Proper 9, Year B
The Rev’d Charles Everson
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
July 4, 2021
After spending some time healing the sick and performing other miracles around the Sea of Galilee, Jesus returns to his home town. He goes to the synagogue and begins to teach, and his message does something to strike a nerve in the people who heard it. Usually, in his gospel, St. Mark gets to the point quickly and provides little detail. He could have skipped to his summary of their reaction, “They took offense at him” (v. 3), but instead he decided to include their specific questions. Anytime St. Mark decides to give us detail, it’s worth paying attention to!
First, they ask him about the nature of his power and where he got the power. Then they say, “Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary… and are not his brothers and sisters here with us?”. Aren’t you the Jesus we’ve always known? The one we know is a simple carpenter and is one of us, not some sort of miracle worker! In the first part of this lesson, we see the folks in Jesus’s hometown reject his authority. They don’t have faith that Jesus is who he claims to be. Because of their lack of faith, Mark notes that Jesus could “do no deed of power” there, except in a few isolated instances.
In the second part of the story, Jesus gives this same authority that his kinsfolk rejected to his twelve closest followers! He sends them out with his authority to do the same type of ministry he’s been doing – the ministry of casting out demons and healing the sick and inviting everyone to turn from their old ways and believe in the Gospel! In other words, Jesus sends them out to join with him in reconciling the whole world to himself.
You and I are called, like the Twelve, to this ministry. In order to do it, we first have to understand that the authority to do so doesn’t come from us. Doing this ministry of reconciling the world to God isn’t about us. We have no authority to do so on our own, only that which is given to us by God.
The faith that was lacking in Nazareth is present in the sending out of the Twelve disciples. Jesus doesn’t tempt them to go do this work by promising luxury or an increase of their fame and stature. He says, “Go out two-by-two. Take nothing with you – no food and no money. Instead, have faith that I will provide for your every need.” How does he provide for their needs? He tells them to be completely dependent on the hospitality of others. How vulnerable they must have felt with no assurance of a living, or even where to sleep each night!
When we talk about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus in our own day, we often hear of the need to pray and study the Bible personally, at home. While these are certainly helpful spiritual practices, following Christ requires us to first acknowledge that we cannot do it in our own. We must be dependent on others, humbly acknowledging that life isn’t all about self. The Christian life is inter-dependent with the lives of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Christianity is a communal religion, not something that we can do all alone.
This interdependency on others is poignantly seen in the sacrament of marriage. The two individuals getting married become one. They submit themselves one to another and put the other’s needs above their own. They are at their most vulnerable with each other, for better or for worse, and much humility is required. They don’t lose their individuality entirely, but in a very real sense, in holy matrimony, a new creation is born when the two become one flesh.
Likewise, a new creation is born in the waters of baptism. A deep faith in Christ – like that of the Twelve – leads us to follow him into his death through the waters of baptism – at our physical baptism, and when we put on our baptism each and every day. St. Paul says in his letter to the Romans, “we are baptized into Christ’s death…For if we are united with him in a death like this, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” The baptismal life is a daily cycle of dying to the old self and rising to a new life filled with the hope of resurrection – a bodily resurrection, just like Our Lord.
This continuous cycle of dying and rising is the pattern of the Christian life. At baptism, by water and the Holy Spirit, we receive the authority that Jesus gave his first disciples. Authority to engage in the ministry of casting out demons and healing the sick and inviting everyone to turn from their old ways and believe in the Gospel! At baptism, we are committed to join with the whole Church in the work begun by Jesus of reconciling the whole world to God and God to the world.
Dear friends, we cannot live out our faith in Christ alone. Let us renew our commitment to live interdependently with our fellow members of St. Mary’s and the wider Church, no matter how messy that can be. Like the disciples, let us claim this authority given to us by our Lord and say yes to taking the Gospel – both in word and in deed – to those around us, and thus join with Christ in reconciling the word to God and God to the world. Amen.
 Verse 3.
 Karoline Lewis, Rolf Johnson, and Matt Skinner, "Sermon Brainwave Podcast," Working Preacher (podcast), July 8, 2018, accessed
July 7, 2018. https://www.workingpreacher.org/brainwave.aspx?podcast_id=1037
 Romans 6:3-5.
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