Scripture/Sermon of the Day. July 4, 2021

Mark 6:1-13

Jesus in his hometown
6 Jesus left that place and came to his hometown. His disciples followed him. 2 On the Sabbath, he began to teach in the synagogue. Many who heard him were surprised. “Where did this man get all this? What’s this wisdom he’s been given? What about the powerful acts accomplished through him? 3 Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t he Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” They were repulsed by him and fell into sin.
4 Jesus said to them, “Prophets are honored everywhere except in their own hometowns, among their relatives, and in their own households.” 5 He was unable to do any miracles there, except that he placed his hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 He was appalled by their disbelief.
Sending out the disciples
Then Jesus traveled through the surrounding villages teaching.
7 He called for the Twelve and sent them out in pairs. He gave them authority over unclean spirits. 8 He instructed them to take nothing for the journey except a walking stick—no bread, no bags, and no money in their belts. 9 He told them to wear sandals but not to put on two shirts. 10 He said, “Whatever house you enter, remain there until you leave that place. 11 If a place doesn’t welcome you or listen to you, as you leave, shake the dust off your feet as a witness against them.” 12 So they went out and proclaimed that people should change their hearts and lives. 13 They cast out many demons, and they anointed many sick people with olive oil and healed them.

Reflection/Sermon:

I. The Gospel of Mark is the shortest of the four Gospels. It feels modern because Jesus seems like he’s in such a hurry. The word “immediately” is used 41 times in this Gospel. It’s like Jesus has too much to do and not enough time to do it. HE HAS TO TELL EVERYBODY THE GOOD NEWS OF GOD’S LOVE.

II. This is important to understand because it tells us that if we follow Jesus, our mission is to be a sign of God’s love for others. Not just for other Christians, but for EVERYBODY.
At the baptism of this beautiful child we just baptized, Sarah Elizabeth Garcia, the choir sang, Jesus Loves the Little Children. BUT WHICH CHILDREN? White children? Christian children? Only children who are baptized? No — God and Jesus love everybody: Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists.
THERE’S NOBODY GOD DOESN’T LOVE. Think of the most terrible person you can imagine — God loves that person. And there’s nothing we can do to make God stop loving us. Byron and Sasha, you must tell this to Sarah — and then tell it to yourselves — as we must tell it to ourselves. There’s nothing we can do to make God stop loving us.

III. The Holy Spirit will help us to reflect God’s love.
SOMETIMES WE GET ANGRY, and mean and hurtful words will form in our mouths and BEG US to let them out. But LOVE won’t let us do that. Often the most loving thing we can do is to just keep our mouths shut — and tell those judgmental, gossiping, poison words — “Nope — I’m not letting you out.”
Our unkind words will plead with us, “Oh, please let us out — there is so much damage and pain we can inflict! We can get even. We can have the last word. We can be hateful and have our revenge.” But in these moments, LOVE teaches us to stay silent, until the toxic urge to inflict pain passes.

IV. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus was tempted by the devil right after he was baptized. Mark tells us this in just one verse. There’s no conversation between Jesus and Satan; no list of temptations. Only: “Jesus was in the wilderness 40 days, tempted by Satan. He was with wild beasts. Angels helped him.”

V. THIS HAPPENS TO US. Satan tempts us. And we also encounter wild beasts — mostly in the form of other human beings, just like us. But the angels help us.
Do you know what all the temptations amount to? LIVING JUST FOR OURSELVES. Making ourselves — or our country — first. “Me first; America first.” The devil says, “You’re number one. You’re better than others.” All evil comes out of that illusion.
Does Jesus want us to be first? No — he said make yourselves last. Make yourselves SERVANTS of others. To show what he meant, he got on his knees and washed the disciple’s feet. WE ARE A RELIGION OF FOOT-WASHERS. Yes — we ARE chosen — TO SERVE! GOD HAS CHOSEN US TO TAKE THE LAST PLACE.
In our confirmation class, there’s only one question I give the children on their final exam. To pass, they have to answer the question “What does a Christian do?” in just nine words. The answer: “When someone is thirsty, give them something to drink.” That’s our religion: Christianity in 9 words.

VI. There are 613 laws in the Hebrew Scriptures, but just one in the New Testament: LOVE. Every day, moment by moment, it’s all we have to do. And I realize — it’s impossible. But the angels will help us.