top of page

We (Too) Are Sent



An interactive sermon on Mark 6: 1-13.


Note - In the final section of this sermon, the non-bolded text is what was created from the answers supplied by the congregation, and is transcribed from the audio recording, accessible here.


[Photo by Jonathan Cooper on Unsplash.]


***



The words for reflection that open the worship section of today’s bulletin offer us this summary of the day’s teaching:

“The Spirit always operates in the “between”: between Jesus and his Abba, between Jesus and us, between you and me, between us and those to whom we are sent.”

I cannot take credit for these words because they come from our Lutheran liturgy resource.

In fact, I did not even read them until 2 days ago, when I was editing the draft bulletin that Erin had prepared while I was out of town.

But, I do agree with them.

And they offer an unexpectedly apt frame for the idea that has been shaping today’s sermon for the last month.

You see, as soon as I knew that I was going to be travelling for most of this week, I looked ahead in the lectionary to begin planning out what I might do with today’s sermon, and I was almost immediately struck by what was happening “between” Jesus and his disciples.

Up to this point in Mark’s narrative, the disciples had been following Jesus. Answering his call, and learning from him, and sometimes tracking him down when he goes off on his own, or waking him up to save them in the storm, but always in the position of looking to Jesus for guidance, wanting him to be responsible to lead.

Today’s reading starts the same way: Jesus “came to his hometown and his disciples followed him…”, presumably observing the challenges that Jesus encounters there.

But then, after Jesus leaves Nazareth, the pattern shifts.

“He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two…” but without him.

Understandably, this is not the part of the story that usually gets the most attention.

The instructions that follow – to take no food, or money, or other means to ensure their bodily well-being, and the explicit charge to depend on the generosity of unknown hosts, who may in fact refuse to welcome them – these instructions are sufficiently anxiety-producing to grab the lion’s share of focus… enough to possibly distract us from the fact that they are also instructed to go out without Jesus.

And that might actually be the most challenging restriction he gave them.

Ever since they had met him, they had been following him. Following his lead… Following his teachings… literally following behind him when he walked ahead.

And now they were told to go out without him.

But this is where the idea of “between” is so important.

Because Jesus’s command to “go” is a shift, not a total break in their discipleship.

Following Jesus is not a binary, not an on/off switch… there is still a source of connection as they go out.

They go with his instructions, and with the authority he gives them,…

and although it is not named in this narrative, they clearly go with the Spirit that operates “between” Jesus and his followers.

Unlike in John’s gospel, Mark does not suggest that the Spirit is something his followers need to wait for Jesus to breath into them as a parting gift.

Just as Jesus received the Holy Spirit and exercises authority over unclean spirits,[1] so too he gives this same authority (and by implication its source) to his disciples.

The disciples go out, without provisions but with the Holy Spirit.

And that is enough.

The people who, up until this point, had only followed, had only received, discovered that they could do things in the power of God’s Spirit that they had only ever imagined.

That beautiful truth is what initially grabbed my attention in this gospel when I first read it over to prepare for today’s sermon.

It grabbed my attention, and it prompted me to ask a question:

How might we, as Jesus’s disciples in our time and place, experience that same empowerment of discovering that the Holy Spirit DOES always operate in the between?

We too are used to mostly following, especially on Sunday morning, for those of you in the pews:

Following the instructions in the bulletin… listening to the Word… coming forward to receive the sacrament…

Our worship is structured that way with intention, and it is always meant to finish off with sending everyone out to be Christ’s witnesses in the world…

But I know that witness part is hard for most Lutherans, especially when we don’t really practice.

So, I want to try something today… something that leans into our trust in the “between-ness” of the Holy Spirt.

I want you to help me finish this sermon.

Don’t get too anxious, I won’t be calling anyone up here alone (or even two by two) to just start witnessing.

Instead, I am going to walk us through this gospel story to find some prompts for you to offer answers to, and then I am going to use your answers to create the witness of our community.

It’s going to be sort of like a much more reverent “Madlibs” but you get the context before you have to suggest filled-in words.

(It will make sense once we start, I promise. And for those online – you can participate too. Type your responses in the comments and Tyler will shout them out.)

So, to start, the beginning of the gospel describes how people in Jesus’s hometown express their skepticism that he could actually be what he claims to be, so my question for you is: what reasons have you heard for why people reject Jesus?

OK. In the gospel, after Jesus experiences the rejection, he changes his approach and commissions the disciples to carry the message. And the first thing we are told about this is that Jesus sends them out “two by two.” So, my next question is: how do the teachings of Jesus help to create community for you?

The second thing Jesus does in commissioning his disciples is to give them authority over the forces that were hurting people. So, how have you seen the power of Jesus, working through his people, heal hurts or disrupt evil?

The last thing that Jesus tells his disciples before sending them out is that they are not to take almost any of the things that they would have thought were necessary, so this question has two parts.

What are the things you have been taught (by the world) to rely on?

What helps you to rely on God instead?

Finally, the gospel tells us that it actually works. The disciples ARE empowered by God’s Spirit to do things they never thought they could do, so that’s my last question for you: What evidence have you seen of God actually changing lives?

 OK, disciples of Christ. This is our witness:

Some people we meet may have heard about Jesus (or his church) that:

It’s hard to believe because of the existence of suffering… because of the death of a loved one.

They don’t see the need for Jesus

They need proof.

Or, they look at the history of the church: crusades, violence, betrayal – really – of the message – and say, “why should we believe.”

Well we, as the Community of Abiding Peace, want to share our reasons for still trusting in and following Jesus. First, Jesus creates community:

Through the teaching, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”;

Through the experience of working together;

The feeling of not being alone;

Of spreading love through our time together

Second, through the work of Jesus in our lives we have seen the healing of hurts and the disruption of evil:

In times of trouble, seeing people come together;

The focus of the teachings on forgiveness, and the way that that creates healing, healing for addictions included in this;

We see it through the celebration of God’s love even in difficult circumstances;

Help offered… love for everyone…

And the way that we learn together through discussions of all of these things.

Third, we have learned what we really need. We were taught by the world around us to depend on:

Money, food, the law, success, independence, possessions, and our government.

But we have learned to see how God provides for us:

In the consistent presence of God in our lives;

The way that trusting in God allows us to see how God really is much more in control than we are;

And through small miracles.

We know that we aren’t perfect, and God does not require us to always be strong or to have all the answers. But we know God’s Spirit is with us, because of the evidence of the ways that God changes lives:

The impact of churches in communities;

Joy, even in times of pain and sorrow;

The acceptance that people experience;

Strength to overcome addiction;

The forgiveness of others that we couldn’t accomplish on our own;

The joy of babies;

The wise teachings, from wise people, maybe even including our pastors;

And the experience of how God has changed my life.

“The Spirit always operates in the between:… Between Jesus and us… between  you and me, between us and those to whom we are sent.” Thanks be to God.


[1] See Mark 3 and the discussion of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit in defining authority over evil spirits as a work of the Evil one.

Comments


Recent Posts
Archive
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page