Monday, July 2, 2012

Gospel text Sunday 8 July, 2012

Mark 6:1-13
Jesus left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, "Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him. Then Jesus said to them, "Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house." And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.

Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, "Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them." So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them."

Can you imagine being one of Jesus’ disciples? You’ve been following him all over creation, listening and watching him preach and teach and do astonishing deeds of power, you know, healing and casting out demons, raising a little girl from the dead.  Jesus has even given you some off line or private lessons, explaining stories to you that were not meant for the ears of those outside the inner circle of disciples. When I imagine being one of those disciples it makes me feel kind of special, but only until it gets to the part about Jesus sending me out to do what he has been doing. “Oh dear. Are you kidding me Jesus? You want me to do what you have been doing and I can’t even take any food or money?  It’s dangerous out there. Thieves lurk all along the roads. I will be incredibly vulnerable and utterly dependent on the good will of strangers.”
Can you imagine Jesus shaking his head and saying, “You got it. You are vulnerable. You are dependent. As you enter each town you are to present yourselves as people in need. Your survival depends on the good will of strangers. And in dong this you will provide the opportunity for the kingdom of God to flourish?” Now it’s time for me to shake my head. “Are you kidding me? We just left your hometown Jesus, and your own people wouldn’t give you the time of day. How can we depend on strangers?” And Jesus might reply, “The thing about strangers is they can’t presume to ‘know’ who you are. They can’t put you in a little box and say, “You can carve wood and hammer nails, but you sure can’t preach or teach or do deeds of great power.” When you show up with nothing, all they can presume is that you need their help. The strangers who choose to welcome you, to invite into their home and feed you, are embodying hospitality and compassion. Your very presence ignites a spark of the Good News in them. Together your need and their hospitality is the context within which God’s kingdom blossoms. Now as you sit at their table and begin to preach and teach, do healings and exercise “authority over unclean spirits” it is like a gentle breeze fanning a new flame. The spark of compassion already expressed by the stranger grows as they hear and receive the Good News of God’s kingdom present, already not yet, being shared by you.“

"When strangers choose not to welcome you, don’t waste your time or treasure. If the spark of compassion is not ignited by your need, they have already chosen to harden their hearts to the kingdom of God. Don’t begrudge them their choice.  Just be on your way. They will never know that they missed an encounter with the kingdom of God.” Which makes me think about the admonition, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13.2)