TEXTS: Mark 6:1-13
Well I hope that you were all listening to the story that I told the children a bit earlier. I was indeed known in my home church as “Little Danny Schroeder”. What I didn’t say to the children earlier, was that the name stuck. At Zoar Church I continued to be known as “Little Danny Schroeder” as I began to play the organ for worship services at the age of 15, as I became the president of the youth group, as I entered college and taught for one year, and even as I was enthusiastically supported by the church when I entered seminary.
Now let’s fast forward a number of years. I had completed four years of seminary training in St. Louis and had served for 6½ years as a pastor in Westphalia, about 75 miles north of Evansville. I then returned to the Evansville area and begin a pastorate at St. Matthews UCC on the north side of the city. I was now in my 30s and had two boys in school.
One summer afternoon I received a call from Pastor Don Bernhardt, the minister of my home church. Don asked whether I could cover for him in any pastoral emergency while he was on vacation. This is something that I had done before and it was an easy for me since I still knew most of the congregation. Later in the first week of my coverage I received a call from the secretary of Zoar church asking whether I could look in on Albert Mueller who was at Deaconess Hospital and who was gravely ill, possibly at the point of death. Of course I agreed and headed for the hospital that afternoon.
As I stepped into the doorway of that hospital room I saw Albert in bed 2, semi-comatose with a dozen or two wires and tubes hooked up to him. Sitting at his bedside was his wife, Marion. Marion looked up and said, (I kid you not!) “Oh look Albert, Danny Schroeder has come to pay you a visit!” Now to her credit, Marion didn’t say “Little Danny” and I do believe that she was genuinely happy that I was there. There was certainly no “offense” noted by Mark in our gospel lesson this morning. But for just for a moment, at in least my own eyes as I stood in that doorway, my pastoral authority was deeply compromised. I was once again that bashful 8 year old in Miss Marion’s 3rd grade Sunday school class.
I wonder how many of you have had problems shaking off the personas of your childhood or teenage years when you are around people who knew you “back when”? How many of you still have friends or relatives or especially church members who refer to you by some childish nickname? How many of you managed to gain some sort of reputation when you were 10 years old, often because of a single incident that people just love to tell about to this day? How many of you cringe when people say “remember when” and then go on to relate an often embarrassing story that you have been trying for years to forget? How many you have had trouble being taken seriously in your adult years because he people that you circulate among knew you when you were a child?
I once had a church member who, in her 70s, was still called “Billie Jean” by members of my church because that was what she was called as a young girl at that church sixty years in the past! Nowhere else did I ever hear her referred to as Billie Jean, nor did she ever refer to herself by that double name. It was always just “Billie”. I remember, many years ago, I found myself looking for a professional counselor when I felt that I was being overtaken by stress. As my co-pastor up in Connecticut used to say, I wasn’t burned out, but I was definitely getting crispy around the edges! I went to my Associate Conference Minister (the equivalent of Scott Schantzenbach) for advice and was given the names of two highly qualified professional counselors. One of the names was Rev. Joe Bob Pierce. I chose the other person for a variety of reasons and was happy that I did, but I have to tell you, the question did cross my mind, “Could I accept professional advice from a man named ‘Joe Bob’?”
So Jesus entered his home town, a small town where everyone knew everyone, and he went to his home church (I mean synagogue), and he wowed the crowd. We are not told what passage he spoke from, but his teaching was as you might expect off the charts. Jesus taught like nothing the people of Nazareth had ever seen or heard before! In other words it was not as though Jesus had came back to his home town and had tried to pass himself off as a fine scholar of the law and the prophets, he was a fine scholar. It would be one thing if the local kid went away for a period of time and then came back and claimed to have greater knowledge and understanding of the people’s faith but could not deliver. No, Jesus was not just a braggart, he was not some flim-flam man with a phony degree that he got online selling snake oil remedies. This was the real McCoy. This poorly educated carpenter’s kid who some may still have referred to by some demeaning childhood nickname, could really teach! His understanding of holy scripture was enough to boggle the mind.
But the people of Nazareth, for all their amazement, just could not get over the fact that this man, this amazing, knowledgeable man, was once the firstborn of lowly Joseph and Mary, working class folks from a working class neighborhood. And the people took offense. They were scandalized. All this makes me wonder whether there would have been “offense” if Jesus had come back to his home town and showed extraordinary skill at making a chair or putting in a new doorframe for house? My guess is that such a thing would have been easily accepted by his friends and neighbors.
Scriptural revelation was not supposed to be the forte of a carpenter’s son; and the level of his knowledge and prowess was a shock. And when people are shocked their emotions get a bit scrambled and it became for them very easy to turn to anger. “How dare he show up and tell us how to interpret scripture!”
And Mark tells us that Jesus could do little for his people. He could offer little help to his home town, to his relatives and neighbors, which brings up another point; a point that I touched upon last week in the story of the woman with the flow of blood. When Jesus confronted the woman, he confronted her with love and grace and compassion. He then noted that her faith had made her well. Her faith had caused her to seek out the power of God displayed in this man Jesus. The theme of the connection between faith and healing is one that is pervasive in the New Testament. We find it in all four gospels, in the letters of Paul and in other writings as well. Now we seem to hear from Mark that a lack of faith can block healing and wholeness from taking place, that the power of God to heal requires a willing and faithful partner.
I have to tell you friends, I often wonder whether the reason that we not see a lot more faith based miracles in world today than we do is that our faith in God is not what it should be. Oh sure, I ask for prayers when I’m ill, but my primary focus, the thing that I really have faith in is that dose-pack of antibiotics that the doctor prescribes. Now don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating a Christian Science approach to life where we should refuse all medical treatment and rely solely upon God for healing. I honestly and truly believe that God is at work in the hands and the wisdom of doctors and other health care professionals. I believe that God is at work in the work of researchers who are continually putting out new drugs and procedures that are saving lives all around us. I’m just saying that there is also as great healing power in God our creator and in our faithful relationship with God. I also believe that many leave that power on the table instead of embracing it.
The message then for this morning is that a lowly carpenter’s kid can grow up to be the savior of the world and that we should not judge Christ, nor anyone else, by their humble beginnings, but rather by their current abilities. The message for this morning is that making assumptions about people based upon anything from past history to social status to race or ethnicity or any other factor will often result in the limiting of the blessings of God. The message or this morning is that healing and wholeness requires active participation, “buy in” if you would, from the one being healed as much as from the one offering healing. The message for this morning is that in Christ our Savior we shown the wisdom of God, the knowledge of God, the healing of God and the compassion of God, if we but believe; if we but embrace our ever-present God in steadfast faith. Let us pray that we will never be among those who amaze Christ at their unbelief! Amen