Mark 6: 1- 13
I speak to you in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
“Well”, I thought to myself, “This is not at all what I expected. Not at all”. I am sure you can relate to this expression. Whatever the circumstance, you had certain expectations, and they were not met. Sometimes this is very disturbing. Sometimes, more rarely, it can cause excitement with new perspectives.
Our Gospel reading today is full of unmet expectations. Jesus has returned to his hometown where he grew up and he is invited to teach in the synagogue. We hear right away that “many who heard him were astounded.” His teaching was, in other words, not at all what people had expected.
I think it was the leaders of the synagogue who were the most astounded. They remembered that boy Jesus who always came to synagogue. I think their expectation was of that human boy Jesus returning. And what they got was the grown up Jesus, the divine Jesus teaching. Their expectations were shattered. And this shook them, and even worried them. Quite naturally they had some questions on their mind;
“Where did this man get this?” They realize that Jesus has become a holy man who speaks the truth of God. What a change!
“What is this wisdom that has been given to him?” They were indeed astounded by his interpretation and knowledge of the scripture. What a change!
“What deeds of power are being done by his hands?” No doubt they had heard of Jesus’ healing ministry in the surrounding areas and now even in Nazareth. What a change!
Not at all what they had expected.
And to look at it from Jesus’ point of view, at first it seemed as though people were listening to him and his teaching in the synagogue, but then the leadership rejected him. His response to this rejection is is not confrontational against the leaders, but rather clarifies the real issues at hand. He says; “Prophets are not without honour, except in their home town, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” Past youthful memories of Jesus blocked people from accepting the present day Jesus. Most of all Jesus is amazed at peoples’ unbelief. Unbelief. He knew that no ministry can be done if there is not belief. It was not at all what he had expected.
So both sides had expectations shattered. What happens then?
The leaders’ questions were appropriate and if they had just stopped there and listened some more to Jesus, they would have had some answers. However, they felt threatened, so they view Jesus as an opponent, and feel they must put forward a defense. Now they question “Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” You see, rather than accept Jesus for who he was in the present moment, they revert to the past to discredit him in the present. It is a cheap political trick, to avoid the real issue at hand and rather attack someone personally. The leaders’ expectation that Jesus would be the same was wrong, but they do not see that, they opt to maintain the status quo, so they take offence and reject Jesus.
Jesus, on the other hand, accepts his defeat in Nazareth, and rather than attacking others, he does what his Father’s will is, he continues to build up the Kingdom of God. He leaves Nazareth and continues teaching in other villages. He also outlines a new role for his disciples, one that will make them very effective in building up God’s kingdom. He sends them out, two by two, and gives them authority over unclean spirits. Given his experience in Nazareth, he tells them now to stay where they are welcomed, but to leave if they are not welcomed, just as he has done. And we hear; “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.” Jesus no doubt was sad about his rejection in Nazareth, but the real issue was the peoples’ disbelief. That crushed him. Nevertheless, it did not deter him from his mission. He certainly did not opt for the status quo, but rather continued to bring about God’s glorious kingdom and increase belief. Alleluia!
When our expectations are not met, we can do the same. We can either crawl back into our shell like the leaders of the synagogue, or, like Jesus, learn from the experience and head out in new directions. If we choose new directions we must first look at why our expectations were not met. We need to acknowledge the truth. Jesus quickly realized why he had been rejected. There was no belief. Although this was not what he expected he knew that if this was the case he had to leave, so he did.
Secondly, we must adjust our goals. Jesus, having left Nazareth now continues his ministry as well as increasing the ministry of his disciples. This will strengthen his mission. With what we learn, we adjust our goals.
Finally, we must believe and ask God to help. Jesus gave instructions to the disciples and was behind them all the way. So, truth, goals and support all help us when we head out in new directions after our expectations have not been met.
And is that not exactly where we are right now? What a year and a half. Talk about expectations being crushed! That’s what a pandemic does. And now, as we move forward hopefully out of pandemic times, we must speak the truth, adjust our goals and ask for support.
Talking of the truth, what have you learned from the pandemic? Hopefully it has re-ordered your priorities. Certainly when suddenly you are told you cannot have any human contact with family or friends you realize how very important that is. I have missed my family and my Christian community terribly but I know now, more than before, how important they are in my life.
As your expectations totally changed, and your life got re-prioritized, how will you now adjust your goals. As a church our goal remains the same, to love God and love our neighbour as ourselves, but how will we best do that now? I was very grateful that the Dean sent out a questionnaire to us all to think about what the church will look like from now on. We must move forward in new ways to fulfill God’s mission here in downtown Montreal.
Finally, we must be a praying people. Discerning the will of God, for God is with us right here and right now. Jesus is alive and the Holy Spirit wants to guide and support us on our way. New ways. Better ways of being in community. New ways of bringing about the kingdom of God.
Our gracious and merciful Lord is creating new expectations for each one of us, expectations that will be solid and hopeful. This last year and a half was not what we expected, but now let us go forward with new truths, strong goals and lots of prayer.