Saturday, July 07, 2012

B, Pentecost 6 Proper 9 – Mark 6:1-13 “Does Familiarity Breed Contempt?”

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He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, "Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? 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 took offense at him. And Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honour, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household." And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marvelled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching. And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts—but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. And he said to them, "Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there. And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them." So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them. (Mark 6:1–13 ESV)
Jesus could do no mighty work at Nazareth, except too lay his hands on a few sick people and healed them. It sounds as though healing people is not the most powerful and miraculous work Jesus could have done at his home town of Nazareth! One might have thought healing was a primary purpose of Jesus' ministry. But Jesus saw something else as most powerful. We discover in the disciples' commissioning and immediate work as Apostles they had authority in many areas but one. They had power over unclean spirits, demons, and the authority to anoint the sick, of whom many were healed.
But Jesus reserves one powerful act for himself at this time; an authority that could only be given to the Apostles after the bestowal of the Holy Spirit, after his death and resurrection. This was the call to teach. Now we might neither find teaching nor learning a miraculous event! But Jesus sure does! In a world today that is full of teachers and students we tend to find these things quite dull and ordinary compared to seemingly holier works of healing and casting out demons. Surely this is where the greater, extraordinary power lies.
For us it seems familiarity breeds contempt! That is, we find the ordinary things in this life far from extraordinary. Every day events are common place, they are nothing to write home about! In fact, for us they are sneered at as being boring or less interesting than other more exciting things to do. Yet, Jesus sees it differently; he finds the ordinary things in this life as being extraordinary! Familiarity breeds something a whole lot different than contempt for Jesus as he moves towards the cross during his earthly ministry.
So, for us, why does familiarity breeds contempt? Why do Jesus' fellow Nazarenes take exception to his teaching? He appeared to be the same as them, yet his teaching was powerful, therefore it caused a scandal amongst his fellow townsmen. Jesus was the same as them, yet the authority from which he taught caused offence because he was one of them. How dare this woodworking son of Joseph and Mary, try teaching us about such wisdom! It was completely scandalous that Jesus takes a place of authority amongst his own family and friends.
Within each of us is pride. When what's familiar to us is seen in someone else it tends to stir us up. Every time one appears to be taking the better thing, the rest of us react with resentment. Why is this? You'd think because of the familiarity of pride within each of us we might be happy for others to have their moment in the sun! But we don't! Be it when we were young and we saw our brother or sister take the bigger share of cake, or even now we've apparently grown up we still feel it necessary to compete to be "up with the Joneses".
Perhaps it's familiarity within "me" "ourselves" that breeds contempt! Especially when you or I see what's familiar with the self in the person of someone else. I suspect Jesus' fellow Nazarenes mistakenly saw Jesus' faithfulness to the Father, as pride in himself. They didn't see he was teaching to glorify the Father. In fact, they refused to learn Jesus was indeed being prepared to glorify them before the Father in his death on the cross. But then again why should they? Jesus seemed to be no different to them!
So it appears we are getting closer to the truth of the matter! Familiarity with the self breeds contempt, perhaps! You and I know the glory we seek for ourselves is a sham! If others knew what truly lurked within all would see the scandalous facade for what it is: Familiarity with our own thin veil of conceitedness and pride over the deep despair or what we truly are breeds contempt. If only I could get rid of this thorn in my side then I would be so much better in myself!
Remarkably though, Jesus' familiarity doesn't breed contempt, with the Jews, the Galileans, or even me a gentile! We hear Jesus marvelled at the unbelief of those at Nazareth. He was as amazed and astonished of them as they were of him, but he did not let it breed contempt of them in him, nor did it cause him to lose focus of his mission before the cross.
Jesus' familiarity with you and all people breeds love. This love led him to the cross. Jesus' familiarity with you breeds sacrifice, compassion, generosity and kindness. You see his familiarity with you bred contempt of sin, both the sins we do and the sinners we are, and from this hatred of sin, he gave his life in exchange for the contempt, the hatred, the darkness, the deep seated despair and the pride that moves us to glorify and worship the self.
Now Jesus calls you to become familiar with the "new you". He wills you to be become familiar with teaching and being taught, with listening and learning, so you might become familiar with the faith he has planted in you.
In your familiarity with belief, both belief in what we are as sinners and saints, your familiarity will not breed contempt within yourself, but rather familiarity with faith will firstly fill you with compassion for yourself, and then kindness and generosity for your neighbour. Your pride which once sought to glorify the self will be found replaced with humility which glorifies Jesus. This faith draws us further into familiarity with his gracious work started on the cross and continued by the Holy Spirit when he opens our hearts towards Jesus' forgiveness but also the familiar faults of our family and friends that need our forgiveness.
We can now see why Jesus valued so highly that which we see as common. He finds the extraordinary in the ordinary. He gives what is extraordinary to us who are ordinary and becomes so familiar with us, we are made family. This is the family where peace, joy, and hope supplant sin, conceitedness and contempt in ourselves and of others who struggle with exactly the same stuff we do.
Does familiarity breed contempt? It doesn't have to!
In your familiarity with your weakness, with other people's weakness, let Jesus' faithfulness fill you with the familiarity of forgiveness, faith, hope, and love. Amen.