July 15, 2012: 6th Sunday after Trinity

Let us pray: Dear Savior, respect and appreciation in life are hard to come by. Even though You didn’t have to earn them because You alone are the Son of God, You went out of Your way to earn such human accolades for each of us. You alone were perfect in all You did, in all You said, in how You treated each an every human being. Yet, even that wasn’t enough to cause Your family and friends to respect and appreciate You. Jesus, by Your loving gift of faith cause us to rise above such pettiness today by singing forth Your praise, Who called us out of darkness into Your marvelous light!

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR LOVING BROTHER!

TEXT: Mark 6: 1-6

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

At convention this year I listened to a morning devotion from a young pastor. He was zealous, articulate, and showed his knowledge of some big theological words. Afterwards I was talking to one of my fellow circuit visitors whom I’ve known for over 30 years. I told him: “That young pastor is green as grass.” He agreed that the sermon left a whole lot to be desired when it came to personal, practical application.

Whenever I talk to young preachers I try to teach them to “make God’s Word real and applicable to the lives of the hearers.” For example, don’t just tell folks what a specific commandment is about, relate how it impacts their lives, why God gave it in His specific terms, and how it correlates with other Biblical teachings. Take the 5th commandment. In the Hebrew it says: “You shall not commit murder.” Luther wisely adds: “We should fear and love God so that we do not hurt nor harm our neighbor in his body, but help and befriend him in every bodily need.” So, killing another or employing physical confrontations to puff up your ego is wrong. But, so is ignoring the plight of people in physical need. However, defending the innocent, being a good Samaritan, fighting in a lawful war—these are not sins. Likewise, abortion on demand, suicide, and engaging in some “extreme sports” are sins since they endanger or destroy life. But, today we’re told: “Well, it’s my life, I own it, and as long as I don’t hurt another, I can do whatever I want with it.” To that argument we need to add: “No, it’s not your own. You were created by God. He bought and paid for your life with His blood on the cross. You’re responsible to Him and to others. After all, we are our brother’s keeper.” What I’ve just done in this little scenario is provide the overview and intellectual basis for upholding the 5th commandment. From here I can drill down into more areas of practical application dealing with various “what ifs” and “maybes”. The bottom line is this: if it’s not relevant to people’s lives you’ve gotten in the way of the Holy Spirit.

I

Our lesson, written down by St. Mark and dictated to him by St. Peter is one of those overlooked sections of the Bible that don’t seem awfully pertinent to our lives right now. But that would be a wrong, superficial reading of it. So, let’s mine this little gem and see what we can discover.

Jesus has just done an amazing miracle. He raised the 12 year old daughter of Jairus from the dead! Godly power over death is just about as pertinent as it gets. Only One armed with God’s stamp of approval could do such a miracle! Then He goes back to His hometown of Nazareth along with the disciples. “When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.” The Greek word for amazed here doesn’t mean they accepted and believed His preaching, His application to their daily life. No, it just means they stood with open mouths and wondered at it all. The next section illustrates this: “Where did this man get these things?’ they asked. ‘What’s this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles! 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?’ And they took offense at him.”

When Jesus grew up in Nazareth and later when He took over as the one in charge of dad’s carpenter shop everyone knew Him. It was a very small town. They all knew Him as a kind, industrious, hard-working young man. They saw how He provided for His younger brothers and sisters after Joseph died. They saw how He cared for His mother, Mary. Considering that Jesus was the perfect, sinless Son of God, any negative thoughts about Him were obviously baseless. In short, although His life in those days wasn’t flashy, He was worthy of their respect. So now, when He does do miracles and teach in an amazing powerful way they had no reason to put Him down. Yet they did. Why? Because they felt inwardly inferior. They were filled with jealousy. Small town boy gains success was an affront to their pride. Talk about “narrow minded”—well, these folks epitomize it.

II

So, what’s the application for us in 2012? Well, it is spelled out in the words of Christ’s response to them. “Jesus said to them, ‘Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.’ He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their lack of faith.”

Familiarity breeds contempt. It’s true. I’ll bet each of you has friends or relatives who look down on your successes in life and downplay the advice you give them. Yet, they may hear something on TV in an ad or on the internet and immediately accept it as the gospel truth! I’ll bet all of you have a favorite soap you’ve used for years. It’s never failed you. But then you hear an ad for something new, your ears itch, and you go out and buy it. Familiarity breeds contempt! 150 years ago snake oil salesmen made their livelihood on this concept. Nothing has changed.

“Familiarity breeds contempt” also plagues the Christian Church today just as it did in Nazareth. We all know long-time church-goers who suddenly leave the tried and true because it isn’t flashy, doesn’t seem to excite them anymore, or perhaps doesn’t promise an immediate healing miracle or riches for their business. So, they leave to embrace some slick, glitzy group that seems more hip. We hear: “The Bible is a bit dry and outmoded for our modern society, better to embrace so-and-so’s 10 steps for a wonderful life! After all, it’s a New York Times best-seller!”

I find it fascinating that Jesus wasn’t able to do any miracles in Nazareth aside from a few relatively simple ones. Either He wasn’t going to cast His pearls before swine, as the case may be; or, His heart was hurting at their unbelief and open rejection and thus, His heart just wasn’t in it. In any case, their attitude towards Jesus showed their lack of faith. So, what about you? What does your attitude show when it comes to Jesus? Maybe the world cannot see what’s in your heart, but Jesus can…..So, don’t break His heart again. Instead, listen, learn, and embrace His kind, forgiving heart as He reaches out to embrace you. Amen