Saturday, July 23, 2011
He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works 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. And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching. And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He charged 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 put on two tunics. And he said to them, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there. And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them. Mark 6:1-13
For any writer, there is nothing more heartbreaking than receiving the thin envelope with a rejection slip. When submitting something for publication we all have the highest hopes. And when the wonderfully crafty, beautiful piece of hard work is rejected, well, it crushes the spirit. But that is a very private thing. Hometowns are another thing entirely. To be rejected in your home town is a very public thing, by people you have grown up besides, from people who thought might respect you. Indeed, it can be very crushing also, since the very public nature of life is a small town where one is known can be devastating. And yet, it is often those who think they know us best who understand us the least. And it is the stranger who can often see the true beauty and skills rather than those close at hand. The close at hand are jaded by the past and often unwilling to grow beyond old memories.
How wonderful then to encounter this Gospel where Jesus comes home and finds he is pretty useless among his own. They don't get him because there eyes are clouded with the patina of the past, the local culture and the need to judge rather than to be open. We are reminded of the very human nature of Christ's ministry and how vulnerable it was to the place, the time and the people. Faith was offered but not always accepted. When Jesus and his disciples go to other towns, the miracles, healing and transformations are multiplied. Open arms of strangers make for joyous ministry. The close minds of locals stifled the possibilities.
Today, I ask God to open my heart and mind to see the possibilities close by, among the people I am closest to. We are all too human and can easily reject what we think we know. May we all open our hearts this day to the promises so close at hand, knowing that God's desire is to working locally as well as globally, nearby as well as far off.