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Be Ye Doers of the Word and Not Hearers Only

Pentecost 6 – Year B

I wonder what Jesus expected when he returned to Nazareth on that particular weekend? After all, Nazareth was his hometown. Was he looking for a warm welcome and a little rest? Was he looking for the place where he could relax and be himself amongst the people who had known him all his life? Jesus had just healed a woman who had been hemorrhaging for twelve years. Then he cured the twelve-year-old daughter of Jairus, the leader of the synagogue. Everyone thought the little girl was dead but Jesus knew better and he healed her with two simple words –“Talitha cum” – which means, “daughter get up.” After that he went home to Nazareth. Perhaps he just needed a break from the road.
Whatever Jesus expected to find in his hometown, he must have been disappointed by their rejection and disbelief. As the hometown boy made good, he was invited to speak in the synagogue on Friday night. At first, all were impressed by the wisdom of his preaching. But they could not get passed the fact that this seemingly great man was the same little Jesus, the carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon. They thought he must be putting on airs, acting too big for his britches, so they rejected him and his message. Mark tells us this was the last time Jesus ever spoke in a synagogue. Jesus began his ministry in a synagogue, and he visited different synagogues often, but after his rejection in his own hometown, he never goes again. From then on he takes his message to the streets.
As a matter of fact, as our lesson for today records, Jesus not only takes his message to the streets but he sends his followers out to do the same. He gives them authority and sends them out in pairs to carry on his work of calling people to repentance, confronting evil and healing the sick. In short, he sends them out to do the work of the Kingdom.
There is an old story about a little girl, dressed in her Sunday best, who was running as fast as she could, trying not to be late for Sunday school. As she ran she prayed, “God, please don’t let me be late! “God, please don’t let me be late!”
While she was running and praying, she tripped on the curb and fell, skinning her knee, getting her clothes dirty and tearing her dress. She got up, brushed herself off, and started running again! As she ran she once again began to pray, “God, please don’t let me be late…But please don’t shove me either!”
I wonder if Jesus’ rejection in Nazareth was God’s way of shoving Jesus, shoving him out of his comfort zone and into something new. His own people rejected him and that had to hurt but did God use this painful experience to push Jesus and his disciples into new ministry in new places? No longer would Jesus preach in the synagogues, no longer would he teach alone. Jesus and his followers would take their message to the streets, to everyone – Jew and Gentile alike. It is just like what God said to Ezekiel – the prophet’s job isn’t to be liked, the prophet’s job is to proclaim God’s word, whether the people who hear it like that word or not.
You and I are descendants of those 12 disciples sent out by Jesus to carry forward the work of God’s Kingdom. As a result, I think if we are doing it right in here on Sunday morning, then we ought to feel God shoving us out there – out into the world. If we are really paying attention to the scripture, to the prayers, then we ought to feel pushed out the door. That’s where we really live as Christians. That is where the ministry is. So many people think that their faith is what happens on Sundays, but Sunday is the least of it. So many of us think you come to church to be religious. When in actuality being religious is what you do or do not do once you leave church. Your faith is what happens or doesn’t happen every other day of the week besides Sunday. Church is supposed to be the place where we gather to check in with God and one another in order to get the strength and the motivation to go back out there and be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
At least once a week I run into members of our parish family at the market, the bank, or a restaurant, people I haven’t seen in church for a while. I am always glad to see these folks but virtually every time I have one of these encounters these good people feel the need to explain to me why they haven’t been to church. I can sense that they feel a little guilty and embarrassed as they tell me how busy they have been or how much they have been out of town. Let me tell you a little secret folks, I’m not really that worried or concerned that you haven’t been to church. Of course we miss you when you aren’t here. Believe it or not, our community is diminished by your absence and blessed by your presence. Going to church, being a worshipping member of this community is good for you and it is good for us. But rather than explain to me why you haven’t been coming to church, I would much rather hear how you have been living your life as a disciple of Jesus Christ outside of church. Because it isn’t just what you do at church that counts, it’s what you do outside of church that matters the most.
I can’t tell you how wonderful it makes me feel when I go to a meeting at a place like the Peter Paul Development Center and run into someone from our parish volunteering their time at the Center. Or how great it is to look at the pictures from a recent mission trip and see the amazing Christ like ministry that a team has accomplished. It is so powerful for me when I visit someone who is ill, or a family that has recently lost someone they love, and I see members of our parish coming and going, bringing food, sitting with the family, or running errands to be helpful. Just a couple of weeks ago I made a visit to a family struggling with an illness and there were at least five or six folks, many form our parish who were working in that family’s yard trimming, clipping, planting – doing whatever they could to bring a little beauty into a difficult situation. The most exciting thing about this church is not what we do in here – but the love we share out there.
Jesus felt rejected by his own people when he tried to go home to Nazareth. But that rejection turned into a blessing when he focused his ministry and the ministry of his disciples beyond the walls and the comfort of the synagogue. We too will be blessed every time we leave this place and focus our own ministry outward beyond ourselves and this place. I am glad you are here today. It is good to be together and praise our God. But as you leave this morning I hope you feel just a little shoved out the door. Because you are a disciple, a disciple of Jesus Christ, and you have work to do. Amen.

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