Recognizable Mark 6: 7-13, 30-33

Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits.

These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. 10 Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. 11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”

12 They went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.

30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them.

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Sometimes we like to have people notice what we do.  Other times, we hope there are no witnesses.  Sometimes it is good to be recognized.  Other times, it is irritating or embarrassing.  Of course, if you’re a soldier or spy, being recognized can be life threatening.

When there were two grocery stores in town, and you didn’t want anyone to see you because you hadn’t washed your hair that day, you went to Skeffington’s.  I wasn’t the only one, because I ran into people at Skeffington’s with the same agenda.  I don’t know why we thought we didn’t have to look our best at Skeffington’s or why we thought we wouldn’t see anybody we knew: there was no logic in that.  But if I didn’t want to run into anyone I knew, I shopped at Skeffington’s. 

There are times, though, when I want to see a lot of people at once and I want to be recognized, especially if I’m working on a cause, fundraising, or promoting a community event.  Then I want people to know who I am so they will talk to me.  That’s the great thing about being in the paper or on television…you are automatically linked to more people, because they’ve seen you before, if only in print or on the screen, so you look familiar to them.

After living in the same town for 42 years, working at the same jobs for 33 (teaching)  and 29 (Operahouse) years, and being politically active, I am used to being recognized. A few people turn the other way when they see me, but most return a smile they minute I offer mine.

When I first moved here, in August of 1973, nobody knew me.  I was a little reserved, a little shy, and not the kind to attend events by myself.  For a long time, nobody knew who I was, unless they came to Parent-Teacher Conferences.  Once I started joining organizations and becoming active in community projects, I became acquainted with many more people.  After standing behind the counter at the Operahouse for many years, a lot of people know my name, even though I don’t know theirs.

The disciples started out as nobodies. In fact, who would have nominated any of them to be disciples of the longed-for, hoped-for, most- important-prophet-ever? I wonder sometimes why Jesus didn’t recruit rabbis and scholars, some Sadducees, some Pharisees, maybe a couple scribes. That would have been a smart move, politically, because they were powerful with in the community. If Jesus could have influenced them, they could have influenced the entire community. The scribes could have written down everything Jesus said, on the spot.  Instead, we get words as they were remembered almost a generation after Jesus lived.  (As far as who wrote down what, two of the disciples authored, gospels, Matthew and John. Mark and Luke wrote down what they heard from other disciples. Mark was a disciple of Peter, and therefore, we can speculate that Mark reflects Peter’s experiences.  Luke was a disciple of Paul, who was also not a disciple, but both lived early enough that they would have had conversations with some of the original twelve.)

But, to get back to the original supposition: Jesus did not recruit from the upper or scholarly classes.  Tax collectors, fishermen, common laborers formed that first community.  In status, they ranked above day laborers and beggars and below everybody else. Even after Jesus‘ death, when the disciples took over his ministry, the Jewish judicatory didn’t have any respect for them: Acts 4: 13 The officials were amazed to see how brave Peter and John were, and they knew that these two apostles were only ordinary men and not well educated. The officials were certain that these men had been with Jesus.

Regardless of my opinion on the matter, Jesus picked whom he picked: James, Andrew, John, Peter, Matthew,  Philip Bartholomew (or Nathaniel)Thomas, James (“son of Alphaeus”), Thaddeus (or Jude) Simon (“the Cananean”or ‘the Zealot”) even Judas Iscariot. (Luke and John differ on a couple names.) (Did you know that the gospels do not agree on the names of the twelve?)

But here’s the amazing thing, at least the first amazing thing that Jesus asked the disciples to do.  After letting them tag along for awhile, he sent them out ON. THEIR. OWN.  These same disciples who often seemed confused, if not disinterested, during their apprenticeships, were given an assignment that asked them to duplicate what Jesus was doing.

Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits.

12 They went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.

Imagine…what if I sent you out two by two and asked you preach, to get people to repent? What if I asked you to cast out demons?  What if I handed you a bottle of olive oil and said, here, go heal some people?

I sometimes feel like that is what I would be able to do if I were a really GREAT preacher, but I have a pretty poor record when it comes to getting people to repent, to casting out demons, to healing.  Preaching….sure, I can preach.  But casting out demons.  And then I stop.  And think. And remove my false modesty for a moment.

Have I cast out demons?  Yes, I have, by listening to the hell those demons have caused when you call me to share the awful unfairness of life.  Have I healed? By praying with you, I think I have. Have I called you to repent?  Every Sunday, it’s there in the bulletin: Call to Confession. Rather timidly, sometimes, in my sermons, I make suggestions in that direction.

Think about your own discipleship. Have you cast out demons for someone–or at least locked them (the demons, not the person) in a closet for a while?  Have you healed someone with your presence, with your gifts, with your prayers? You have preached the gospel, not by going door to door with a book-marked Bible, but by the way you live. You’ve cast out the demons of sorrow and loneliness.  You’ve healed despair and confusion. Your life is a sermon, a gospel, a reading of what it means to follow Jesus. What about repentance? Have you inspired anyone to repent? Have you suggested to repentance to anyone?  That could be tricky. My view on repentance is that I have enough to handle with my own sins.  But remember: repenting is a gift, too, a gift that cleanses and relieves–remember Stanza 5 of “Just as I am:”

Just as I am, Thou wilt receive,

Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;

Because Thy promise I believe,

O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

When we preach, when we welcome, we offer that promise of pardon, that offer of relief.

