6 Pentecost 2012
Mark 6: 1-13
Pastor Chris Enstad
Brothers and sisters I bring you grace and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
I give thanks for each and every one of you who are gathered here this morning. The mere fact that you are here at all is a testament to the power of the Holy Spirit who called you here today. Indeed, we proclaim a faith that is given to us as a gift, even to the point of finding ourselves here, gathered in this sanctuary, worshipping God.
But maybe you don’t think it took a miracle. Maybe most of you are thinking to yourself, I don’t see where the Holy Spirit was in my alarm going off and me dragging myself out of bed, into the shower and into my church clothes this morning. Or maybe it was the sharp elbows of your wife or your mother who got you into the car and got you into this building today. It wasn’t the Holy Spirit Pastor, it was my mom, it was my alarm, it was my dad saying, “you will go to church or else”. Or maybe it is just what you have been doing for sixty or seventy or ninety years, it’s like clockwork eventually those old habits of going to church on Sunday morning.
But our faith tells us that something else happens when the people of God find themselves gathered into a place like this singing hymns, praying for ourselves and others, listening to the proclamation of God’s word. Our faith tells us that it is not just the mundane habit of life that brought you here this morning, but it was the Holy Spirit who has called us together to worship God in the faith that that very Spirit has given to us as a gift.
But more and more people are falling away from having the institution of church being a part of their lives. Not only are 2/3 of our neighbors non-believers but another 25% of those who were in the faith as youth have now left the church.
Ask someone why they have left the church and you get all sorts of answers: it’s full of hypocrites, those in charge have abused their power or used their power to harm children and others, all the church cares about is itself not me, the message doesn’t mean anything to my life and my problems.
Then go and ask someone who does not believe why they do not take the question of faith more seriously and you will also get a whole bevy of responses: Christians are hypocrites, I don’t like what I see Christians saying about social issues on TV, all they want is my money, the Bible doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t work for my scientific mind, or the best is, “well, some Christian knocked on my door and said I would go to hell unless I joined their church!” Great. Our PR department is not the best at winning people over for Christ.
People don’t trust institutions like the church because they don’t trust that the church has their best interests in mind. They see us coming a mile away and whether we have a chance to even declare: no, we’re not THOSE kinds of Christians, well, their argument is made for them.
Jesus runs into much the same problem when he arrives back in his hometown of Nazareth. Here he has healing people left and right and preaching the coming kingdom of God but he gets back to his hometown and what happens? “Wait a minute,” the townsfolk say, “Isn’t this guy Joe and Mary’s kid? Didn’t we watch him grow up and aren’t those his brothers and these his sisters? Who is this guy to be claiming all these great things? This is just Jesus.”’
And Jesus marveled at their unbelief. He healed a couple people, Scripture tells us, and then moved on teaching in the villages.
Later he called his disciples and commissioned them to go out two by two spreading his message taking nothing with them but the clothes on their back. They would be utterly dependent on those to whom they were preaching and if their message was not received what were they to do? Shake the dust from the shoes and move on. Not put together a campaign chest and take over the airwaves trying to show how mighty their message was, not yell and kick and scream if people would not hear them, just shake the dust and move on, knowing that in the end everyone is accountable to God whether they know it or not.
That is the position that the church is called to take, even in this age of uncertainty. This church, you see, is not ours, it is God’s. It only exists because the spirit brought you here to this corner. If you go somewhere else to worship God, the building may stand but it would only be a building.
And while we are an institution, yes, we are not like any other institution on earth because we exist not for ourselves but for the sake of those who have yet to hear the saving Good News of God! We mistakenly puff up our chests and pound on them when we are offended by someone or something but our true posture in the world must be one of humility, of being on our knees in prayer not just for those who have yet to hear God’s saving Word but for all of the barriers we, as a church, have put up to keep people who might not be like us away from God’s word, we must confess our sins and ask for forgiveness each and every day.
And then we move on, and we proclaim God’s word again and again and again.
Remember that even Jesus’ own people had trouble wrapping their heads around the truth that this hometown boy was the Messiah of God, but, in the end, Jesus did not have to win the argument or score a point, no, in the end he took his message of freedom and peace to the cross and he died. All of humanity rejected his message, but the open tomb of Easter morning was heaven’s response. We said, “No” but God has said, “yes.”
That freeing word is the word that we are called to carry forth from this place today. It is the Word that the World is thirsty to hear. And, in the end, may our feet find themselves more and more dusty.
Thanks be to God. Amen.