March 14, 2021
Bulletin & Hymns:
We continue our Lenten series of looking at what it means to be a disciple of Jesus in the gospel of Mark. Today we have two scenes which give us some indication about how Christ’s message will (or won’t) always be welcome. May God bless our reading of the Word:
- We’re all familiar with the saying: “You can’t go home again.” The place won’t be the same, and neither will any of the people (including yourself). The picture above is Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth; it’s astonishing to think about how many layers of change have taken place over the centuries since Jesus walked its streets. Think about your own hometown. What has changed, just in your lifetime? How have those changes been positive or negative? How are Christians called to live in an ever-changing world?
- After preaching to huge crowds in Galilee, Jesus comes home to teach in the synagogue in Nazareth. This congregation is full of his friends, neighbors, and extended family who watched him grow up; but, they don’t seem as receptive as the fisherfolk by the sea. Mark tells us they were “astounded” and “offended” (verses 2-3). Why do you think it was hard for these people to see Jesus as more than “the carpenter, the son of Mary”? We talk a lot in the church about listening to and respecting the wisdom of our elders (especially as Presbyterians); how do we value the voices of our young people? Why is that important?
- Maybe it’s the messenger, or maybe it’s the message itself the people find “offensive.” Jesus is joining a long history of ‘honorable’ prophets who were also rejected – the Old Testament is full of examples! It can be a hard and uncomfortable thing to share the message of God’s word. Preachers often say the message of the gospel is ‘to comfort the afflicted and convict the comfortable.’ How do you react to that; do you agree or disagree? When have you been on the afflicted side, and when have you been the one who was comfortable? When you’re ‘offended’ by something in scripture or in a sermon, what do you do?
- Compare this story to the version in Luke 4. How do you think Jesus felt when he was rejected by these people he knew? We know we’re called to “love those who hate you” (Matt. 5:44); how do you put that into practice?
- Jesus leaves his hometown in Nazareth and continues teaching in the surrounding villages (verse 6). He sends his disciples out to do the same, warning them that they too will experience this rejection. His instructions tell them to rely on God to provide for their needs through others’ hospitality (‘take no bread, no bag, no money’); and yet, he also prepares them: “If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust from your feet” (verse 11). What do you think the disciples’ biggest fears or worries were? How do you feel when you are reliant on the hospitality of someone else? How do you know when it’s time to move on?
Though some reject the message and messengers, the kingdom of God has still come near. “He laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them” (Mark 6:5). And to those few, that makes all the difference in the world! As disciples we have to learn to expect some rejection and failure in ministry, but we also celebrate even the smallest victories and successes that God blesses us with. Sometimes the Spirit is still moving in ways we don’t always see, like a seed in the ground about to spring up. May we be patient and watching in this season, deepening our roots in the faith and expecting fruit in its due season.
Grace and Peace to you all,
Pastor Maggie Rust