Saturday, July 7, 2018

Gospel and Collect for Sunday 8 July 2018

Collect of the Day        O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Mark 6:1-13        Jesus 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.

Reflection        A Judean peasant, a carpenter, the eldest son, Jesus should be making tables and providing a subsistence living for his mother and sisters and brothers.  Based on his childhood friends and neighbors purported knowledge, Jesus can not or should not be doing the things he is doing. In the eyes of the people who think they know him, Jesus is something more than expected, living beyond the bounds of his berth.

But wait a minute. Are not all of us more than meets the eye? Are we not more than the tidy categories defined for us by mid level bureaucrats on  US Census forms? Are we not more than gender, age, race, ethnicity, profession, social status, education, religious preference and political affiliation? And, if we are more than meets the eye, then logically other people must also be more than we can see. 

A few weeks ago I attended the celebration of a dear friend’s daughter’s marriage. Born of affluent, southern and Dallas stock the porcelain skinned WASP bride glowed in the arms of her brightly tattooed, chestnut skinned, Mexican husband. This striking couple offered me the opportunity to recognize that, much like the people in Jesus’ hometown, I was wearing a pair of glasses that prevented me from seeing beyond the surface appearance of our groom. Here is what happened. 

The young man, whom I will call Edward, stood in the middle of the cathedralesque great room of the bride’s family home addressing the guests.  “I want to thank all of you for being here. You have no idea how much it means to me to see our two families and friends together in this beautiful place. Whoever would have imagined this is possible?” Tears escaping the dark saucers of his eyes, Edward paused to compose himself. “Thank you, thank you….” I cannot remember more because I stumbled upon a block in my heart. I was surprised to hear him speak so well, so gracefully, so confidently. And I was horrified. I had no idea that I was wearing racist, classist glasses and I felt ashamed. 

However can I be devoted to God if I am wearing glasses that separate me from others? I cannot be devoted to God if I stop at what I think I know about a person and fail to recognize the depth and breath and beauty of their being? I cannot be devoted to God with my whole heart if I am not united to each person I meet in pure affection.

The good news is, by the grace of God that tender moment at the wedding celebration my heart broke open. Hot tears washed over my stumbling block, transfigured my guilt and the smile that arose from the ashes of my shallow vision, joined me to a room full of well wishers, united in bonds of pure affection because, you see, mine was not the only tear cleansed heart. 

What if  instead of taking offense the people in Jesus’ hometown were willing to be surprised, to be overtaken by something new?  Might the sick have been healed and the possessed liberated? Might Jesus have been fruitful, opening the eyes, the minds and the hearts of friends and family to be devoted to God and united in bonds of pure affection?

What about us? What if instead of reducing people to what we presume to know about them, what if we humbly assume that just like us they are much more than meets the eye?

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