Think about the instructions Jesus gave those guys:

… “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. 10 Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. 11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”

… “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt.

In other words, you don’t need a seminary education, a stack of brochures, or even a memorized speech. You arrive at the right place at the right time.  Have you ever found yourself in a place with a task and ended up doing something very different? You stopped at somebody’s house to drop off something and you ended up staying there for an hour, mostly listening.

I remember a few months ago when only two of us showed up for Bible study.  Instead of looking at the lectionary, Chuck and I just chatted.  I always learn from him; he is wise and articulate and humble. This day, he was troubled. He was trying to figure out how to reunite with an estranged brother. We talked and talked; finally,the Holy Spirit kicked me on the shin and I took Chuck’s hands in mine and we prayed for his brother and for their relationship.  We were sitting in the front window of Whisk Away Bakery and Cafe; I wonder if we “witnessed” to any passersby during that prayer. 

You are probably as well prepared as the disciples were to preach, teach, heal.  You’ve had more years to hear the Good News. Of course, you haven’t heard it directly from Jesus, but you’ve also had more time to think about it, talk about it, study it. You’ve had time and opportunity to decide how you want to follow Jesus.

I know that you have been intentional in inviting others to join us.  I know that you have been turned down, rejected. Same thing happened to the disciples. Jesus knew it would, so he gave them some advice: keep moving. 11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”

I’d like to point out one other instruction that Jesus gave the disciples:10 Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. Notice that he didn’t send them to synagogues and schools. He sent them to homes.  I could preach a whole other sermon on how important Christian education in the home is.  At home, we are ourselves.  At church, we are on good behavior. When you are at home, relationships, conversations take on a different emphasis. Home is where the heart is, where decisions are made, where discussions are held, where Christian behavior is modeled.

There are four more verses we need to address. They are found further down in the chapter, but they are the result of the disciples’ ground-breaking ministry:

30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them.

They had much to report, but there were too many people around, so Jesus suggested that they go off someplace to rest and recuperate and debrief.  But they couldn’t even do that because they were recognized. Not just Jesus, but the disciples. People recognized them.

At the beginning of this sermon, I talked about being recognized. I am recognized for being a teacher.  I am recognized for working at a movie theater. I am recognized as a preacher. I once wanted recognition for my singing, for my painting, for my sewing, for my cooking….each of us has our categories that we think define us.   What is it that you’d like to be recognized for?  Your grandchildren?  Your garden?  Your car?  Your clothes?  Your pets?  Your volunteer work?  Your ability to run up Brady Street Hill in the middle of the summer?

  

Here is today’s reminder of who we are.  Let us all pray that when anyone recognizes us, they recognize us as Christians. Amen.

1 Cousin Rev. Mark Pries pointed this fact out in his sermon for July 19, 2015. That’s what inspired this sermon.

2 Yesterday was the annual Bix race in the Quad Cities.Part of the route includes a long steep hill.

God’s Talent for God’s Music

The number of hymns we enjoy would be limited if it weren’t for the the talent of performers and recording artists.  The hymnals in our pews can only hold so many hymns.  And, frankly, our singing doesn’t aways do them justice. Praise God, there are plenty of people who share their music via recordings and performances. Today’s sermon features six of them.

Because the focus is on their recordings, I’ll say very little about the artists; instead we’ll listen to their music. Click on the links to hear each hymn.

“What a Friend We have in Jesus” 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ZSnZptE3o4

George Beverly Shea was the son of a pastor and grew up in the Christian faith.  He had a distinguished career as a soloist on radio shows and with crusades, most notably  with the Billy Graham crusades. Because of the large number of crusades at which he performed, he  has sung live before more people than anyone else in history. 

“Just a Closer Walk with Thee”

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LdWi_5w3__w

Tennessee Ernie Ford was a native of Tennessee and started his professional career as a radio DJ.  Ford also toured with various bands and recorded his music. HIs two most popular songs were “Sixteen Tons” and “The Shotgun Boogie.” Eventually he moved into television.  He was plagued by alcoholism most of his life, but his work ethic overcame his struggles as he performed for over forty years. Against the wishes of his producers, Ford finished every episode with a hymn.

“Awesome God” 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aaU6EMR37NA

Michael W. Smith  has sold more than15 million albums, scored 28 No. 1 hits, earned three Grammys and more than 40 Dove Awards. He writes much of his music. He has been a major influence on contemporary Christian music.

“When the Roll is called up Yonder”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sDrPLANLvTY

Johnny Cash was comfortable and successful in a variety of music genre. Consequently, he won the rare honor of multiple inductions in the Country Music, Rock and Roll and Gospel Music Halls of Fame. 

“It is Well with My Soul” 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgeyYqaDroo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bvq3pYsHidA

William J. “Bill” Gaither is both a singer and songwriter. If you look in our Celebration hymnal, you will see that he and his wife Gloria have contributed many hymns to Christians. Gaither created  The Homecoming series, which gathers together prominent gospel musicians and groups to perform on the stage together.  It is still televised on Saturday night in our area.

“Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPKpkrqBwNs

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir was founded in August 1847.  The choir is made up of 360 men and women who volunteer their time and talent.  For many, singing in the choir is a family tradition, generation after generation. They have sung all over the world and have released more than 130 recordings.