Mark 6:1-13 CEB  Jesus in his hometown

Jesus left that place and came to his hometown. His disciples followed him. On the Sabbath, he began to teach in the synagogue. Many who heard him were surprised. “Where did this man get all this? What’s this wisdom he’s been given? What about the powerful acts accomplished through him? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t he Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joses (Joe seez), Judas, and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” They were repulsed by him and fell into sin.

Jesus said to them, “Prophets are honored everywhere except in their own hometowns, among their relatives, and in their own households.” He was unable to do any miracles there, except that he placed his hands on a few sick people and healed them. He was appalled by their disbelief.

Sending out the disciples

Then Jesus traveled through the surrounding villages teaching.

He called for the Twelve and sent them out in pairs. He gave them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey except a walking stick—no bread, no bags, and no money in their belts. He told them to wear sandals but not to put on two shirts. 10 He said, “Whatever house you enter, remain there until you leave that place. 11  If a place doesn’t welcome you or listen to you, as you leave, shake the dust off your feet as a witness against them.” 12 So they went out and proclaimed that people should change their hearts and lives. 13 They cast out many demons, and they anointed many sick people with olive oil and healed them.

This is the word of God for us the people of God.  Thanks be to God.

 

Healing Hands – Send Forth

Last week we read the story of a miracle on the way to a miracle in Mark 5.  Jesus healed the bleeding woman on the way to raise Jairus’ 12 year old daughter from the dead.  We learned about the powerful healing nature of Jesus Christ both then and now—in our lives, in the lives of our friends and family, in our church and in our world.  And last week I challenged you to cry out to God for healing every day in July.

Today, I’m here to tell you that each of you who believe are given that same healing power and authority.  And then, and then after receiving authority from God, you are sent into the world to share your own healing hands with people who desperately need the power of God in their lives.  At this very moment, there are folks who are desperate for an ounce of hope in their lives, and if God is going to be made known in the world, it really is up to us.  It is up to us, God’s people, to bring healing.  It is up to us to share a kind word, act or touch as a simple seed of God’s love planted in their lives.

In today’s scripture, we read the story of the method that Jesus used in sending out the disciples.  In my studies this week, I learned that the word “apostle” means one who is sent out on a mission.  I really want to take in the meaning of this word so would you repeat after me:

An apostle is….

Someone who is sent out on a mission.

And if we look back a few chapters into Mark chapter 3, you will see how it all began with these 12 disciples or apostles.  In Mark chapter 3 in verses 13-14, you can read about Jesus first calling the disciples to follow him.  Listen to this:

            Jesus appoints twelve apostles

                    13 Jesus went up on a mountain and called those he wanted, and       they came to him. 14 He appointed twelve and called them apostles.          He appointed them to be with him, to be sent out to preach, and to      have authority to throw out demons.

So, you see the thing I want you to notice is that their first role as apostles was not to go out – the first order of business for these 12 Christ followers was not being sent out on a mission.  Their first role was to “be with him” to be with Jesus.  So know that before the apostles were sent out, they had to be with Jesus.  They had to spend some time with Jesus so that they could learn to follow in his footsteps.  They needed to learn who he was and see how he went about healing people and casting out demons.  Their faith had to be sparked before they were sent out on the mission.

It seems to me that one of the main ways that we are able to be with Jesus is in worshiping together every week.  When the body of Christ worships together and when the word of God is proclaimed and when we share Holy Communion together – we are coming to “be with Jesus!”  And it is in gathering together, all of us in the presence of God, that we receive the power and authority to be sent into the world, and we learn who Jesus is and how he did things—we are being trained and inspired for our mission.  And so, I think we ought to view the church as a kind of mission outpost.  The church is the place that we come to be with Jesus, but our main mission is not inside the walls of this building.  Our main mission is out there — living our normal lives with eyes wide open to the way that God wants us to be missionaries who are sent out into our neighborhoods, our work places, our schools and wherever we go with healing hands.

