Putting on the Cape-of-Christ

July 5, 2015

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA

The 6th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 9 
2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10; 2 Corinthians 122-10; Mark 6:1-13

(Gospel text is provided at the bottom of this post)

When I was growing up, summertime was a time for going to the movies – in movie theaters – long before Netflix and On-Demand. We’d pull out the entertainment section of the morning newspaper… you know, a real paper. We’d turn to the movie page to get the theaters and starting times, and we’d begin to figure out what we wanted to see.

The first thing you have to decide is what kind of movie you want to see – drama, romance, or action/adventure. Action was usually a safe bet, and in today’s fast-paced world, it seems to still be a big-draw.

2b9fc214-bc1a-4c1c-b219-29422ca97e5fIf you Googled action-movies right now – please don’t, but if you did – you’d find a series of sequels to action films we can’t seem to get enough of, like Terminator, Mad Maxx and Jurassic Park. And then we have the Marvel Comic-book inspired Action-Hero movie: The Avengers! – where Superheroes come together, joining forces to save the planet from the evil villains of the world.

If I characterize the Gospels by movie genre, I’d say that Matthew seems more like a documentary, while The Gospel of Mark would be the Action/Adventure Movie of the New Testament. No, really! You may not be able to tell from the lesson we read today, but when we look at it as a whole, it’s filled with action.

It begins with this odd-looking character named John – dressed in camel’s hair cinched up with a leather belt. We’re told he ate locusts and wild honey, and spoke boldly of the power of one who would be coming after him.

Then Jesus is baptized – the sky opens up and a voice comes from the heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Then immediately the Spirit, another mystical force, drives Jesus into the wilderness where Jesus is faced with temptations by Satan for forty days and nights.

Source: http://www.fomquincy.com/

When Jesus comes out of the wilderness, he figures he better get some side-kicks, some fellow-avengers, to help on his mission. He grabbed a couple of fishermen, Peter and Andrew and used their gifts to fish for people! He did the same with James and John. Without the need of a phone booth, they simply dropped their nets and followed Jesus.

 

With this small contingent, he began teaching with authority that none had seen before. Jesus is then confronted by some of the fiercest demons, and they recognized him for who was – but Jesus was able to command even these demons to be silent, and he cast them out!

By the end of the first day great crowds – it says the whole city – had gathered around the door of the house where he was staying, and he cured many who were sick and he cast out more demons!

The next morning, Jesus slips out very early to get some quiet time, and even then the disciples come and find him and tell Jesus that everyone is looking for him. But, Jesus, never content to stay put; always sure of his long-term goal; says

“Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons. (Mk 1:38b-39)

All of this, and we’re still in the first chapter… only a few minutes into the Action Movie of Mark’s Gospel! Jesus: the Ultimate Avenger!

As the story moves forward, people are coming from out of the wood-work to see Jesus and to hear his teachings and to be healed by him. Roofs of houses are being removed so a paralyzed man can be lowered down to where Jesus was.

All the while the Pharisees are deriding Jesus along the way – challenging what he’s doing; criticizing how the disciples are behaving, and questioning the source of Jesus’ power – is it from God or from Satan? But, Jesus’ work will not be thwarted!

He continues to go from town to town. So many are coming to hear him that he has the disciples get him a boat so he can be on the water while the people are on the shore. He wants to make sure folks can hear his message – his teaching in parables.

By the end of the middle of the third chapter, the rest of the twelve disciples are named. His team of super-hero-apostles are in place! We are told that they will be sent out to proclaim the message and have authority to cast out demons!

As he continues on his mission, large crowds press against him. We hear that a woman, sick for twelve years, simply reaches out to touch the hem of Jesus’ cape – err, I mean cloak – and she is healed. He even brings a young girl back from the brink of death.  An action-adventure, indeed!

But, what’s interesting in Mark’s gospel is that whenever Jesus goes home, when he goes back to his hometown, it seems to affect his momentum.

w300-cd8d51ee2199b761826270caf380ee83You know how that can happen, right? It’s like going back to your high school reunion. It doesn’t matter how successful you’ve been in the corporate world; the leadership you’ve exhibited; the prestige you’ve gained in your adult life. If you were the outcast, the loner, or even the guy who dropped what would’ve been the game-winning pass in the championship football game– those are the images that all too often get put back on us when we return home.

We see this in today’s gospel reading.

It tells us that Jesus returned to his hometown. He began teaching in the synagogue, and they were astounded by what they heard. But then they said in what is likely a suspicious tone:

Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being 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.

