Sermon July 8, 2018

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Jesus 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 Mark 6:1 ff

In the Epistle lesson for this morning, St Paul lets us know that he is not perfect and wants no one to judge him except for what he says. He also gives us the famous quote about a thorn in the flesh.

What exactly that was no one really knows. There are several possibilities, generally given by people who have a particular problem and identify their problem as his. In that sense, it is a good thing for we all have problems, weaknesses, propensities that distract from our walk with Christ. And it is good for us to know that whatever our problem, our pet sin, God is able to work with that to help us to stay on the straight and narrow.

Yet, on the other hand, Jesus was perfect and still, people found fault in Him, and perhaps the most discouraging of all, his own hometown people.

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.

This is where Jesus grew up. Many could recall seeing Him as a child running around playing with the other boys of the village. They saw Him grow up as a young man, working with His father and learning the carpenter trade. These people had sons of their own who played with Jesus as a child, who learned their father’s trade, who went to the synagogue and were taught the Old Testament. Yet their sons were not that skilled, didn’t know the teachings of Moses that well, didn’t do any miracles. In other words, “Who does He think He is!”

How do we respond to successful people? I find that some feel honored to have been a part of their lives and some feel left out, jealous or some sort of unwarranted negative feeling.

I have a cousin who felt she was special because she was in the class when her high school graduated the first Jew and the first Black. That’s her claim to fame. In Sevierville where I live, Dolly Parton is highly honored and anyone who has seen her up close considers themselves special. My driver in Germany was so excited because we passed Elvis Presley’s jeep. (Didn’t see him, but only saw his jeep!) He bragged about that for a long time.

On the other hand, some people feel left out when someone they know is honored. “O, I knew him when…” and they fill in the details proving that he wasn’t worthy of any special recognition. I recall when “Sound of Music” first came out and Julie Andrews was acclaimed and so wonderful, my friend’s wife simply couldn’t accept that “because no one is that good.” Why she felt threatened by her I could never figure out.

The Jewish leaders found every fault they could with Jesus and well, He was a threat to them. He wasn’t a threat to Judaism in its purest form, but He was a threat to their corruption and especially their arrogance. For their own corrupt sake, they needed to criticize Him! But the hometown boys- that is a different story!

This is how St Luke recorded the event: He went to Nazareth, where He had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day He went into the synagogue, as was His custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. Unrolling it, He found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on Him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” All spoke well of Him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from His lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s Son?” they asked. Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to Me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell Me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that You did in Capernaum.’” “Truly I tell you,” He continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. ….All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove Him out of the town, and took Him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw Him off the cliff. But He walked right through the crowd and went on His way.

This begs the questions: #1. Why didn’t He show them a miracle? #2. What did they think of this miracle, His passing through them?

#1. Remember at the cross Jesus was asked to show them a miracle so they could believe. But their request was not an honest one but a sarcastic one. Jesus knew a miracle would not please them. #2. Recall the healing of the blind man. They absolutely knew it was a miracle for they condemned Him for healing on the Sabbath. Yet they acted as though it was not a miracle.

In other words, as you well know, there are some people you cannot please no matter what! (If I were political I would mention how $2 an hour raises, $1000’s of dollars in extra bonuses, record jobs for Blacks and Hispanics are crumbs and insignificant- but I won’t)

It comes down to us. Sometimes we are never satisfied. Sometimes we find fault in everything. Sometimes, as opposed to the what Jesus taught, we refuse to walk the extra mile, turn the other cheek and bless those who curse us. Luther said to put the best construction on everything but we choose to put the worst. Sometimes we claim St Paul’s words as our own, namely. “O the good I want to do, I do not and the evil I don’t want to do, I do. O wretched man that I am — who shall deliver me?”

The answer to his question is also ours, “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”. He not only forgives our sins but gives us the will and the strength to follow His example. Oh, we do not do it perfectly, for we cannot. But we try — the word is we strive and in the Greek; it implies a struggle and it is.

And in that struggle, we do what Jesus did, when they tried to kill Him before His time, He walked away in the midst of them. We choose not to argue, but to simply walk away. Indeed, we turn the other cheek, we bless those who curse us, we put the best construction on what was said or done. “O he didn’t really mean that.” Or “He is having a bad day” or some other way to excuse bad behavior.

We are not yet perfect, but we are strivers. When we fail, we are sorry, because we want to be better and to do better. At the same time, we do not despair but rather claim the words of St John, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” To which we say, Amen!

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