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Sixth Sunday after Pentecost 2021

Mark 6:1-13 1 Jesus came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. 2 On the sabbath Jesus began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did he get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! 3 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?” And they were scandalized by him. 4 Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” 5 And Jesus could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. 6 And Jesus was amazed at their unbelief.   Then Jesus went about among the villages teaching. 7 He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8 Jesus ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; 9 but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. 10 Jesus said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. 11 If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” 12 So the disciples went out and proclaimed that all should repent. 13 They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.   ---------------   Please pray with me this morning, church: Loving God, We are only free because you have made us free. Free to live for others. Free to serve others. Free to love others. Remind us this morning, and help us recognize That we are interdependent upon one another. Amen.   ---------------   This is not how you imagined your Senior year would go. Am I right?   And truthfully this is not how any of us imagined this past year would go, but even more so for y’all. And even before that…this has been an 18-month ordeal. It’s been a tough slog. No doubt. I mean, Friday night lights, friends, parties, concerts, prom, graduation……this has been a very different year than what you imagined. And I’m sorry for that. You deserve a little bit more “normal” in your lives. And, I think we’re all trying to get there. And we will get there. Eventually. Hopefully soon.   In the meantime, we took what would typically be a late-May event, and pushed it back a couple of months. Tried to plan it when things could be somewhat normal and everyone could be here. That’s really my hope for today, that this could be some small touchstone of “normal” for you in the midst of a very abnormal world.   I have a lot of words for our graduating Seniors today, but I hope there’s some good news and some challenge in here for all of us. Because the truth is, none of us imagined that this is how these past months would have gone. And certainly, none of us imagined that we’d still be here where we are now. And I imagine more than a few of us are frustrated by that. And I don’t have to imagine all that hard, some of you have told me as much, so I feel pretty confident in saying, more than a few of us are frustrated by where we are.   This week is the last Sunday in our worship series called Together. We’ve been in this series for the first half of the summer, this series that focuses on 2nd Corinthians. We’ve been talking about how we live together in the midst of such challenging times. We’ve been trying to wrestle with how to live well together amidst so many differing viewpoints. What does it mean for us to make decisions and live our lives in service of and in the interest of others, maybe instead of or in spite of my own preferences and desires and what I want. That’s a difficult question, right? What if what’s best for someone else requires me to give up something of myself or my own desires or preferences…what do I do with that? How seriously are we to take Jesus’ call to discipleship?   In short, it’s interesting to me that on a weekend and a day when so many are focused on independence, that what we’re talking about is interdependence.   The ways in which we are interdependent on one another. The ways in which our lives are intricately bound up together. How what I want may not be what’s best for you, and so what do I do with that, do I live my life differently so that it serves to benefit my neighbor?   These are the difficult questions of togetherness. These are the questions of interdependence.   Seniors, you’re about to discover a whole new world of independence. Some of you will physically move away from the home, from the people you’ve known your entire life…for 18 years. What will you do with all this freedom? Some of you are going to hang around, but you’ll be no less enjoying some newfound independence. What will you do with it?   Sugar Land/Missouri City/Houston/this place…will be different when you come back. I mean, just ask Jesus. For one thing, places change. But so do people. So do you. You’ll be different people when you come back. And that’s a good thing. But it won’t always be appreciated. Just ask Jesus.   Jesus comes back to Nazareth, maybe Capernaum…the hometown boy, the hero, of sorts…and to his friends and relatives and those that knew him, he wasn’t what they expected…he was different. Dear friends, change is inevitable.   Change is something that this group of Seniors is intimately familiar with. I have a bit of a soft spot for this particular group. (Don’t worry…all of our young people are my favorites…**but y’all are my favorite favorites**…) There’s a particular spot in my heart for this group of 4 because they were my first Confirmation class at New Hope. I came in right at the beginning of their 8th-grade year. I was their 4th Confirmation teacher in 2 years. Y’all had seen a lot of change happen. And Miranda joined us the next year, and that next year, we went to the ELCA Youth Gathering just down the road in Houston, and 2 years after that everything changed…and now here we are. Change is kind of built-in to your systems.   You’ve done really well through all this change, y’all. I am so, so proud of you. I can’t wait to see what passions you discover and the ways you change and shape the world.   Just know that you won’t do it on your own.   This life…in its entirety…all of it…is a collaborative effort. It’s not a me or I thing…it’s an us and we thing. Our lives are “caught up in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied together in a single garment of destiny” as the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. said. “Whatever affects one…affects all.” Don’t forget that. You don’t do this alone. We do this…together…   We need help along the way, right? When Jesus sends the disciples at the end of our gospel reading today, he says don’t take anything with you. Leave your bag, your food, money…leave it all. Travel lightly. Don’t get weighed down with all your stuff. Because if you’re weighed down with all your own stuff, how do you have space to help carry someone else’s, or hold their story, or their hurt? When we are burdened with the baggage of everything we have carried before, we aren’t free to hold the gifts of the present.   Rely on the hospitality and generosity of others. If they welcome you, great; stay there until you move on. If they don’t, turn around and leave, go somewhere else.   There’s no greater find in a college student’s life than free food. It’s true. You and your friends will seek out who’s throwing what sort of event or get-together, you’ll figure out who’s serving hot dogs or hamburgers or whatever, which student organization is sponsoring which thing…it’s like a competition. How many days a week can I find something free to eat, versus paying for my own lunch or dinner. You rely on the hospitality of others. Interdependence.   And when you come home at whatever breaks in the semester, you’ll bring all your laundry with you. Because the only thing better than free food is free laundry. Rely on the hospitality of others. Interdependence.   The thing that I’ve been trying to communicate, certainly today, but over these past 6 weeks with this series from 2nd Corinthians is that we absolutely are dependent upon one another. As much as we try and tell ourselves and try and live otherwise. We hear that, and we nod our heads, and we think we agree…but dang, we sure don’t live like it. Because if we did, I have to think that we’d be less focused on me and what I want, and more in-tune with the needs and cares and concerns and safety of our neighbors, and the outcast, and the marginalized, and the other, and the vulnerable. Because God’s power is made perfect—made complete—in weakness. In weakness, we are made strong. God is strong in weakness.   We won’t always get it right. Even Mark says that Jesus couldn’t do any deeds of power in Nazareth among the hometown crowd. Except… Except…well, he did lay his hands on a few people and healed them. Even at our weakest…God still finds a way to work through that.   We’re very proud of you. Don’t forget all the people who helped you along the way to get to where you are today. Don’t forget all the help you received, and don’t neglect to help others. This is an interdependent thing. We need each other. Call your parents. Regularly. Tell them you love them. Regularly.   Go be awesome. You already are. Just be who you are. Be who God has created you to be.  
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