Sermon for Trinity 5 – High Mass Sermon Sunday 8 July 2012
In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness”
It is perhaps a consequence in life that the better you know someone, sometimes the less notice you take of them, or of their opinions.
We might think by knowing someone’s foibles, their past and present errors of judgement that we know them for who they really are. As if the worst someone can do; sums up the best they can be! The Christian tradition and faith teaches us to be mindful of our fallible and failing selves, yet we are also to give thanks that within these fragile earthen vessels, by some miracle, there is a treasure; the gift of God that might one day be seen to be the cure of a fractured world.
But from our learned nature we seem to demonstrate an inability to be generous in confining the past to the past. We confess our sins, we receive God’s absolution, but we do not fully discard the past hurt or mistakes, not with ourselves and certainly not with others and therefore we fail to fully embrace the life of Jesus. We are unable to compartmentalise imperfect traits out of the way so that we might see others, and ourselves as credible persons once again, new, able to voice something different to a generation, to be a moral compass, a spiritual or political leader, a prophet in spite of having a past.
The knowledge we have of ourselves, might lead us to think we are worse than others, but what my experience in this ministry teaches me is that most of us are the same; sharing in the same difficulties, guilt, the same desires, urges and ability to be selfish but also we are equally capable of stirring that treasure within, reflecting that gift of God selflessly, to love, forgive and for us to be restored to God’s life.
In our Gospel, Jesus comes face to face with his “history” whatever that is, compromising his ability to minister in the present moment. He is “written off”, because by being known he is seen to be too ordinary to the hometown crowd. Their familiarity with his past, knowing his parents and family, lead them to believe they can know and fully perceive who he is.
In our present society, we write off too many individuals based on their past or family, or because of what we in a limited way perceive in them. But we all have pasts, and we have to trust that those experiences and even mistakes contribute to the present, and in turn cause each and every one of us to be reflectively and conscientiously better people. We have to know that what we perceive in others, can only ever be limited, is only part of their potential. This is the gospel of Grace for us, is not simply about giving a second chance, it is that forgiveness, reconciliation and new life are an expectation in God and possible for all. God inspires us to be liberated and healed by following Christ to reach our greater potential, even if we have fallen once or twice on the way.
You might think this is a bit “pink” or idealistic, but it is the flesh to the bones of the faith, the hope revealed in or Lord Jesus, that we are not bound by the shackles of our past like Jacob Marley, but that we have sins forgiven and that we might bring hope to this generation in bearing God to one another.
The Gospel reflects a people’s perception of Jesus which denies him the truth of who he is. They were not prepared to accept him, based on what they had come to know about him. They couldn’t allow him to occupy that place in their expectation and imagination that he might well be the “one”. Amongst his own towns-people, those whom he has grown up alongside, he is rejected just as he will face national rejection in the last days of his life. They might have had good reason, perhaps they knew things about Jesus that have never been recorded, perhaps he was a “leap of faith” that they just couldn’t take, perhaps they couldn’t comprehend that in their company God could ever have been prepared to be as vulnerable and as close.
“Prophets are not without Honour, except in their hometowns, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” But prophets cannot constantly run away and only deliver hope to strangers and neither can we!
Mark’s perspective continues to stress the importance of people having faith in order for Jesus’ acts of healing to be realised. What he witnesses, is that Healing is not imposed, but given and willingly received, welcomed and expected through faith though relationship with God. And even though the people of his hometown are astounded by his teaching and deeds of power, they still have to be convinced but are too struck by his ordinariness in order to believe. So they fall away.
It seems for prophets, familiarity breeds contempt, not honour and in turn, people’s faith fails, their unbelief in Jesus hindering his ability to do amazing deeds of power among them.
As a community of faith, we are expected to know one another, it’s not pleasant, it’s often disappointing. But we are also called to see the potential, the hope within. We are not to dismiss one another because you perceive or I perceive something lacking. But we are to trust in God that he will through our discipline of keeping faith, transform us and in us and through us reveal his wonder. The church might be without honour in our generation, and synod and others will work that out either way. But the church is bigger than synod, than episcopal hats, and you or me. We can’t only ever run to strangers, but we must witness to friends, to those who know us also and call them back to the worship of almighty God to give thanks and praise. The community who knew Jesus wrote him off, we write people off every day. We stop it now. Look anew to the stranger and friend next to you, and within them see the prophet and their potential to reveal Christ in our generation. Amen