KRYPTONITEThen, acknowledging that prophets have no credibility in their hometown, this powerful Jesus; the one who has done so much in all these other places – it’s as if he’s been exposed to kryptonite. It says: And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them.

Holy Gospel, Jesus, what are we gonna do? Without you, who will share the Good News?!

But do not fear! Jesus has a plan!

When things aren’t working the way he wants them to, he doesn’t give up on his mission. No! He doesn’t desert his purpose. Never!

He turns to his trusty side-kicks; his fellow travelers on this journey of mission. The gospel says:

jesus-sandals[Jesus] called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered 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 to put on two tunics… So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

Not unlike the caped-crusaders, these disciples were sent out! behind-the-panels-issue-6-bannerAnd not unlike Clark Kent who peels away the extra layers of clothes, to make himself light and ready for whatever Superman might face, these disciples were to travel light; they must be nimble.  No food, no money, no bag, no extra clothes – only the bare essentials for mission – a walking stick and a good pair of sandals. They were to go just as they were.

Oh, and one more thing, they also bear the AUTHORITY and EMPOWERMENT given them by Jesus Christ! That’s essential!

They go out in pairs, to proclaim the message of God and to care for those who are sick and in need. To go into other communities where they are not known; to enter these places and make relationships with people who are different than them; to risk rejection, and even if that comes, to brush it off and continue moving forward.

We, the church of today, can learn a lot from this example.

Like them, Jesus empowers us, even commands us, to GO OUT.

We have studies – like the recent Pew Report – that tell us that the number of people in this country who identify with the Christian faith is in decline. This is particularly true for younger adults; those in their twenties and thirties. But do we really need reports to tell us this? Just look around you right now.

We as a church institution have grown accustomed to having people come in through our doors week after week, either because they have a connection to our tradition and liturgy, or from a sense of obligation. Similarly, Jesus, in Mark’s gospel, had become accustomed to large groups of people flocking to him. But we now find ourselves to be more like Jesus in his hometown, when fewer people were coming to him; fewer are coming through the doors of the church, as well.

This is a new reality. And, like Jesus, we will continue to serve those who do come to us. But also like Jesus, we must find new and creative ways to fulfill our ultimate purpose: to proclaim God’s message of love in the world; to care for those in need; and to build relationships with those that are different than us.

To do this, we must GO OUT into the world – trusting that Jesus is with us on this journey. We are to GO OUT, not with bags of money; not with food; not as “experts trying to fix a problem,” but simply with our hearts, eyes, and listening ears wide open. We must do the work of finding out what this community needs and how we might be able to minister to those needs more fully

Through this work, we put on the Cape-of-Christ. In it, we embody what it is to be SENT-people; living into our Christian mission; living into Jesus’ life-long purpose more fully; more completely.

Christ Church has a history of God-centered work.

Christ Church is being called upon once again… do you hear it?

Someone needs us! Let’s go find out who it is!

Let’s go, just as we are – trusting in the power of Jesus Christ – and let’s see what we can do!

Businessman Wearing Cape --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Businessman Wearing Cape — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

 

The Gospel Text:

Jesus left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being 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. Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.

Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered 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 to put on two tunics. He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them. (Mk 6:1-13)

 

Link to Pew Research Report: http://www.pewforum.org/2015/05/12/americas-changing-religious-landscape/

2 Responses to “Putting on the Cape-of-Christ”

  1. Aunt Caty said

    Beautifully said 😘😘

  2. PotLuckMama said

    I yearn to share my faith with my family. Sometimes I do better; sometimes I fall short. My oldest son has a learning difference. He is challenged to focus or sit still, so sharing worship with him has been a stress on me in the past. I’ve felt shame when others look at us disapprovingly or shush him. How do I teach him about God’s love when his experience is admonishment? How can I turn him to the needs of others when his own spiritual needs have not been met?

    When Christ Church laid their capes on the floor in front of the first pew and invited children forward to sit on it, they proclaimed God’s message of love in the world, cared for those in need, and built relationships in spite of differences. We were in distress, and this gesture was nothing short of heroism.

    This did not require money. There was no food to lure him forward. It was not a youth program that made my son want to return and worship with me again. It was not a playground. It was not the music or the alter flowers or even the sermon. We felt loved and accepted – in spite of being who we are. That’s what made him want to return with me to worship God at Christ Church again.

    All it took was a cape on the floor.

    Thank you!!!

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