Scripture: Mark 6:1-13
Going home. It is sometimes a bittersweet activity. It is sweet because it is always good to meet again with friends and family that you rarely see due to the courses of life. In the same breath it can be bitter because in many communities things rarely change. For those that moved away their parents tell everyone about what their children are doing and it almost builds them up greater than they really are. Eventually you go to your class reunion and you fall into the same roles that you did during high school. All your achievement and success matters very little because you are that person again. The movies always try to make light of this but the reality is that most people in life do not go home greater than when they left.
I grew up near the town that the former presidential candidate and senator, Bob Dole, grew up. I grew up knowing his name thinking he was the greatest guy in the world, but in his hometown the story was different. Some thought he was great while others thought he was not so great. Some despised the name of Dole while others held the name in high esteem. Sure he was a senator and presidential nominee, but to his hometown community he was Bob.
To be honest when I go home I only go into town to eat with my family. It is not that I dislike my hometown; it is more that it depresses me. I see the popular people still living there working at the same job they had during high school. I see the same guys working at the same stores that still looking forward to Friday night to go drinking after the game. It is like everyone is stuck in a time warp. After I judge my entire community then I realize that maybe I am seen with the same amount of disdain. I left when maybe I could have helped make a community better; maybe they look at me as one that sold out for some reason.
I do not know if any of you have those feelings. I say it as if it is the same for everyone but it is really just my personal experience. When I think about it I realize that for many of my former classmate did the best they could with the life they were given to live. Each of us is a product of our choices and we live them out the best we can.
But reflecting on the life of Jesus in this light does let us in on some of our human nature. He went home with his disciples to meet the old friends and his family. Imagine just for a bit the pride this community had hearing the stories of their native son going off into the nation making a big name for Himself. Then He comes home and they expect something different only to find Him basically the same guy that he always was. They regarded him not as a great rabbi as the rest of the nation, but He was the carpenter.
I do not know if Jesus felt the way I do, but I do know that you carry a lot of baggage when you go home. People see you as that person you were, not as the person you are. You are often unable to leave the shadow that you grew up under. The old saying that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree is more often that the community will not let the apple fall far from the tree. Jesus is said to be unable to do anything miraculous in His hometown because there was a lack of faith. I do not think that it is a lack of faith in God, but more of the town’s inability to see Jesus as anything other than the carpenter. He was still that kid that helped Joseph build. He was still the guy that came into your house to fix something that you could not do yourself. He was the handy man, not a rabbi. Sure he could preach a good sermon every now and again, but to them He was just the guy that your kids used to play with when the chores were done.
Our hometown can often hold us back, dictate who we are or should be in their eyes. We can often get caught in a web of becoming who everyone else thinks we should instead of really becoming who we ourselves want to become. It takes work to break out of this web; you have history to overcome as well as developing a future. Jesus was amazed at the unbelief of his hometown; this shows the humanity of Jesus. He faced all that we face, since He too had to break free of the webs of expectations in His hometown. A prophet is not without honor except in His hometown He says. This speaks about the web of expectations, or the shadow of the family tree.
Hometowns are tough for anyone, but we can move beyond the shadow of the tree we grew under. Jesus did teach and heal people in His hometown, but most did not call on Him. That did not stop Him from doing what He was called to do. It was from His hometown that His ministry expanded into the next phase. Jesus empowered and sent His disciples. He showed them that those closest to you may not see the change but you still must do what you are called to do.
Jesus empowered His followers. I just want us to sit on this for a bit. Jesus empowered or gave authority to his followers. He called them to a life as a disciple and he gave them the authority to live it out in the community. Jesus did this after He took them to his hometown. I think this was for a reason. They had to see how Jesus reacted in a situation that was less than perfect. They had to see how He still worked the same even when those around Him did not regard him with honor.
Often today we hear that when we become a follower of Jesus things will be better. The truth is things will not change very quickly when we are among those we know the most. The people we spent the most time with in our lives prior to know Jesus personally, will not encourage us to deepen our life with and in Christ but they will try to drag you back into the lifestyle they are used to. We all experience this, we talk differently among certain people, and we participate in different activities. Among the followers we act one way because among them we are empowered. When we meet with those in from our previous lifestyles it is quite easy to fall back. We see this clearly when we go on a spiritual retreat. Some of our students just went to Church camp, from my past experience with camp I came home empowered and on fire for God. Then a month goes by and the flame begins to fade, when school started it is almost as if I never attended the camp. I was the old self once again.
