Sunday, July 08, 2012

Shaking off the Dust

or... all that you can't leave behind

07.08.2012 ~ r street community church

Mark 6:1-13 (NIV)

6 Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. 2 When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.
“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? 3 Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

4 Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” 5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 He was amazed at their lack of faith.

Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. 7 Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits.

8 These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. 9 Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. 10 Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. 11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”

12 They went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.
These verses have always come in handy when I am feeling particularly put upon or under appreciated. There is a certain comfort in the idea that anyone who does not see how wise or how awesome or how amazing I am is unable to do so because, after all,
“A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.”
Certainly a better conclusion than to consider the possibility that I am not so wise, awesome, or amazing.

I like the way these two stories come in succession. They each have something to say individually but taken together I see a larger concept that has been particularly meaningful to me of late. I think this story, seen in the right way, will give us a poignant look at where we might find ourselves as individuals and as a community.

On Friday, Kim and I attended a very casual reunion of her high school class – 1982 – 30 years. Kim has attended all of her reunions and I have accompanied her to all but one. 5 years, 10, 20, and now 30. I, on the other hand, have attended none of mine. Missed them all. Do not really plan to go to the next one either. Steve Earle once wrote, in the song “Home Town Blues”
"I wish I'd never come back home
It don't feel right since I've been grown
I can't find any of my old friends hangin' 'round
Won't nothin' bring you down like your hometown" ~steve earle
I get that. Some of you get it too. And it seems that in today’s story, Jesus gets it as well. He’s been away and he has been talked about. Everybody is talking about this new preacher from Nazareth. The stories are passed from town to town and, by the time Jesus shows up in Nazareth, the buzz is nearly deafening. But… below the buzz is a great deal of eye-rolling and sighing and folks who knew Jesus “in the day”; old friends and neighbors who are pretty cynical about his new fame.
“isn’t this Mary’s kid?”
“isn’t this James’ brother?”
“wasn’t his dad a… carpenter?”
You might assume that Jesus halo might have been at least somewhat visible as he grew up in Nazareth but if it was, it was not for most. Maybe familiarity truly does breed contempt. For them, he was only the carpenter’s son.

So; whether it was a matter of his power being blocked by their doubt, or, by his own doubt… the kind that many of us experience when we go back to a place where we are less impressive than we had hoped… whatever the reason; Jesus seems less successful in Nazareth. He was unable to do things he had done elsewhere with seeming ease. And so… he leaves Nazareth and continues to teach and heal and minister in other villages where his has less history.

And then, after a time, Jesus’ calls the 12 together and tells them, “you guys have been watching me do this… why don’t you give it a try?” He sends them out in twos (another indication that anything we are called to do, we are called to do; not alone, but in community). And he gives them some pretty specific instructions.
1. take nothing – no food , no money, no back-pack

2. dress light – the sandals on your feet and the clothes on your back

3. find somebody who will let you sleep on their couch and stay there

4. if you are not welcome – shake the dust off your feet and leave
It’s this last one that interests me most in context of the first half of the story. We have just read that Jesus went to the place where he grew up and they did not really seem all that glad to have him back. Once he arrived the response was pretty disappointing and Jesus eventually left. And now he sends his team out with the memory of their Nazareth trip still fresh. Maybe this was their first bust. Maybe Nazareth was the first place they visited where they were not wildly successful. We don’t really know but we do know this; Jesus sent his disciples out with knowledge that their Nazareth experience might not be isolated. Maybe he knew that Peter or Thomas might end up back in their hometowns. Maybe he worried that Matthew might encounter a city he had previously extorted for tax payments. Whatever he knew he suspected that not every community would embrace them or their mission and he told them so before he sent them out. And… he told them what to do.
“shake the dust off your feel”
“don’t leave with any part of that community to weigh you down”
What seems, at first, like an act of defiance, sort of akin to a one-figure gesture with which we might be acquainted; turns out to be an act of self healing. It is an act of necessity as they move on to the next community. In order to boldly declare the good news, these men had to let their failures fall to the ground and be quickly forgotten. Carrying the dust of these towns on their feet would eventually impede their journey. It would eventually slow their pace and cause them to lose heart. And so, Jesus tells them to “shake it off” and move on. Even if the dust they need to discard comes from places once called home.

We sold our old building and moved out when the structure began to drive our mission more than our calling. We shook off the dust of that space and moved on. We also found that the mission that we believed Jesus was speaking to us was not embraced by all of us. Some in our community began to ask
“isn’t this the same old church?”
“weren’t they the guys that used to…?”
Sometimes moving toward something means moving away from something, or someone else.
“love is not the easy thing...
The only baggage you can bring
Is all that you can't leave behind” ~U2
I can’t speak for anyone but myself but I can tell you… confess to you… that sometimes I tend to see more what I have lost than what remains. This is my tendency in most areas and has certainly been true in my role here at r street. But; I am learning that it is a waste of time and vision and energy to spend too much effort looking back and mourning what was lost; mourning the dust that has fallen from my feet. Instead, I am choosing to look at what remains; to look at those things and those people that I could not leave behind. I am seeing that what remains is always of greater value than what was left behind.

And so, I look at you who came together out of the dust of our old story. And… I look at you who have shaken off dust from other stories and joined us in ours. And we remember all that we have left behind in order to come to this moment and we smile in the remembering. But when we look upon one another, on all that we can’t leave behind, our smiles become joy and anticipation and determination in our mission to be the community Jesus is teaching us to become.
“love is not the easy thing...
The only baggage you can bring
Is all that you can't leave behind” ~U2
May we cease to mourn over what is lost and begin to rejoice over what is found. May the faces we see on our journey be as precious to us as the faces we no longer see… and may they become more precious to us as our story continues.

His kingdom come.

1 comment:

Janna Barber said...

This reminds me of Florence and the Machine. "Cuz it's hard to dance with the devil on your back, so shake him off!"