Where our vision is limited, the Spirit helps us to see that the grace of God reaches far beyond what we can imagine or expect. Jesus disrupts our comfort zones and prejudices so that more and more people are included in this movement of healing, life, and freedom.
And when we fail, when the message of the kingdom is not received, or even met by hostility, we can fall back on this grace. The ultimate lesson is that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
Jesus is rejected by his hometown, those he grew up with. The disciples will also face resistance when they proclaim the disruptive, transformative life of the kingdom. The shadow of the cross hangs over these scenes. The reign of God is fully displayed in the powerlessness of a man killed on Golgotha.
Yet as we know, death itself will be disrupted three days later.
Let Us Pray
God of grace, give us courage as we receive the disrupting, transforming movements of your Holy Spirit. Free us from the shackles of sin that bind us. Open our eyes, hearts and lives to proclaim your reign of justice and love for all people. Bring healing and new life for those who are sick, home-bound, hungry and impoverished. All this we pray in the name of the One who shares his humble authority with us, Jesus Christ. Amen.