Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Theme: Christian Life
Volume 6 No. 352 June 3, 2016
II. Lectionary Reflections

Familiarity Breeds Content

by Peter Woods

Gospel: Mark 6:1-13

He left that place and came to his home town, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, "Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being 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. Then Jesus said to them, "Prophets are not without honour, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house." And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.

Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered 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 to put on two tunics. He said to them, "Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them." So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

Coming home is usually a mixed blessing. There is the consolation of familiar faces, nostalgic dishes, and all those triggers for our memories of days that have wrinkled into time.

'So what are you doing?', friends ask when we meet them in the old store or restaurant. For Jesus it was easy to answer, 'Come to Synagogue on the Sabbath and see.'

There he was, the local boy come home with wisdom beyond his years and the temerity to teach new insights and understandings. He should have realized that the people who had stayed in backwater Nazareth were there because they didn't like new, nor different, nor anything but the same as last week.

Meat, rice and two veg.

He offended them with his novelty and the nous to expose their 'stuckness'. They didn't care for either.

It seems that the reaction was reciprocal. Jesus as amazed at them as they were at him.

So he sent his disciples elsewhere.

Don't go in power and pretense, rather be with people in vulnerable simplicity. No fancy clothes, weapons, nor support teams. In fact nothing logistical at all. Not a church growth strategy nor mission statement in sight.

A simple instruction. Remain with the receptive and quit on the contentious.

Proclaim radical change to everyone.

They did, and the kingdom grew and grew.

I have heard it said of Jesus in Nazareth that, "Familiarity breeds contempt". I am not so sure. If I look at the modern church it seems that familiarity breeds content.

I wonder if we can recapture the heart winning, soul changing simplicity those early apostles exhibited.

God knows it will be unfamiliar and may just be the packaging our proclamation needs.

Source: I Am Listening

Following a Hometown Boy: Reflections on Mark 6:1-6

By Prof. Alyce M. McKenzie

Gospel: Mark 6:1-6

I picture Jesus' hometown family and friends squirming in their synagogue seats and craning their necks to see if he's coming up the center aisle as they wait for his arrival that day. The hometown boy is coming to bring the morning message. He's bringing his entourage with him. As his family and former neighbors sit waiting, I bet they were preparing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they were saying to each other, "Even if he's not that good a speaker, we need to encourage him, because he's just getting started." His home townies don't know who they're waiting for. They think they're waiting for the boy who knows how to make the best shelves in town. They think they're waiting for the familiar sibling of James, Joses, Judas, Simon, and his sisters (unnamed!). They think they're waiting for the obedient son of Mary.

They're prepared to excuse the shortcomings of someone safe and familiar who is from where they live and known by all of them.

Jesus is "on the move." And his hometown folks can't wait to see him. They want him to be both safe and good for their economy. The town sign maker is yawning; he stayed up late last night finishing the banner that is now draped across the entry gate to town that says "Welcome to Nazareth, home of Jesus." The City Council members on the front row are all abuzz. They can't wait to show him the drawings for his Ministry Center to be built on some prime real estate just south of town. They've made him a website and set up a blog and a twitter account for him.

Now here he is striding down the aisle of the synagogue.

Mark, with his usual taciturnity, simply tells us that "he began to teach." Luke 4:16-30 gives us a much fuller account of what he said, why they responded as they did, and what they then tried to do. Luke has him reading from Isaiah 61:1-2, strongly implying a Messianic identity, and then offering a litany of non-Jews who had more faith than his hometown congregation. No surprise that this lovely homecoming ends not with a strawberry festival in the grove, but with a mass attempt to hurl the hometown boy off a cliff.

Mark's account intrigues me as a student of human motivation. His hometown folks are, I would suspect, willing to give him the benefit of the doubt as long as he doesn't say anything unexpected or challenging. They would not be inclined to doubt the source of his teachings if he had not made them feel uncomfortable. Their response to whatever it was he said reflects a combination of belief and incredulity. They seem to believe that what he said was of divine origin ("What is this wisdom that has been given to him?"), yet they are unable to believe that such a great gift would be given to someone they know and whose family they know.

Here are the kinds of thoughts that may have been going through their minds.

  • How dare he have something we don't?
  • How could something this powerful have grown up in our midst and we not know about it?
  • How dare God send such astounding teachings and do such deeds of power this close to home through someone we know?

All these guesses have a common focus on themselves. When we are focused on ourselves, on maintaining our superiority and control over our surroundings and others, we are not open to the truth God seeks to speak to us, sometimes through people we know and in places we thought we knew like the back of our hand.

I guess there is a reason that prophets are never honored in their hometown and among their own kin and in their own houses.

As a parent of young adults I try hard not to think of them as children. I still weigh in now and then with unsolicited and sometimes, solicited, advice. It is free at least. But I try to learn from them too. They have taught me a great deal already, and I have a feeling we're just getting started with the lessons!

As a teacher, I try hard not to think of those I've taught as my perpetual students. They move on and, while I'm happy to offer sermon feedback, encouragement, and resource advice when asked, I try to be open to learning from them as well.

I like to think that if I had been one of Jesus' hometown folks, I would have heard him gladly and changed my ways in any way he thought I should. But I guess I'll never know what I would have done then. The question is, what am I going to do now?

There was once a young American who got a job as a tour guide for church groups from the U.S. touring the Holy Land. He would stand at the front of the bus with the microphone and point out the sights as the bus rolled through this town and that. He studied hard to learn every place name, every historical detail, and every geographical factoid. He wanted to be prepared for any and every question. He lived in fear of the question to which he would have no answer. One time, as the tour bus was going by Nazareth, he pointed out the window and said, "This may well be the hill from which the people of Nazareth in Luke chapter 4 tried to cast Jesus off." At this an old Catholic priest who had seemed to be sleeping at the back of the bus, raised his head and asked, "What is it called?" The young man searched his memory wildly for a moment and then blurted out "It's called the 'Mount of Jumpification."

Jesus is good but not safe. Not everyone wants to take the leap of faith to believe he is the Son of God and then to follow him along the hard and narrow path of discipleship depicted by Mark. Not everyone is willing to allow Jesus to work deeds of power through them (6:5). Many refuse to welcome and hear him (6:11).

We all have our own internal "Mount of Jumpification." Either we hurl Jesus over it or we follow him with a leap of faith.

The hometown boy is on the move. He is good but not safe. And he is coming to bring the message. The question is, are we ready to hear it and act on it?

About The Author:

Alyce M. McKenzie is the George W. and Nell Ayers Le Van Professor of Preaching and Worship at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University. McKenzie's column, "Edgy Exegesis," is published every Monday on the Preachers Portal.

Source: Edgy Exegesis, Patheos


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