And the scripture tells us that when we are sent out, the mission involves three things.  We are to proclaim the gospel- we are to encourage people to change their hearts and lives.  We are supposed to cast out demons – to overcome the power of evil with the power of the love of God.  And we are to heal people.  That sounds like a pretty overwhelming mission.  It sounds almost impossible, in fact, to accomplish all these things.  But we are not sent out without any help for this mission.  Because the crazy part of this scripture is that we are given the authority of Jesus – Jesus authorizes us to do these three things on his behalf.  We go in his name, under his power and his Spirit!  We are merely acting as the agents through which God’s power passes.  We are just the physical hands doing the work of God.  And so, if we are living and breathing, God can use us for this work!  We are simply the instruments or the tools that God wants to work with for this mission.

When are sent under God’s power, we really have no excuses not to go.  We can’t argue that we aren’t good enough or smart enough or courageous enough.  We can’t even argue that we don’t have time, because all our time is given to us by God and all of our time belongs to God if you think about it.  And so, to be blunt — it is not about us – it is about relying on the mighty power of God.  If we can follow directions, if we are willing to obey and submit to the way God wants to use us, then we can be apostles.

We can learn a lot about this mission from the first part of this scripture.  In verses 1-6, Jesus faces stinging defeat, right?  His family and friends, the people in his hometown, don’t believe in him at all.  In fact, verse 6 says he is “appalled by their disbelief.”  And yet, Jesus persevered.  He faced defeat and continued on to the next town and the next person and the next family.  He had an urgency about him because he knew his time on earth was short.

And maybe it is because of this experience of failure that Jesus could warn his disciples: “If this happens to you, and you are not accepted, just shake the dust off your feet and move on.”  There are so many people out there who don’t know how much God loves them, we don’t have a second to waste when people aren’t ready to receive the message of God’s healing power.  So, Jesus gives us this sense of perseverance and urgency in our mission.  And Jesus takes the responsibility off our shoulders for the success of our mission.  It is so important to remember that we are just sent forth as the healing hands – God is the one who saves, not us.  We are just the healing hands acting as God’s agents.

One of the things I learned while I was at school a couple of weeks ago is that there are an average of 30 seeds planted in a person’s life before they respond to God.  And so when we go out as apostles, we are just part of the seed-planting process – we might be the first seed or the 15th seed or the 30th seed.  We aren’t responsible for the fruit being produced, we are just sent to plant as many seeds as we can, in as many ways as we can, in as many places and people as we can.

And there are a couple more things I think we can glean from this scripture.  One is that Jesus encourages the disciples to stay in one home for a while.  I think Jesus is asking the disciples to get to know people one on one.  I think Jesus is stressing the importance of building relationships.  When we build relationships with people, they will begin to see the power of God in us!  They will begin to trust us and hear us and see that light of God within us.

And finally, Jesus sent out these apostles in twos.  Our mission is a group project.  We work on it together.  We each have different gifts and abilities and we each do our part.  We need each other for encouragement and support when things don’t go well.  We need to learn from each other, and we need to get energy and inspiration from each other!

But what does this scripture have to do with us today?

Well, we are apostles today!

You who follow Jesus ….you are sent out with a mission.

When we follow Jesus it is part of who we are – every one of us are sent for this job.  We are supposed to first “be with Jesus,” and then go out in the authority of Jesus to heal and to overcome evil and to proclaim the good news that there is a better way to live!

It sounds like an overwhelming thing.  And I know that you all would love to give this job to the preacher – because after all it’s her job right?  But that is not at all what Jesus says – in fact, remember that Jesus called fishermen and tax collectors to follow him, not religious leaders.  So, we are all sent forth.  There is too much work to be done to leave it to just a few!  We are all sent forth!

But I hope you will remember we are just one of many seed planters in each person’s life.  So, I want to make this simple.  I have five suggestions – these are some tangible things you can do this week that will not hurt you.  I promise – they will not hurt you.  Now I want to say first of all that the Holy Spirit guides the way for this process, and we have to be attuned to how the Spirit is moving and encouraging us to act and how the Spirit even gives us words to speak.  But I am going to give you some very specific things to do to just prime the pump and get you going.

