Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
July 9, 2006
The Gospel: Mark 6:1-6
Sermon: "Love and Compassion or Arrogance"
The Rev. William D. Oldland
He 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.
Love and Compassion or Arrogance
Fifth Sunday after Pentecost - July 9, 2006
The year was 1948. The presidential race was up and running. President Harry Truman was running for his first term as president for the Democratic Party. He had taken the position after Franklin Roosevelt passed away in office. The Republican candidate was Thomas Dewey. He was the governor of New York. The Democratic Party was split three ways. Every poll taken predicted that Dewey would win this race hands down. Everyone was so sure of the results that one leading newspaper even published the front page with huge letters stating, "Dewey Wins." And we all know what happened. Dewey didn't win. He was sure he was going to win. He believed his own press. He was very surprised.
A little bit of arrogance can go a long way. Some people might call it determination. Some people might say an individual with arrogance is self-assured or bold. Some people get taken in by this show of self-assuredness or boldness and believe that the person is right on many topics. But if a person is truly arrogant, no matter how they try to hide it, it eventually comes out. Everyone figures it out in the end. A classic poem about arrogance befitting of this time of year is, "Casey at the Bat." Mighty Casey believed in his own press too. Instead of hitting the ball and winning the game he struck out. Bravado doesn't matter when one fails to produce.
The bottom line is we really don't like arrogant people anyway. Arrogance shows us falseness in a person. We feel we can't trust them. We feel they are unsafe. The funny thing is for many years people around the world have called us the arrogant Americans. We don't like this behavior and yet we act like it in many ways. I wonder if we even realize it or if it is so engrained in human nature that we just can't help ourselves.
The reason I raise this question is because of the Gospel reading. Jesus has come back to his home in Nazareth. He starts to teach in the synagogue. The teaching must have been really good. Many people liked what they were hearing. They were astonished by what he was saying. In addition to the teaching, he was also healing. They were astounded by his abilities. They were astounded until they thought for a minute. Then they realized they knew him. He had grown up around them. They knew all about his family. They knew about his mother and siblings. They knew his father. They knew he was just a carpenter. Then they got angry. Their arrogance got in the way. There was no way Jesus, the carpenter, could do these things. It had to be some kind of trick. This man was only the boy down the street grown up. He was nothing else but a man, a human being like them.
Jesus did not come into the town with flair. He did not come with banners and trumpets leading the way. He came home humbly and sharing what he knew. He came home sharing love and showing compassion. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if Jesus had simply announced he was the Messiah. If he had made the announcement and then done the healing, would things have been different? Would peoples' eyes have been opened to see the miracles more clearly? Would their ears be ready to hear the teaching of God? I don't know. Something tells me they would have labeled him as arrogant and a show-off. It seems to me Jesus was in a lose - lose situation.
We could just leave this story right here. We could just say that Jesus wasn't accepted in his own hometown and leave it alone. But it wouldn't begin to address some other aspects of this story. The other aspects are critical for us as Christians. One aspect of this story is the manner in which Jesus did come to this town. He did come humbly He came with compassion. He did the things one normally does. On the Sabbath he went to synagogue. I've noticed when children come back home to Reidsville they often come to church on Sunday. He came bearing the message that God loved the people. He shared it openly. Our lesson is to do the same. We have a story to tell. We have wonders to share about what God has done in our lives. It is up to us how we tell the story. Will we be arrogant or will we be compassionate and loving? How we tell the story is just as important as what we tell.
Secondly, when Jesus was confronted with the doubt he didn't leave and he didn't get angry. He acknowledged the doubt and kept on doing what he was to do until time to leave. If we notice, Jesus didn't quit offering healing. He kept offering it to those who would come. We face the same issues today. More and more we hear people questioning the existence of God. More and more people are doubting that Jesus even really existed.
During seminary I learned of two movements concerning this issue. One was called, The Search for the Historical Jesus and the other was known as The Jesus Seminar. Both of these movements tried to determine if Jesus really lived by looking into the historical documents. They attempted to determine which words Jesus actually spoke and which words were the result of the Gospel authors' own interpretation. They looked into other sources for proof of Jesus' birth, life and death. The funny thing is after all their work the conclusions are rather funny. They can't prove with factual evidence that Jesus did not exist any more than I can prove with physical evidence that Jesus did exist. No one can offer birth certificates or death certificates. No one has found carved in a house somewhere, “Jesus slept here.” No one has found with absolute certainty the tomb and the stone that was rolled away.
Yet, there is evidence in the Gospel stories. There are documents that talk about a group of people called Followers of the Way. There is the evidence of a group of people whose lives were so changed that they carried the message even though it cost many their lives. The message they carried was not one of arrogance. They tried to carry the message they learned of love and compassion and belief.
Today, a group of people from three churches are leaving with the support of their communities to work on a home. This home belongs to a couple. The home was in such poor condition that it was taken all the way down to the frame. Groups before us have rebuilt that frame. They have put on the roof and they have rebuilt the walls. Our job is to go to this house and paint it and trim it. We are to help put the finishing touches on this home so this couple can move back to their house. How will we act when we get there? Will we act with love and compassion or will we come in saying get out of the way the real crew is here now? How will we respond to people when they look at us as if we were crazy because we gave up a week of our summer to help someone else in the name of Jesus Christ?