Series B                                                    Pentecost VI                   July 8, 2012

Mark 6, 1-13

“THE DAY THE POWER WAS LOST”

Nearly 4 million people were without electricity from those severe storms that raced across the country a little over a week ago.  There are a couple hundred thousand homes still in the dark.  The Lord must have been watching over us that our area was spared.  What’s more aggravating than a power failure?  Neither the lights, the air-conditioner, the T.V., the refrigerator or cell phones will work.  And if you have a well, you don’t have running water either.  We take these things for granted day after day.  We depend upon them.  And suddenly, life is like living in a wilderness far from any modern conveniences.

Our Gospel lesson for today is reporting on a power failure that took place in Nazareth.  But this is the power of Jesus as our Gospel tells us.

“He could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them.”

This Gospel reminded me of a Psychiatric hotline that was advertised for those who didn’t believe they could be helped.  When you called you heard the answering machines voice say:

Hello.  Welcome to the Psychiatric Hotline.

Ѽ     If you are obsessive-compulsive, please press 1 repeatedly.

Ѽ     If you are co-dependent, please ask someone to press 2 for you.

Ѽ     If you have multiple personalities please press 3, 4, 5, and 6.

Ѽ     If you are a paranoid-delusional, we know who you are and what you want, just stay on the line until we can trace this call.

Ѽ     If you are a schizophrenic, listen carefully and a little voice will tell you which number to press.

Ѽ     If you are a manic-depressive, it doesn’t matter which number you press.  No one will answer!

With such expectations, no one is going to get any help at that Hot-line.  And with similar expectations from his home town neighbors, Jesus’ mighty work was impossible.  It happened to be a Sabbath, and Jesus was teaching in the Synagogue.  But the people who knew him could not get beyond the fact that he was Joseph and Mary’s son, a carpenter.  That was all he could ever be to them, and so they said:

“Where did this man get these things?  What’s this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles!”

 

The people were indignant and took offense at him because he wasn’t doing the carpenter things they expected of him.  Carpenters perform miracles with wood, not with people.  They would not expect a carpenter to speak with authority about religious matters any more than a fisherman would be expected to speak with authority about Cardio-thoracic surgery.

Jesus responded to them with the words:

“Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.”

 

There is truth in that proverb that an expert is someone at least a hundred miles from home, carrying a briefcase filled with computer printouts.  In his hometown, people could not put faith in Jesus to be anything more than a carpenter.  That leads to a power failure: “and he could not do any miracles there …”  It wasn’t Jesus’ fault, but rather something was missing on the part of the receivers.  There was no faith.  The Gospel of John summarized it like this:

“He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.” (John 1:11)

 

The old saying, “Familiarity breeds contempt” is still true.  To the young couple in love, everything the other does is new and cute.  But after he has thrown his dirty socks under the bed for the 10 years, and he has found her nylons hanging where he wants to take a shower for all those years, it’s not cute any more, it’s an annoying mannerism and an irritating habit.

Could Jesus become that way for us?  Could we know the miracle stories, the teaching, the suffering so well that we take it all for granted, even get tempted to deny him like Peter, betray him like Judas?  His own people took offense at him, and he marveled at their unbelief.

This matter of belief is central.  To believe in Jesus is more than intellectual knowledge or admiration.  To believe means to commit your life and everything that is yours to him.

In 1859, the amazing Blondin stretched a cable across Niagara Falls.  He crossed the falls a number of times, often with a new theatrical twist: sitting on a chair, blindfolded, even using stilts.  Then Blondin offered a large sum of money to any man who would allow him to carry him across on his back.  There were no takers.  A reporter accused Blondin of staging the event as a publicity stunt.  Blondin asked him if he believed he could walk that wire back and forth across the falls.  The reporter answered “Of course!”  After all, he had just seen him do it many times.  Blondin then asked him to get on his back so they could go together, the reporter wanted no part of it.

Many people are of the same mind when it comes to following Christ Jesus.  It’s OK as long as it does not require any risk of them, or sacrifice, or a chance of failure.  But Jesus doesn’t promise it will be easy to follow him, he promises life!  To believe in Jesus means total commitment to him, saying “Your will be done.”  That’s what it means to bow down to him, to submit to him.  To make him your Lord and Savior.

Mark tells us Jesus was amazed at his hometown’s lack of faith.

Jesus showed many emotions.  He wept.  He laughed.  He felt pity, and showed compassion.  He became angry, and he got tired.  This time he was amazed.  What’s with these people?  Nothing seems to faze them.

Would Jesus be amazed at our unbelief?  Without faith, Jesus can do nothing, not even bestow his saving grace, let alone give eternal life.

Suppose you are traveling through a dense forest with an experienced guide.  You come to a fork in the trail and the guide says you should go left.  But left looks too difficult and you say: “My judgment tells me that the trail to the right is the one to take.  I must follow my own judgment.”

After following that trail for some distance, it no longer is passable and you must turn around and go back.  Let’s say that scenario is acted out another 8 or 10 times.  Each time you must retrace your steps.  Wouldn’t it make sense to follow the guide’s advice?

When we want to blaze our own way, thinking we have found an easier path than the one Jesus suggests, we are ignoring the guide.  When we stay out so late on a Saturday night that we can’t get up on a Sunday for worship; when we don’t obey God’s commandments or ignore Jesus’ teachings about loving one another, we are ignoring the guide who said: “I am the way, the truth and the life.”

But so many people today are like the man who was walking through the woods one day and came to a giant oak tree.  He began to meditate on the goodness of the God who created such a supreme tree.  As he was doing this he spied a tiny little acorn high up in the tree.  He went to move on but tripped over a great big pumpkin attached by a tiny little stem to a thin vine.  He then thinks to himself: “Too bad I wasn’t around at the creation of the world.  I would have said: God!  That little acorn should go with that tiny stem, and that big pumpkin should adorn the giant oak tree where it’s grandeur could be better appreciated.  The man grew tired with all this meditation and decided to take a rest under the shade of that Oak tree.  Now, as fate would have it, the tiny little acorn fell off the tree at that moment and struck the man on the nose, causing him to cry out in pain.  Then he realized it: “Suppose things were the way I wanted them… Suppose the pumpkin was up there in the tree instead of the acorn – I would probably be dead.”  And the man walked away with greater faith in God, saying to himself: “Whatever God does, God does well.”

When we put our faith in God we will see great things.  This Gospel lesson teaches us that:

No faith = no power

little faith = little power

much faith = much power

There does not need to be any power failure in the life of a disciple of God.

                                                                 AMEN