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The Disturbing Gospel


Pastor James Clarke’s sermon for Sunday, July 22, 2018.
The scripture text is Mark 6: 1-13.

I hate the phone!

I have hated the phone long before cell phones came along. Growing up it was like there is this cultural rule that the phone has to be answered – no matter what! We could be in the middle of a serious discussion or having some time with our families – RING, and up we got. If anyone finds out that we didn’t answer the phone even though we were home…it is treated like an offense.

I really love caller ID and voicemail!

But you know, if I really didn’t want to be interrupted I chose the wrong life. I should have been a monk. Then again, monks seem to have cell phones too.

Is there anyone who doesn’t have a cell phone? How do they live?

Lets’ face it one can’t get married and not have a cell phone. Remember how it used to be when we went driving? A time without disturbance. I remember my first trip with a cell phone – huge bulky thing. Sure enough Paula called me. I was fumbling with it trying to figure out how to talk and drive and I knew my life was changed forever.

One should not get married or become a parent if one does not expect disturbance.

In the text from Mark for today Jesus disturbs the home town folks. He’s teaching some pretty radical stuff. He’s healing people – and not just the wealthy leaders. The mayor’s daughter was waiting for him and he stopped to heal a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years! Doesn’t he know how things are supposed to be? What a nut case!

He comes to his home town while people are working hard to make a living – working in the fields, kneading dough all day long and it is hot (anyone?). Or maybe it’s after work and they are trying to relax in the cool of the day.

And Jesus comes along…

“Man, shouldn’t he be working with his father, anyway?

“And where does he come off talking like a know it all?”

“Young whipper snapper – who does he think he is?”

“He’s got issues!”

He was not preaching ‘leave things just the way they are’. ‘Just have faith, and you will have riches beyond your wildest dreams’.

Jesus uses a common saying here: “Prophets are not liked in their home towns.” But Jesus attaches it to his message about the Kin-dom of God. “You know that saying about prophets in their home towns? Well this is it…… You’re it.” They were insulted!

And at the same time he suggests to his disciples and the crowd that to be my disciple you will be disturbed. Your whole life will be interrupted. Paul is accused of “turning the world upside down”. The gospel was counter cultural from the outset. It demands one’s whole life. How can that not disturb us?

In the second part of the lectionary text the disciples are sent out two by two carrying next to nothing. Don’t you know that they disturbed people and were disturbed by them? Jesus tells his disciples to expect to be rejected and not to resist or fight back but simply to go on. He knew that if they were to share the Kin-dom people would be disturbed.

No one wants to be a prophet! Why on earth would anyone want to be a prophet?! There’s a reason we do not see any ‘prophet action figures’…

‘Here goes Jeremiah thrown into the great cistern again’…

‘Stephen is stoned… pop, crunch, pow!’

‘Throw Paul back in prison – the guards whip him… snap!’

“Hey guys, this isn’t any fun, let’s go back to Star Wars – at least they have light sabers!”

In the same light, one must wonder why on earth anyone would want to be a pastor!? Young pastors always come out of seminary so idealistic about how they can help change the world. Little do they know what is about to hit them in the local church.

When I went to my first church in Spokane I made comments about global warming and mentioned SUVs. Honestly, I think I spoke the truth but it wasn’t…. well received. One of Paula’s great prophetic acts was to use the Inclusive Language Lectionary. You’d have thought she asked them to give up hunting!

When Paula got back from the Congo she got all upset about an egg toss at a church picnic. Eggs were so valuable in Africa – how could they be tossed? You can imagine that can’t you?

“No, No… STOP! Those eggs are too valuable!

“I don’t know, they were only $2.99 a dozen.”

Talk about different perspectives…young whipper snappers!

We WANT young people who go away to come home filled with passion and excitement, don’t we? I think we would be sorely lost without young idealists challenging us – disturbing us.

I think we all need to be better “whipper snappers for the gospel” – that is to get back in touch with what impassions us – to look at the world for where God’s love is needed – and be disturbed and prophetic.

It could be healthcare, children in Africa, a cure for breast cancer, gun control. But it doesn’t have to be big issues either. It could be native plants, tutoring youth, Habitat for Humanity. It could be children – teaching Sunday School. Now that will keep you young!

When we allow ourselves to be disturbed… and become passionate and compassionate (even a little idealistic), we may feel younger… I guarantee it!

I am not saying that we should avail ourselves to every interruption in life or that we must be open to every disturbance. It’s OK to avoid solicitors. It’s OK to hide from the Mormons on your doorstep. I think it’s even OK to turn off the cell phone…. there, I said it…I said it!

There are many, many trivial disturbances every day in life that truly do not warrant attention. And it is our task to discern what is an annoyance and what is holy disturbance. And we all need Sabbath time when we cannot be disturbed…

I am saying that as a stance to life – specifically Christian life – we can’t live it as if we were wearing a DO NO DISTURB sign around our necks.

“Pastor Jim, I really don’t want to disturb you but…”

“Honey, can we take some time to talk?”

“Dad, can you help me with my homework?”

“I don’t want to watch the News, it’s just too disturbing”

“Do you think you would be willing to teach Sunday School?

We must expect disturbances just like the first disciples going out two by two… and for the Holy Spirit to be in those disturbances. Imagine if the phone rang and on the caller ID it said 1-800-4gospel? Would we flinch?

“O God, I’m being called by God!” And it isn’t “Toll Free!”

The gospel of Jesus Christ is grace, freedom, love and assurance. But it isn’t without toll or cost.

The gospel is grace and forgiveness, that’s the first disturbance. When we really, really accept God’s love for us is disturbing…. it kind of upsets everything. It is assurance that God in Christ will never be torn from us. It is freedom from the burden of feeling that we are alone or that we have to do it all by ourselves. It is the understanding that there is something larger than us, that we belong to God, rather than simply to ourselves. And yes, that is all very disturbing.

The gospel is also, as Paul said, the power of God for righteousness and justice and that is even more disturbing. And that is a call to change the world.

I have reconciled to the fact that I will be disturbed every day. It doesn’t mean that I don’t complain and grumble when I am interrupted. It doesn’t mean that I will jump at anything. It doesn’t mean I won’t turn off my cell phone occasionally. It doesn’t mean that I don’t take care of myself by having time alone.

What it means for all of us is to will to live with an Open Heart. To open our hearts to holy disturbances, to be open to the prophetic wherever it may come from:

from the pulpit,

from the youth returning from work camp,

from the foreigner or stranger,

even from a child.

Let us pray…Holy God, fill our souls with your peace and assurance. Then disturb us with your gospel that we may be a part of turning the world upside down. Amen.

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