Monday, July 13, 2015

Sermon - Pentecost 6 - Mark 6:1-13

“Whether they hear or not...”
Pentecost 6
July 5th, 2015
Mark 6:1-13

Home field advantage – its something sought after by sports teams. One author's research suggested that over ten years, the homefield advantage in the MLB was 53.9%, in the NHL 55.7%, in the NBA 60.5%, and in the NFL 57.3%.

But in today's Gospel reading, our Lord Jesus Christ doesn't fare as well. His home-field, or home-town of Nazareth proves to be a dis-advantageous venue for the preaching of the good news. Their unbelief was so notable that it even amazed him (the only things that ever amazed Jesus were faith and unbelief).

You would think that if anyone would hear him, listen to him, believe in him, it would be the people of his home town. But even for them, it wasn't the case. Even Jesus Christ himself was rejected even in his home town of Nazareth. The took offense at him, Other accounts from the Gospels tell us they tried to push him off a cliff. That's not just disagreement. That's not just finding his sermons boring. This is outright rebellion.

Ezekiel knew something about that too. He was a prophet, called to a rebellious people. And God commanded him to speak to those people whether they would hear him or refuse to hear. And as the history of the prophets shows clearly, many, most – would refuse to hear.

Jesus' own disciples met with the same chilly reception at some of the towns where they were sent to preach, and were told to shake the dust of their feet off as a testimony against them. Jesus knew that his messengers, and his message wouldn't always be well received. Nonetheless he sent them out preaching a message of repentance.

And today it is no different. Some hear. Some reject. Some believe, by the power of the Spirit. Some choose not to believe, through no one's fault but their own. Some hear the word of God – are cut to the heart by the law and rejoice in the sweet Gospel of Christ. Some would rather watch paint dry or have a root canal.

We see it in our nation. We see it in our families and workplaces. We even see it in our churches. Some receive, and some reject. Some hear, and some refuse to hear. But the message never changes, and the word is still preached, taught, proclaimed.

And by now many of us are thinking something like this: “Yes, pastor, you're right. Those people who reject your word should repent. They should turn from their wicked ways. They should stop their naughty deeds – both generally and specifically. Especially those people who have or who continue to sin against me. They should repent and hear the word of God. I hope they're listening, pastor, because they really need to hear this today. I wish they were here, so maybe you could knock some sense into them. Those people. Over there. Them. Not me.”

But not so fast. Because as much as other people refuse to hear, so do you and I in our own sin, deafen our ears to the word. We hear what we want to hear, and do what we want to do.

It's easy to hear the word of the law applied to other people's sins. But what about your own? It makes us feel secure to point to the really bad sinners over there, but to ignore the sins of the sinner we know the best, the one we see in the mirror. We may want to beat the drum of the certain commandments, the ones we think we keep or keep better. But the law of God leaves us without any hiding place. It is a light that shines the spotlight on each of us, and leaves no one justified by works.

Hear the word of the commandments: You shall have no other gods. Not your belly nor your wallet nor your own inflated ego. You shall not misuse God's name or forget his Sabbath Day. You shall love your neighbor – and not fail help him, or lust after her, or gossip about them, or scheme to get their stuff. You shall love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. Do this and you will live. Have you done this? Do you do this? My answer is no. I'm guessing yours is too.

So hear the word of the Lord – the call to repent – this sermon is not for some other sinner, but for you.

Some of you will perhaps reject this call to repentance. For sinners love to self-justify and foist blame. But if you think the law of God has nothing to say to you this day, you are in a dangerous place indeed. The testimony against such rejection is harsh – Jesus tells his disciples to even shake off the dust from their feet. He wants nothing to do with such unbelief.

Some, on the other hand, will hear it. Some of you will confess with your lips acknowledge in your heart the sin that is ever before you. And if you are cut to the heart and stand face to face with your sin, if your spirit cries out for hope, if you wonder at your own weakness there is another word you need to hear.

My grace is sufficient for you. For my power is made perfect in weakness”

Hear today this other word of the Lord: The word of the Gospel. Jesus Christ has come for you. He came from his Father, from heaven's high throne, to be born for you in Bethlehem, to be raised in Nazareth, and to die just outside of Jerusalem. He lived a real life, in the real world, and grew up in a real town - and his perfect life fulfilled the law that all of us have broken.

Though he preached the Wisdom of God, and was accredited by mighty works, though he did all of this even without sin, he was rejected by his own. His own family and friends were offended by him, turned away from him. And in the end even his closest disciples fled. He was stripped of his dignity, his clothes, and gave up his life. He was rejected by all – and all this in accord with God's plan and purpose.

He was rejected so that you are received. So that you, sinner, would be forgiven. So that you, forgiven child of God, would never be rejected. So that God will always hear your prayers, and receive them as he receives you: through Christ. That even if your hometown, or your own mother and father, husband or wife, children and friends reject you. You belong to the Father, through the Son.

A prophet, even Jesus, may not be accepted in his hometown. But you, a stranger and enemy to God in your sin – you are accepted through Christ.

Hear the good news of Jesus Christ – who forgives you this day and every day you live by his grace. Hear the word of hope by which we live. Receive not only his word but his body and blood for your forgiveness, life and salvation. Do not reject, but receive, and live.

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