A sermon for the 6th Sunday after Pentecost, July 5, 2015
Trinity Church of Morrisania, Bronx, New York
And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them.
Jesus went home, and he taught in the synagogue and it was pretty impressive. But THEY knew his background. “That Mary woman, he’s her son. Yeah, we know about that family. He’s just a rough carpenter, sometimes picked up work framing houses—but I hear now he mostly just wanders around the countryside with those ‘disciples’ of his. He’s better off just wandering out of here.”
Around home, they know all the down sides of people. When we know people from a long time back, we’re not so inclined to be polite about them, and we’re not so inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt—because we think we know them. But with strangers, it’s different. Especially when someone appears successful, well-dressed, wealthy, powerful. Despite the fact that we really don’t know them, we want to think of them as perfect. And we want to imagine that the people we endorse are perfect—perfectly powerful, perfectly good-looking, no blemishes or doubtful aspects to their background, and certainly never disagreeing with us, or calling our behavior into question.
Jesus was a hometown boy, and the people remembered every little thing, every jealousy, every mistake, every disagreement. By the way—when we talk about Jesus being the incarnation of God, we tend to think that he didn’t make mistakes. I think that’s wrong. He was a human being, and there is no reason to think that, as a Palestinian kid, he did calculus and differential equations as a three-year-old. His perfection was in being the perfect manifestation of God’s love, and that did not mean that he was never annoying to his elders or contemporaries. So he came to his home town, and he preached in the synagogue. And at first, the listened and the insight touched them, it was extraordinary, but then they said, wait… we know this guy, he’s not so impressive…he’s not a great philosopher, he’s a carpenter. And we know his family… you know, one of those families—in fact those brothers, James and Joses, I had some dealings with them…
Like the rest of us, the people of Nazareth were looking for something really big, and really impressive, and from sources that could not possibly be criticized. And you know what? Those sources don’t exist, because ever since Eve saw that apple and got into that conversation with the serpent, criticism and suspicion have been a big part of how people do business. So great acts of power… the people of Nazareth weren’t going to see those.
What did Jesus do? It says, “he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them.” Jesus reached out and healed, and pretty much nobody noticed. Because he was familiar, and not driving the newest car, or wearing the fanciest clothes, no one noticed that he reached out to the sick and healed them. No flashes of lightning or puffs of smoke, no fireworks like we saw last night, he just laid his hands on a few sick people and cured their disease.
The important things that God does are not fireworks. We come to God for salvation, but that word salvation, it does not mean dramatic rescues, or big rewards far away and a long time off, salvation means healing, salving, of our souls, our relationships, our bodies and our society. Sometimes, especially close to home, that healing comes without all the fanfare that we might want or expect. Jesus healed a few sick people, and that was all that was necessary. Then he sent out those twelve who were with him. Two by two they went with nothing. Just themselves, no resources. And what did he tell them to do? “Whenever you enter the house stay there.” That’s all, stay there. Nothing big, nothing dramatic and nothing about what wonderful people the disciples were, or even how wonderful Jesus was. So they were there, they talked about the love of God and repentance. In the process here’s what the Gospel says happened, “They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.”
Sometimes we think, “Oh, if I just lived in Bible times, or the times of the early church!” or “Oh, if there was just the opportunity to know what God is clearly calling me to do, and the chance to do it.” I’ve certainly thought that at times. But if we look at Jesus and his disciples, their life was much like our lives, and what they did, was what we do, they came together, talked about the love of God, prayed for the sick and anointed them with oil.
Friends we are living in Bible times. Events of the last few weeks in Charleston and elsewhere, show that our society has many demons to be cast out. God is the one who casts out demons, but we gather together and pray—like the disciples we may have no bread, no bag, no money in our belts—but God cures the sick and gives us life, not through drama, but through his presence.
St. Paul said this to the church at Corinth:
“God said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ So I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefor I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”