July 5th 2015 Based on Mark 6:1-13 & 2nd Corinthians12: 7-10
It is said that the definition of an `expert’ is someone who lives more than 50 miles away. By this definition, Jesus was not an expert. If you were here last Sunday you know that Jesus was on a roll – radiating the healing love of God. Now he’s bringing his disciples home to Nazareth, and it should be `local boy makes good’ and at first people seem genuinely pleased, but then something goes awry. Mark’s gospel doesn’t tell us the content of his teaching; maybe he really is `hitting a little too close to home’ with his message and at some point, the grumbling begins – Who does he think he is? We know he’s just a local kid – should have stayed home and looked after his Mom and carried on the carpentry business. This place is good enough for the rest of his family, but he’s all `high and might’ now.
I wonder how he felt. Was he philosophical about it? “Oh well, that’s human nature?” Was he able to be mindfully detached from the insults? Did it wound his heart? Did it make him angry? Did he laugh it off?
What is it in our human nature that wants to bring people down a peg or two? Is it our own insecurity, a sense of competitiveness?
When people we know grow and change we don’t always celebrate that, we might instead remind them of the foibles of their past, as if their changing is offensive to us.
How does what we say about someone affect them? The gospel says that Jesus could do no healing there. So, I believe it did affect him. Or did it affect them, the town folk of Nazareth? Did their distain for him close them off from any chance of seeing the beauty and grace that was being called forth in them?
God’s story is one of transformation; shepherds become kings, fisher-folk become evangelists. God desires authentic change, and yet we fight against it in others and ourselves. I saw a great poster recently that said “Don’t judge me by my past. I don’t live there anymore.”
What we put out energetically affects people – for better or worse. We slip so easily into judgement. What if we were able to be more curious? This is something I yearn to be – more curious, less judgmental, but it is a struggle.
Jesus sends out and instructs them about their ministry and how to respond when not welcomed. They are to take nothing beyond what they are immediately wearing – not even an extra tunic which would keep them warm in case they were left without lodgings for the night. In short, the disciples are left dependent on the hospitality of those they seek to serve, and on each other. They are to honour this hospitality by not leaving their initial hosts in search of better accommodations once they become established in a town.
However, after the rejection Jesus just experienced in his hometown he is also aware that his disciples will not always be welcomed wherever they go. In those instances, he instructs them not to waste their efforts in these places but shake the dust off their feet as they leave.
Shake off the dust? Does it mean be lighthearted? Does it mean let it go? What happens when the dust of someone’s behaviour turns to mud or something more `sticky and smelly’ and it’s harder to shake off?
When we are personally insulted, belittled, rejected, maligned, or hurt in some way, or when such a thing happens to a loved one – how do we shake it off? Sometimes it is very difficult. We can be attached to wanting those who have said or done hurtful things to be repentant, to acknowledge their wrongful behaviour. We can get attached to that longing.
Peter Rollins, a speaker at Epiphany Explorations last January and the author of “The Divine Magician” looks at the story of Adam and Eve and the forbidden fruit. He says the fruit is not the problem, the disobedience isn’t even the problem. The problem is they think if they can only have what is forbidden – the `sacred object’, then they will be satisfied. It creates dissatisfaction NOT to have it. He writes p 18 “This idea of an object holding an excessive value only in its prohibition or loss forms within us a pleasurable pain”.
When I read this I had an `Aha’ moment, and wrote to myself:
“I have desired apologies and admissions of wrong doing – I go over and over it like a tongue rubbing against the jagged edge of a broken tooth.”
Did Jesus dwell on his disappointment? Did he think, “They should have accepted me here! I should be the local hero.” Or, if and when the disciples were turned away, like unwanted solicitors at the door, did they think, “We only want to bring good news to people – surely they should want to welcome us! How dare they not appreciate us!
I expect Jesus was able to move on a little faster than I can at times. But one way of shaking the dust off is to recognize it for what it is. Without berating oneself – ask – What am I getting out of hanging on to resentment? Is there still something to learn? Is there anything I can do to change the situation? Where do I find my sense of self-worth? Is it tied up in someone’s opinion of me? And whose opinion counts? If someone is critical of you in petty things, maybe their opinion is not very important. Let it go.
It’s kind of like the saying: “If someone borrows twenty dollars from you and you never see them again, – it was probably worth it.”
God desires us to experience justice, wholeness and peace. However that often does not translate into the miraculous transformation of the world around us. Instead, our efforts can be met with rejection, suffering, and failure. Yet God continues to work in and through our weaknesses and human limitations. Our call is to continue to follow God’s lead and continue to work towards a more loving and peaceful world. When we feel discouraged, let’s remember that Jesus sent out his disciples in partnership – never alone. Ministry is a communal venture. That, and God’s grace can go a long way.
There is a tale told that while Leonardo da Vinci was working on The Last Supper, he got into an argument with a fellow painter. He was so offended and angry with this person that out of spite he painted that man’s face as the face of Judas. But then, when he came to paint the face of Christ he couldn’t do it. He couldn’t visualize the face of Christ. Da Vinci put down his brush and went to find the man with whom he had had the argument. They both apologized and forgave one another. That evening Leonardo da Vinci had a dream and in that dream he saw the face of Christ. He quickly got up from his bed and finished painting.
Let us pray: God of reconciliation, when we have disagreements and disputes it is easy to paint the person with whom we disagree in a bad light; as ignorant, ill-informed, even bad, wicked or evil. We refuse to see your face in the face of the one who has offended us. We feel justified in our offence because we say we know you and know your ways. (Seasons of the Spirit)
Holy One, in your compassion, shift our distorted image. Help us see beyond our hurt, and beyond the offence to see a brother or sister trying to make their way in the world. We don’t know their experience, we don’t know their trials, so help to never look down on the struggle for life. Help us to know that behind every face, is a soul at work. Help us to not make assumptions about what and whom You can or cannot redeem.
We all stand in need of your redeeming and healing, Holy One. Shake off our offenses and help us to shake off the offenses of others, that we may all travel the road with a lightness in our step, and with a freedom in our souls. Amen.
Words of affirmation
God’s grace is sufficient, it does not admonish and rebuke us for our weakness, but embraces us in our weakness. The Spirit is always before us offering us this transforming grace. Let go of the transgressions that hold you in pain and suffering and feel the liberating power of forgiveness. (sos)