Friday, July 03, 2009

B, Pentecost 5 Proper 9 - Mark 6:1-6 "Jesus at Home: The same and different"

Text: Mark 6:1-6
1 Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. 2 When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. "Where did this man get these things?" they asked. "What's this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles! 3 Isn't this the carpenter? Isn't this Mary's son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren't his sisters here with us?" And they took offence at him. 4 Jesus said to them, "Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honour." 5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 And he was amazed at their lack of faith.
Do you want to be different or do you want to be the same?
When someone the same as you, claims to be different, do you feel offended? Or, on the other hand, what about when someone is different and they claim to be the same as you, aren't you tempted to treat them with contempt? To be different, or to be the same?
We all seek to be different and we all seek to be the same, such is the complexity of the human being. These opposites hit head-on in a crash of confusion mostly during the teenage years of our lives. We struggle for independence—we struggle to be different—cutting off our parents, authority, and our brothers and sisters. But the minute we are left out as different—treated differently—we grieve that we're not the same. How much time did we waste as teenagers trying to play keep-up with our peers, so that we looked the same? Those of you who are teenagers and young adults need know that your parents did the same thing too! We need to be the same as our friends, and if we're honest we need to be the same as our parents, even if it is a bit tacky and uncool! While we are different we strive to be the same; while we are the same we struggle to be different.
With the confusion of being different, but also the same, comes contempt and condemnation. After being so familiar with our surroundings on a day-to-day basis we get sick of normality and hate it, and are tempted to lust after what is different. Isn't it true that the closest people to us are those whom we hurt the most? We bite the hands that feed us, we scorn those who love us, and we reject the very things that are good for us. And when, or if, we wake up to ourselves after we've got what we've wished for, then we desire to be fed, to be loved, and to have the healthy things we fought so hard to rid from ourselves earlier. Such is the confusing quest to be different and to be the same!
Jesus certainly brought contempt and condemnation on himself when he came home during the course of his ministry. As he stood in the synagogue and spoke with authority, the locals were blown away by his wisdom. But hang on! He's only a carpenter, he's the same as us, yet he speaks as though he is different. So they rejected him and Jesus left the place amazed at their lack of faith.
But it wasn't just his fellow hometown citizens who took offence at him. Humanity was insulted at his coming. The authority of the Romans, the priesthood of the Sanhedrin, and the piety of the Pharisees, was thrown into confusion by the coming of God's own Son. Not only is he the same, he is a man and he is a Jew; but he is also different. He is different to us because he is God the Son, whom God the Father has sent to us to be the same. God the Son came to humanity, and made his home in the same flesh as us, amongst fellow human beings. Jesus Christ, the same but different.
So Jesus was different and he was the same. Sent to be the same as us, to know what it is like to suffer, to share the struggles of life with us, but ultimately to bear our life sentence of sin on the cross. He was the same as us, but different enough too! Different enough that he could "be" the same as us, but not "do" the same as us and sin. So in the sameness of the flesh he came to differentiate the sin from our sameness. And in doing so, he paid the price for being the same, he paid the price for being different, so we might be different, so we might be the same as him.
Jesus' rejection is similar to that of Dr Charles Richard Drew, a black doctor and scientist, who was killed in a car accident on April 1, 1950. Tragically his life might have been saved if the door hadn't been closed to him at the all-white hospital that had a blood bank. But he was denied help and died—at the age of 46.
The irony was that his research on "banked blood" had earlier contributed much to the plasma research and saved countless lives in that very hospital among others. But he was denied the benefits of his own discoveries—because he was "different" even though he was the "same".
Our Lord Jesus Christ was also engaged in "blood research". His life's blood has given new life to millions. Because of his donation, people will live forever. But he was rejected because he was "different" and because he was the "same".
Now that Jesus has perfected his "blood research" on the cross. He makes his home in you and me. The same Jesus that made you different in baptism and has been with you every day ever since, calls us to trust in him, and to allow ourselves to be transformed more and more to be like him, to be the same as him, and different from the world. Be careful not to treat Jesus' continual presence in you with contempt and condemnation, as he comes to the hometown of your heart! Don't lock him out and deny the benefits of his blood. It will eternally kill you if you do!
Jesus gives us himself in his word, and he gives us himself in familiar things so we might be continually made holy in him. These familiar things Jesus has put in place so we might be made the same as him. Rest in these familiar things; in the assurance of baptismal salvation, in the forgiving life-giving power of God's word — in the law and the gospel. Rest in peace as Christ enters you through ordinary bread and wine; his body and blood banked in you for forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.
Rest in the sameness of Jesus; don't let your familiarity breed contempt and condemnation. Rest in Jesus; don't reject him in a bid to be the same as the world. Hold onto the things he has given you from the beginning, the things that make you the same, the things that call you to be different. Hold onto the same gospel of Jesus Christ, and the same means of receiving his gospel of grace. Pray that our pastors do the same too; that they preach the same gospel, and not one that is different. Receive only the gospel that makes us different through the sameness of Jesus; the gospel that makes us the same through the difference of our kinsman redeemer, Jesus Christ.
Jesus' family rejected him, and the people of his hometown took offence at his authority and presence. Don't grieve the Holy Spirit, don't allow Jesus to walk away from you amazed at your lack of faith. Don't deny the benefits of his blood; that's a hellish path to death! Rather believe Jesus is present in the familiar things that make us "truly" different, his Word and his forgiving presence in the mysteries of Holy Baptism, Holy Communion, and Holy Absolution.
Believe in the forgiveness of sins; the same forgiveness Jesus' own family found in Jesus' death. Let us also return to Jesus and honour him, as did Jesus' mother and family when they were turned from the faithless sameness of the world of flesh, back to the forgiving sameness of the Word made flesh, crucified on the cross, for them, for us, and for all people.
We are the same, we all struggle with faithlessness, with sinfulness, and this makes us different to Jesus. But we are the same, when we trust Jesus' forgiveness, despite our faithlessness and sinfulness, and this makes us very different to the world.
So now we might get treated as different; we might be treated with contempt and condemnation by the world. But we live in peace as we live in the familiarity of Jesus' forgiveness won on the cross, day in day out, unto eternity. Amen.