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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Mark 6:1–13

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. 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. (NRSV)

There are some fun stories out there about Jesus as a kid. The Koran talks about him making clay birds and bringing them to life; the Infancy Gospel of Thomas has him doing things like resurrecting a dried fish, and my personal favorite, stretching a beam that his carpenter dad had cut a little too short. (Thus came the eleventh commandment: “Thou shalt measure twice, that thou mayest cut only once.”)

And there are also some dark stories, where childhood set-tos go very wrong, with blinded parents and other bad stuff following. Absolute power plus child-level impulse control, not a good combination. (Insert your own political commentary here.)

Today’s text, though, suggests that these accounts are nothing more than entertainment. In this passage, Jesus goes back to his hometown and starts teaching, and the reaction is, shall we say, less than enthusiastic.

“Who does this guy think he is? He was that kid, you know? We know his brothers, his sisters. He’s that carpenter guy.” In the end, the verdict was “He’s nothing special.” Not exactly what you’d expect if everyone knew he was the guy who stretched the beam, or blinded Larry’s parents, or healed Bob after Bob had cut his foot off with an axe.

Familiarity breeds contempt. We think that if we know about something, it can’t be special. It’s got to be common, everyday stuff. The kid on the playground doesn’t go to the NBA. The restaurant on the corner doesn’t get a Michelin star.

Except, of course, they do. All the time. Kids go from the playground to the NBA. Little restaurants get Michelin stars. A glovemaker’s son becomes the greatest writer the world has ever known. And the naysayers? They miss it all, even when it’s right in front of them.

Every day we are either the breeze that fans the spark, or the wet blanket that smothers it. It’s our choice. Lift up, or hammer down.

“And he could do no deed of power there.” How sad for them. How sad for us, because we could use some deeds of power.

Lord, remind us that the kingdom of God is among us, and that we choose to nurture it or crush it. Help us choose well. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts

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