Jesus showed that he was the same in his hometown or anywhere. He showed them and then empowered them. We have a hard time in certain areas because they hold power over us, the power of fear. We fear the trees that once shaded our lives. But like last week’s message Jesus told the synagogue ruler to not fear, only believe. He is basically saying the same thing as He empowers His disciples. He lists off the fears. What will we eat, what will we pack, how will we fund it, and what will we wear. He sent them out and said do not fear only believe. Go without bread, money, or extra clothes. Just take your staff and wear your sandals. Go without fear and believe. Stay where you are welcomed and remain confident even in the face of rejection.
Go even in the face of rejection, do not fear how things will work out only believe. They were shown this first in the life of Jesus as He faced his classmates, then they were empowered to live it in their own life. They went out and taught that all should repent. Repentance is to turn. Turn from the fear and embrace empowerment. Turn from bondage and embrace freedom. Turn from sin and embrace righteousness. They went and taught people in word and deed to turn to God.
The Spirit of God empowers us to live a life for Him. The Spirit of God leads us to minister just as Jesus encouraged and empowered His disciples that day. The message is still the same for us; to go without fear, only believe. We do not have to worry about saying the right words, or how we will survive our mission is to go without fear and believe. Put on our shoes, hope in our cars, and go without fear, only believe that the Spirit will work through us.
The world needs us to live our lives empowered by the Spirit. They need us to live our life free to respond to the leading of God. They want to hear our story of repentance. They may reject but they reject us not because our message but because of their fear. They are afraid of what life will be like if they were to trust God. They fear because the world around them has them bound in a web and they have lived in the shadows so long that light is the unknown. Jesus does not tell them to go off to school, or to gather support. He tells them to go and believe.
We live in a community that ministry opportunities are literally all around us. What could we do if we took Jesus’ advice? What would happen if we did not care how well we were accepted and just boldly lived a life without fear and only believed? The disciples went and they had authority over the evil spirits and they ministered to the sick and healed them. They saw lives changed before their eyes. They would not have seen this if they would not have repented, turned to Christ, gone where he lead them and believed that He would work through their lives.
If each of us were to be honest with ourselves we would have to say that we have not lived this life. We may have faith, we may even trust God, but most of us would not just go. We tend to automatically discredit the leadings of God saying it’s a nice idea but we cannot do it. We live in the shadow. We fear. We do not believe. God will do great things through this Meeting if we would not fear and only believe. If we would trust that He would provide where we may not fully see. Our Church is built on the faith of those that went without knowing fully what the future might hold. The Friends moved from the east to the Kansas City area to minister to the Shawnee Indians, they built a community with them set up schools and Meetinghouses, we and all the Friends Meetings in the North East Area, are the direct result of people that went into the world trusting that God would provide. Sure they made plans to some degree, but they ultimately went knowing that all their plans could be for not.
If we were honest every one of us would have one idea that we have had for quite a while, an idea that we believe would encourage others to repentance but we have lived in fear so we have not spoken them out loud. Today I would like to just start releasing those fears, by just throwing out some of my own ideas. Ideas that on the surface may seem extremely scary, but I really do believe that they are ideas that may be leadings that we need to discern together. I believe that Willow Creek will be a church planting church, that we will plant at least five churches in the metro area, that we will train leaders that will lead those churches from within. I believe that we will get more involved in ministering to those in need, feeding them meals and encouraging their spirits. I believe that we could reignite the Friends educational systems that our meetings started as they moved west. I believe that Willow Creek and the Friends Churches of the North East area will be the a group of disciples of Jesus that will listen to the Spirit’s leading and embrace the challenges set before them. I believe that God wants to do great things through this Meeting; I would not have come if I did not. I was drawn here by the great potential. I was drawn not because of anything other than that potential.
Yes those are big lofty goals. Yes I know we do not have enough people, or enough money. Yes I know I myself do not have the time or energy to do this, but that’s ok because I do not have to. My ministry is to preach the gospel, to encourage others to repent and to follow Christ; my ministry is to live a life devoted to Christ wherever He leads. Your ministry is similar; it is to use the gifts that God has given you to minister to those around you. If we are to plant churches God will provide for that work. If we are to start schools, God will provide for that work. If we are to feed the hungry God will provide for that work. He will provide if we do not fear and only believe that He is able to do what He calls us to do.
As we enter into this time of open worship let us consider those ministry ideas that have been nagging at our spirits, let us discern together and get excited about what God could do, let us remember what he has done in the past and let us embrace what he can do in the future if we only believe.