Sermon for Proper 9, Year B: Crazy


Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.

“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph,[a] Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.

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.

Mark 6:1-13

This scripture is coming off a monster set of events, culminating in Jesus coming home… and then promptly leaving because the people who know him best don’t seem to be on his side. For the last few weeks, Jesus has been preaching to crowds gathered to hear him, clamoring to touch him like 15-year-old girls at a Beatles concert. Despite his admonition to tell no one, they have heard of his miracles:

  • The disciples and Jesus were on a boat (you know what word I’m thinking, don’t you? :P) out on the Sea of Galilee when a storm cropped up. The disciples were kind of pissed that Jesus was just laying there, asleep. So they wake him up and he calms the sea. Calms. The. Sea.
  • A woman walking in the crowd around Jesus touches the hem of his garment and Jesus feels the power go out of him that heals her and says, “who touched me?”
  • Jesus raises a 12-year-old girl from the dead, and it’s not just any 12-year-old girl. It’s the daughter of a ruler of the synagogue.

After these events, Jesus leaves Galilee and heads for home. It’s been a successful mission, and venturing into fiction, I think Jesus might have been a little homesick….. right up until he got there.

It’s been said many times that “you can’t go home again,” and perhaps that phrase has its origins right here. They just gutter snipe him into the ground. Instead of being amazed by his ability, they scoff at the gifts he’s been given in a way that clearly says, “WHO DOES HE THINK HE IS?” It’s amazing how quickly the scriptures have him pack up and get the hell out of Dodge (“on second thought, let us not go to Nazareth, for it is a silly place”). It is back to the business at hand, because clearly he cannot “work from home.” When Jesus felt the rejection of his own people, it caused him to break down, because he couldn’t heal many because most of them had hurt him, deeply. The power he felt went out of him in the face of his pain… and yet, this is not where the story ends.

Rejection begat action as Jesus took back his own power, consecrating the disciples and giving them authority to heal in his name… as well as laying down the gauntlet for what his kind of ministry entails. You don’t get extra clothes. You don’t get a beggar’s bag. You don’t get your one “luxury item.” This is not Survivor. They are told to basically live hand to mouth if they’re going to be given holy authority; they don’t even begin to understand why until they start healing people for real and find out most of those people have even less than they do. They are tasked to see more, do more, BE more than they ever thought possible because they were not trying to hand down riches from above, but trying to help people lift themselves up. In the current political climate, it is notable that they are also not asked to evangelize by pushing their beliefs onto other people, simply to fold people into the family if they are willing to listen.

This is another scripture that gets used as a clobber passage in terms of evangelism, because they think Jesus means “make a big damn deal out of shaking the dirt off your sandals.” It’s the passive aggressive way of saying “screw you guys, I’m goin’ home.” That’s not my take on it at all. I think Jesus just wants to make the statement publicly with his ministry that if the people do not accept him, it’s really not his problem (in my head I’m thinkin’ “because he’s really not paid enough to care”). He is responsible for leading his people, not people who don’t want to be led in the first place.

In the early church, there were many, many people rejected by their families because they thought Jesus was a nutbag. They had to go and find their own niches within their church family, creating community among themselves to adhere to what they believed… and while they were being rejected, Jesus was slowing changing the power dynamic all the way around him…. it was no longer power over, but power with.

In an excerpt from his book Zealot, Reza Aslan talks about this phenomenon:

Consider this: Crucifixion was a punishment that Rome reserved almost exclusively for the crime of sedition. The plaque the Romans placed above Jesus’ head as he writhed in pain – “King of the Jews” – was called a titulus and, despite common perception, was not meant to be sarcastic. Every criminal who hung on a cross received a plaque declaring the specific crime for which he was being executed. Jesus’ crime, in the eyes of Rome, was striving for kingly rule (i.e. treason), the same crime for which nearly every other messianic aspirant of the time was killed. Nor did Jesus die alone. The gospels claim that on either side of Jesus hung men who in Greek are called lestai, a word often rendered into English as “thieves” but that actually means “bandits” and was the most common Roman designation for an insurrectionist or rebel.

Sedition. Treason. Insurrection. Rebellion.

The Romans did not understand nor care to that Jesus was not talking about a coup d’etat… or was he? The political picture that the Romans paint of him bears little resemblance to the sweet shepherd we know, and then again, the Bible does not delve much into the political history of first century Palestine, either. As this is Fourth of July weekend, think of the Romans as Britain and the Jews as the struggling new country trying to assert its freedom. Jesus and Thomas Paine (author of Common Sense) had much in common because they were both trying to lay out why a revolution should occur. The Romans had much more physical ways of keeping rule than simply taxing the Jews out of house and home. There were times when the streets ran red with Jewish blood.

The choice Jesus made was to stand up and fight against his oppressors, not by trying to take power from them, but by raising the people up through the power of the Holy Spirit, the great oneness that binds us all together. It was not his intent to take on the Roman government by force, but to make the people recognize that they were worth more than the Romans were handing down, and to give them strength in the midst of their fight upward.

Jesus has determined that he may not win over all hearts and minds, but it is foolish not to try.

It’s amazing how much liberation and resurrection have in common. Liberation theology is an interpretation of Christian faith out of the experience of the poor… an attempt to read the Bible and key Christian doctrines with the eyes of the poor (Phillip Berryman, Liberation Theology: Essential Facts about the Revolutionary Movement in Latin America–and Beyond). In its essence, how could Christianity have been anything more than that? Jesus asks his disciples to take on the characteristics of those to which they minister, because he does not want the people to think that power comes from people greater than them, but from people who look just like them.

In modern-day DC, we have the chance to do that ministry every single day. I am not here to guilt you into giving up your extra clothes and your bags, but at the same time, if there’s a part of you that feels like you’re just a little more equal than everyone else, I ask you to examine it. When you emerge into these new beliefs, it may not be without conflict. Those around you may still believe that The War of Northern Aggression was all about states’ rights. Those around you may still believe that homosexuality is a sickness and that people who choose to be homosexual are allowing themselves to “wallow in sin.” Those around you may fight the idea that we should have women clergy, women bishops, women justices, women presidents. Those around you may not feel like gender identity is even a real thing. That these men and women are just choosing to play dress-up instead of the years and years of psychological torture they’ve endured with the brain of one gender and the body of another. However, if you believe in the power of Christ Jesus, opening your heart to include all of these people you’ve formerly condemned is non-negotiable, including those who oppress you.

Although, Jesus does not say that if people oppress you, you have to like it. Walk away. Just don’t carry any animosity toward them. Wipe the dirt off your sandals and go and find other people like you, who will support you in all of your works. Do not continue to live in darkness, but accept your light for what it is. Develop it. Light is not a destination, but a journey, and saying to yourself that you are going to treat people the way Jesus did is the first step down on holy ground.

The second is that in liberating others from your discrimination, you have liberated yourself from your own negative thoughts. What will you do to fill your mind afterward? The possibilities are endless. You may realize that you have more power inside yourself than you ever thought possible. More love. More empathy. More ability to give unto others because you are not thinking about how their lives inconvenience you. You’re thinking about endemic problems in society and how to solve them. You are rising above your discrimination and your hatred in order to form a more perfect union… both in community, and with God.

Your friends and family may think you’re crazy….. but the people who think they’re crazy enough to change the world are the ones who do.

Amen.

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