Pentecost 8

So last week we learned that there is indeed no place like home.  Jesus was essentially rejected by the people of His hometown; they heard His words and witness His deeds and while amazed by Him, they didn’t accept Him.  Instead, they were scandalized by Jesus; Mark actually uses the Greek word skandalizo, meaning that the townspeople were tripped up by Jesus, they couldn’t justify the man in front of them with the boy they used to know.  That’s why priests rarely serve anywhere near their hometown – it can be difficult to call someone ‘father’ who you used to kick off your lawn or had played Little League with.

The basic human response to rejection is some combination of humiliation, sadness, anger, and frustration.  Surely Jesus didn’t enjoy being rejected by the people He had always known and loved, and if He had decided to slink away and hide for a while, I doubt any of us would have blamed Him.  But Jesus was a bigger man than that, and so instead of letting that rejection get to Him, He doubled down.

“It’s important for us to remember that, as people who celebrate resurrection, and who have faith in the abiding work of the Holy Spirit, rejection can be the beginning of ministry, rather than its end.  So instead of getting bogged down in provincial nonsense, Jesus commissions his disciples to follow him, by not following him around for a while, and go out, “among the villages” of the countryside, proclaiming the Good News that God desires a new intimacy with humanity, and is doing wonderful things to make that happen.”[1]

Now, this might not come as a galloping shock, but I’m a bit of an extrovert.  Go the next village?  Sure!  But if I was an introvert (and most priests are violently introverted), I would have been horrified. ““Go and talk to people we don’t know? Can’t we just skip to the part where they stone us?”  But Jesus wasn’t just trying to cover more ground; he wanted the disciples to begin to take a sense of investment in his mission; to begin to take on responsibility, and agency; and to gain the kind of deep understanding you can only get by living the message they had so far been merely learning.

“This missionary journey only gets a few verses, but it prefigures not only the apostolic ministry that the disciples would begin after the day of Pentecost, but also the life of ministry to which every Christian is called, the Church’s pattern of proclamation and service in every age.

“As we grow in knowledge, experience, and understanding, our call grows with us.  We have to grow, for while God is always with us, God is more readily manifest outside our comfort zone and when we are less powerful; our own comfort and self-regard can easily blind us to what God is doing, or opportunities God might give us to advance God’s work on Earth.  And so Jesus keeps pushing us out of familiar territory and into new mission fields, new vocations, new opportunities to bring the life and hope and joy of God in Christ to a world that needs them, badly.

“We may tell ourselves that other people don’t want to hear the Good News of God’s unconditional love.  We may tell ourselves that religion is strictly a private matter, or that evangelism is something that other people are called to do, but the truth is that (privacy is the enemy of faith.  Comfort is the enemy of discipleship.)”

Fr. Rob Droste is fond of saying that “The church we want is on the other side of a ridiculously small amount of fear.”

We may feel unready, or uncomfortable.  But the power of Christ dwells in us.  God’s grace is sufficient for us.  You can be a healer without performing a miraculous cure, for grace and truth will heal a wounded soul.  You can be an apostle without walking very far, and you are already well-equipped with knowledge, with this community around you, and the love of God in your heart.

You or your words may be rejected – if it happened to Jesus, it will happen to us.  But that’s the beginning of ministry, not the end.

[1] Fr. Bret Hays

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