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Hometown Preaching July 8, 2012

Posted by sandhandrews in Sermons.
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Mark 6:1-13

Proper 9

July 7-8, 2012

Focus: God brought about His kingdom through His Son.

Function: That the hearers take down any obstacles to their faith.

Structure: .

Hometown Preaching

            We all have things that make us uncomfortable.  Sometimes, we can weasel our way out of doing them, but other times you just have to confront them head on.  One of the things I imagine would make me uncomfortable involves preaching.  I’ve certainly enjoyed my time with you here at Immanuel, and I believe that my skills in the pulpit are better now than when I first started, but public speaking still isn’t my strong suit.  It’s still a bit nerve-wracking for me.

Right now, the idea of being invited to preach at my home congregation feels uncomfortable.  And who knows, maybe it wouldn’t actually be.  But the idea of getting up in front of the people who watched you grow up, who know all about the stupid things you did and said when you were little, I just think it would be difficult for me.  I’d be nervous, wondering what they were thinking about me.

I’m not the only one in that boat.  I read online this week about a preacher reflecting on his past.  When he graduated from the seminary, his home congregation invited him to preach there before he headed off to his first call.  He was nervous about it, and spent days preparing his sermon, trying to really make it perfect.

Sunday finally came, and he stepped into the pulpit.  He looked out into the crowd filled with old friends, mentors, acquaintances and relatives.  And he began to preach.  Not long after he started, he noticed his little six-year old niece get up out of her pew and walk into the aisle.  Before anyone had the chance to stop her, she shouted out, “Uncle Michael, you don’t know what you’re talking about!”

Embarrassment.  Awkwardness.  Feeling like you just want to hide under a rock for awhile.  We all have moments like these in our lives at some point or another.  For Uncle Michael and myself, these feelings come from what we think the people remember about us.

But this wasn’t the case for Jesus.  He, too, struggled with hometown preaching.  But for Him, there weren’t any of these bad moments to look back on.  Nobody could recall when He was mean to His sibling, or when He hurt another boy at school, or any of those awkward moments of puberty.  Those things never happened.  Was He a kid? Sure.  And yeah, He probably went through puberty.  But the plague of sin never impacted Him.  He had no childhood memories to be afraid of.

And yet, we learn from Mark, hometown preaching failed for Him, too.  In the context of Mark’s gospel, Jesus’ return to Nazareth is paired together with our gospel from last week, the end of chapter five.  Mark is setting up a contrast between people like Jairus and the bleeding woman over against the people of Jesus’ hometown.

In chapter five, Jesus does His thing, He comes preaching, teaching, and healing, and the people listen.  Jairus, a synagogue ruler, a man high in religious rank, believed in Jesus, and knew that He could make his little girl healthy again.  Even after his friends came and told him that his daughter had died, he didn’t give up.  Jesus encouraged him, “Do not fear, only believe.”  Jairus kept believing.  Together with Jesus, he rushed back to his daughter’s side.

The story is much the same with the bleeding woman.  It seemed hopeless.  Twelve years she’d suffered from bleeding.  Doctors couldn’t help her, and she’d gone broke trying.   But when she saw Jesus, she believed.  “If I touch even His garments, I will be made well.”  She forced her way through the crowd and got close enough that she could reach out her hand and just touch his cloak.  Immediately, the bleeding was over.  Jesus looked at her and said, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

God sent His Son Jesus Christ into this world.  And from the very beginning of His life, we see glimpses of who He is and why He came.  But as soon as His ministry began, we get it full blast.  Jesus came preaching and teaching that the kingdom of God has indeed come.  He preached “Repent” and He forgave sins.  He healed the sick and cast out demons.  He called disciples, and they followed Him.  Faith was the response.  Jesus proclaimed God’s kingdom, and God’s people listened.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t always the result.  And that’s why Mark makes the contrast.  He needs to show the opposite in his gospel as a warning to everyone who hears it.  Jesus went to His hometown, to the region of Nazareth to proclaim that God’s kingdom has come.  He came, just as He did elsewhere, preaching and teaching.  But the result was different.

The people heard the words He preached, and they saw the wonders He did.  “Where did this Man get these things? What’s this wisdom that has been given Him? What are these remarkable miracles He is performing?”  They even recognized Jesus.  “Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph,Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” But they didn’t believe.

He’s just the boy we saw grow up.  He may have been a good kid, but what’s with all this?  We know His family; none of them are any different than the rest of us.  Where does He get off saying these things?  What’s He gotten Himself mixed up with that He can do some of these things?

The people of Nazareth refused Jesus and His message.  They blinded themselves with their own idea of how things work.  But that doesn’t make it the reality.  Just because they didn’t believe the kingdom of God has come, doesn’t mean Jesus didn’t bring it.

For centuries people believed that Aristotle was right when he said that the heavier an object is, the faster it would fall to the earth. After all, Aristotle was regarded as the greatest thinker of his time, so surely he couldn’t be wrong.

Anyone, at any time, could have taken two objects, one heavy and one light, and dropped them from high up to see whether or not the heavier object landed first. But no one did until nearly 2,000 years after Aristotle’s death. In 1589, Galileo summoned learned professors to the base of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Then he went to the top and pushed off a ten-pound and a one-pound weight. Both landed at the same instant. The power of belief was so strong, however, that the professors denied their eyesight. They continued to say Aristotle was right.

Just because the people of Nazareth, of Jesus’ hometown, had one view of who He was and how the world worked, didn’t make it right.  Even in spite of their belief, Jesus still brings the reign of God.  You can’t stop Jesus, you can’t stop God.  Not by unbelief, not by brute force, and not by nailing Him to a cross.  Jesus came with a mission, the mission of bringing the kingdom of God into this world once again, crushing the rule of Satan.  The time of sin and evil is out, and God’s power and mercy is in.

The kingdom of God comes no matter what.  We say it together every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer.  “Thy kingdom come.”  But as Martin Luther described it, we’re not asking that God’s kingdom would come, that’s already happened and is still happening.  Instead we pray that like Jairus and the woman, His kingdom may come about in us.  That we, unlike Jesus’ hometown, might believe and be a part of His kingdom and His family.

Mark, in this text, encourages us to stop being like the Nazarenes.  He encourages us to take off the blinders, to stop putting things in the way of listening to Jesus and seeing Him for who He really is.  Essentially, to stop doubting and believe.  Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, has indeed brought about the kingdom of God among us.  We then, are forgiven, free from sin, and children of God.  And in this way, like Jairus, we simply believe.

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