#1  We have heard about a terrific kindness project – Jackie Price has talked to you about that.  So how simple it is to share the love of God in just a random way that the Spirit points out to you.  If anyone asks you why you would do this – your response is simple – you don’t have to say repent and turn to God.  In fact, I ask you to please not say that.  Instead, just say – “I’m showing God’s love in a real way.  I am showing God’s love in a real way.”

#2a  Atkins is having vacation Bible school starting next Sunday.  I have some flyers printed out.  How about if you took a flyer and took some tape or a push pin with you and left it on a bulletin board at the grocery store or the bank or the gas station – or shared it on your facebook page?

#2b If you are really brave, take the flyer to a neighbor, or a friend or family member and invite them to go.

#2c If you are really really brave, offer to give the family a ride to vacation Bible school.  The first night we are having a free meal for the kids and their parents.

#2d if you are really really really brave stick around and help with VBS!

#3Take some of our church cards.  In fact, I am going to ask you to take at least one card and stick it in your billfold.  The back is blank and you can write whatever you want on there – your name and phone number, a note or anything you’re inspired to write.  I know you are probably going out to eat in the next few days.  After your meal, leave a good tip (my waitress friends say Christians eating out after church on Sunday are the worst tippers, by the way).  When you leave the nice tip, leave the card, and write a short thank you note on the back of the card.

#4 Take some corn from the garden to a neighbor with a church card/or take a meal or a plate of brownies, or homemade ice cream – take it with a church card.  You get the idea – these church cards are for you to keep and use up.  I would love to have to order some more really soon!

#5  On the last Sunday in July our topic is feed the world, we are hearing the story of Jesus feeding 5,000 people.  After the service we are having a churchwide potluck meal.  Invite a friend or neighbor to come to the service and/or eat with us!

These are just a few ideas to get you started thinking about how we can show God’s love in real ways, and how we can practice being apostles who are sent out for God’s mission.

My first year of ministry, I was at Dover United Methodist.  And they had an after-school program, but there were only about 4 kids involved, so I made a really minimal effort toward getting this program going.  I made some flyers.  And I put one at the gas station.  That year we ended up having about 15 kids who showed up for the after school program.  Two of the new kids who showed up were brothers – Gavin and Kaden.  They came every week, and they were kind of wild and rambunctious, but we had great fun getting to know them and learning about God every week.  We got to know their mom and their dad as they came in to pick them up.  And then a tragedy happened.  Their dad had surgery on his back, and it seemed that everything was going well.  But then something went horribly wrong and their dad died.  He was 32 years old, and he left two young boys and his wife alone.  Well, we were the only church that young family knew, and so they turned to the church for the funeral service and for prayer and support.  The church developed a deeper and deeper relationship with the family as the years went by.  The boys kept coming to the after school program, and the church continued to support and love the family.  Until on May 21, 2016, Gavin and Kaden came to be baptized because of the witness of God’s love in their lives by the people who had been sent by God to extend healing hands.

This family’s entry point into the church was the after school program.  And when I first met this family, I asked them how they had heard about the after-school program.  The mom said that she had seen that pitiful flyer I had put in the gas station.

You see, God can use our meager efforts.  When we make the slightest efforts, the Holy Spirit can multiply what we do!  When we randomly drop a seed, we never know when it might build upon the other seeds that have been planted in someone’s life.  And you never know when something you do might have eternal and life changing consequences in a whole family’s life.

So, apostles, know today that you are called first to “be with” Jesus.  Then Jesus gives you his authority and the power of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit.  And then you are sent to tell people there is hope and kindness and love in this world – you are sent to overcome the power of evil with the power of God—you are sent to heal people who are desperate for the presence of God in their lives.  If anyone is going to bear God’s message, it is up to each of us.

May we strive to live as apostles each day of our lives.  May we go forth with healing hands.

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Leader: I invite you to bring your hands forward, palms up, for this blessing.

Bless, O Lord, these hands.
May the Holy Spirit be their guidance,
That they might be your hands wherever they go.
That they might comfort and encourage.

That they might heal those in pain.
That they might build up your kingdom.
In the Name of Jesus, go forth.
Amen.