the tentmaker

daily thoughts on the common lectionary

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Location: Sharpsburg, Georgia, United States

"...because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together — by trade they were tentmakers." Acts 18:3. Tentmaker is a title taken by bi-vocational pastors. As such, I am both a pastor and a project manager. I am a pastor of a local congregation of moderate, accepting and affirming people who worship in the Baptist tradition. We call our church "Hope Memorial Baptist" and we are about 40 in number. I am also a project manager of major construction projects for the State of Georgia. My home and church is in rural Coweta County, between Peachtree City and Newnan, with a mailing address of Sharpsburg, Georgia.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Year B - Ordinary 14

Can You Hear Christ's Message and His Mission?

How we relate to Jesus affects how we hear his message and how we hear his message affects the way we carry out his mission.

Mark is the first to tell the story of Jesus' return to his hometown. After gaining noteriety in the surrounding area of Gallilee as a teacher and a healer, Jesus decides to take his good news to his friends and relatives.

When Jesus was at home in Nazareth, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath as we presume he did as a young boy. This time he stood up to read and began to teach the peole. It was appropriate for a rabbi with a following as Jesus had to teach in the synagogue wherever he traveled. Jesus had done so in Capernaum, where he also performed great miracles.

But the people at home didn't know him as a rabbi, a teacher of wisdom and a performer if great miracles. They were too familiar with him to take him seriously as a prophet bearing good news from God.

They thought they already knew Jesus. They had watched him grow up, the mysterious child of Mary with no father. He was the Carpenter wasn't he? He made things with his hands. He was no philosopher, no teacher. Where did he get all of this?

He was the son of Mary who still lived in the village. His brothers and sisters were well known among the people, they could call them by name: James, Joseph, Judas and Simon. He might have been a precosious lad, but then he went off. Now he has come back with grand ideas about himself. Why he's no different from us!

Their knowledge of him was only superficial. They had only known him from afar at a time before he received his calling from God. Perhaps Mary and Jesus had known, as he was growing up that he had a special mission in life. But Mary had kept all these things hidden in her heart, didn't she?

They expected Jesus to act in a certain way prescribed by the rules of the community. He should have been home taking care of his mother. Helping with the support of such a large family: five boys and at least two sisters. Because he had gone away, deserting the care of his family, the locals could not see him as a teacher, a rabbi or a man of God.

The people of Nazareth could not hear his message. To hear his message, they had to change the way they thought about him.

Mark gives us the story in broad brush, but we have to turn to Luke's version of the story to get important details. With the rest of the story from Luke we can better understand why Jesus got the reception he did, and how we too must take care in how we receive his message and carry out his mission.

Luke 4:16-21 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
Isaiah 61:1-2
The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
he has sent me
to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

What a thing to say! Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing! The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, the Lord has annointed me - I am God's annointed, the messiah.

To the people of Nazareth this seemed like more than just poppycock, it seemed like blasphemy, like heresy. It is easier for us, removed some 2,000 years from this day, to hear the message than it was for the men of Nazareth.

But it is still difficult for us to hear this message. To us following Jesus is wrapped up in going to Sunday school and attending church. We meet with people who believe like we do and talk about the bible and the gospel and about missions. And then we get in our cars and go home. Like the people of Nazareth, we have to change the way we think about Jesus in order to hear his message and carry out his mission.

The Lord has sent me...on a mission.

To bring good news to the oppressed.
That good news is that God loves you. Your oppression need not be the center of your life.

To bind up the broken hearted. Jesus came that we might have life and that we might have it more abundantly.

To proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners. The jails and prisions were full of people whose only crime was poverty. They could not pay the Roman tax, or they owed debts they could not pay. Some were sold as indentured servants to pay for their debts. Some were in prision because they backed the wrong party.

To comfort all who mourn. Those who mourn the loss of loved ones. Those who mourned the loss of their good name. Those who mourned the loss their self respect.

This was Jesus' own understanding of his mission on earth. But Jesus knew his ministry would be very short. In fact, it only lasted three years. Three years! Less time than a governor serves his state. Less time than a President serves his courntry. Jesus burst on the scene and in three short years he was gone again. But John tells us that Jesus said this: my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.

And as the children learned in Vacation Bible School this year, he said

Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

And they learned this:

Matthew 28:19-20 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

Jesus' mission for us is to continue the mission God gave him.

The apostle Paul tells us more about the mission Jesus has sent us on:

2 Corinthians 5:17-20 ...if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

Remember he said...
The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me
to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;

Thanks be to God.


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