Pastor Simek The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost at Hope, Jerseyville 7/8/18 “A Gospel Without Honor” Sermon Text: Mark 6:1-13
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
This past week was another great week at Higher Things. Every conference I go to is the same, but different. Every conference preaches the same Gospel, the same Good News, the same Jesus, but in a different way. One thing that was different this week especially was the worship space. Most of the people attending the conference probably didn’t realize how the worship space was different or special, but since I got there early to help set up, I got to be part of transforming the chapel into something that looked like a Lutheran church. When we got there, the chapel was not Lutheran. Actually, I would go so far as to say that when we got there the chapel was not Christian, but Unitarian. By that I mean it was a chapel that could be (and was) used by any religion. There were Muslim and Buddhist prayer rooms in the basement with signs requesting you take off your shoes before entering. They posted worship schedules around the chapel on bulletin boards listing the times of different worship services. Jews got their turn along with Muslims, Buddhists, Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Unitarian Universalists, Christian Scientists, Scientology, Druids, Interfaith services, and Ecumenical services. You name it, everyone was welcome as though all paths and religions were the same, leading to the same place, and the same god. There were even posters around this chapel demanding religious pluralism. Christianity, whatever flavor you were, was just one among many seemingly equal options. It reminded me of our Gospel reading for this Sunday in that Christianity and Jesus was without honor. Christianity was viewed as just another version of the same thing, the same as every other religion.
It was bad. This was a chapel whose god was knowledge and wisdom even if it was without truth. There was no cross. There was not even an altar, only a pulpit, front and center as though the only thing that was valued was the knowledge that was spoken there. I have pictures I can show you later if you’d like. The Gospel, Jesus, was without honor in this chapel in much the same way that Jesus is without honor in his hometown, out in our world today, even out in our own community of Jerseyville.
“A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” The people said to themselves and one another, “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?” The people knew Jesus and his family. Notice how they mention his mother, Mary, and his brothers and sisters, but not his father. They knew about his suspicious birth, that Joseph wasn’t his father. And they knew the way he grew up, his education, and all of his childhood, and every story about him and because of that, “They took offense at him.”
They took offense at Jesus because they knew all about him, even though he was different from every other child in that even as a teenager he always honored his father and his mother. He never disrespected them or talked back to them, and was always obedient and perfect, yet still he was without honor. And if people are going to take offense against the perfect Jesus preaching God’s Word because they knew everything about him, people will certainly do the same to you.
Who are you to tell me what I should do and believe. I know what you were like when you were a kid. I know the trouble you got into. I know your little secrets, all those stories you hid from your parents. You’re no different than me. You’re no better than me, so why do you think you know better than I do? You are without honor here as you try to talk about Jesus and invite people to church and Bible class. Because of your sins, your mistakes, your background, and history, because people here in your hometown know who you really are or at least you who really used to be Jesus and the Gospel are without honor here and really everywhere.
So what are we left with? Why should people listen to us who have no honor when we speak of a Gospel and a Jesus without honor? What hope do we have in fulfilling the work God has given us to do as we are sent just as the disciples were sent to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them when there is no honor or respect in any of it? How must the disciples have felt when they were sent out to do the very thing that Jesus just failed at doing? What chance do we have as a prophet in our own town if Jesus failed as a prophet in his hometown?
Well, Jesus didn’t fail. Even where Jesus is without honor and people take offense at him, still he was able to heal the sick. Still his disciples were able to go into the surrounding region and cast out demons and heal the sick. In fact, when Jesus is without honor, when he is in the greatest dishonor, he is doing his greatest work. When Jesus is stripped naked and publicly hung up on a tree as an example of shame, dishonor, and disrespect, counted among the greatest of sinners and worst criminals, Jesus is doing his greatest work to save.
Even without honor, the Gospel will do what God sends it forth to do. Even stripped naked, Jesus is not stripped of his power to save you. Even if you doubt that the Gospel without honor can change anything, even if you dishonor Jesus, even if your history and your reputation are what stand in the way of others hearing the Gospel, Jesus and the Gospel will still do what Jesus and the Gospel does: forgive sins, rescue from death and the devil, and give eternal salvation to all who believe.
Even in a Unitarian chapel on the campus of a liberal college, plastered with signs of religious pluralism, environmental idolatry, and “Abolish ICE” propaganda, the Word of God impacted, and made a difference in the life and faith of our youth and the 600 others who were there. Even in a place so bad where the Gospel was in such dishonor that the pastors in charge of worship thought it was necessary to bless the space before using it for worship, Jesus, the Gospel, and the forgiveness of sins triumphed. Even if it took 3 or 4 men to physically lift the pulpit off the ground to move it in order to then lift the cross to its proper place, Jesus was right where he needed to be, doing what Jesus does. Even if it took hours to transform the blank generic, bordering on demonic, chapel into something distinctly Lutheran where the crucifix was ascended high in glory, the body and blood of our crucified and risen Lord was given for the forgiveness of sins. Even with a broken organ, sometimes with nothing more than a piano and actually quite often in acapella, hundreds of teenagers lifted their voices to sing of the salvation accomplished for them by Christ on the cross.
Even when the place, the world, and the people are reluctant to hear about Jesus and eager to dishonor him, even when you are reluctant to follow him and eager to satisfy the desires of your flesh and your old Adam, Christ reigns victorious, the Gospel does what the Gospel sets out to do, your sins are forgiven. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.