A sermon preached by Bob Keller on July 5, 2009 based upon Mark 6: 1 – 13, entitled “Independence and Inter-dependence.”
‘Independence’ led me to ‘freedom.’ I found the definitions of the two words dependent on one another; kind of interconnected. However, the definitions of the two words, curiously, used the negative voice – telling me what they were not rather than what they were.
For example, ‘freedom’ is not being under the direction, control or regulation of another; the absence or release of ties or obligations. Likewise, ‘independence’ was freedom from the control, influence, support, aid, or the like, of others.
That’s when it hit me. The very essence of this great nation – its independence, and the freedom provided by it, seem to have undergone a shift of some sort. We complain about what is wrong with it, but only occasionally make any effort to right the wrongs. And many of those efforts are merely asking someone else to fix it for us. And we get upset when they don’t. Who among us hasn’t complained about the bums in Washington, or Trenton or even our local town halls?
The large majority of us haven’t earned the freedoms we enjoy. Only a few of us, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your sacrifice, fought for them. Most of us have not shed our blood & sweat & tears for them.
A poet expressed it well, saying: “We eat from orchards we did not plant. We drink from wells we did not dig. We reap from fields we did not sow. We are warmed by fires we did not kindle. We are sheltered by roofs we did not build. We are blessed by moneys we did not give.”
We are a capitalist society, but capitalism without conscience becomes a cruel and ruthless form of life where competition and success and greed and materialism and ‘me first’ and ‘my hurry is more important than yours’ and road rage all combine to corrupt and we lose our concern for others.
Remember that scripture passage during the children’s message this morning: Even though I speak the languages of men and even of the angels, but if I have not love, I’m nothing more than a clanging gong or a crashing cymbal. Today’s translation: Without love, I’m just the ‘noise’ of society.
We sacrifice our freedom, or, at the very least, we become burdened by it. We forget that to think of independence we must also think of interdependence. It’s that sense of community and interconnectedness that we all long for and that we must rely upon. William James, an American psychologist and philosopher from the late 19th century, pointed to the importance of both individuality and community. He said: “The community stagnates without the impulse of the individual. The impulse dies away without the sympathy of the community.”
Let’s look again at the scripture passage that David read for us this morning. Jesus had returned to Nazareth, his hometown, but, though the people were amazed at some of the things he did, they rejected him. For a better explanation as to why they rejected Jesus, let’s look at the companion scripture from Luke. (Luke 4:16-21)
”He (Jesus) went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom
for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
If you listened to David’s reading, he told us the reaction of the people as recoded by Mark: “Where did this man get these things?” “What’s this wisdom that’s been given to him? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t he Mary’s son, the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here?” Then Mark tells us “they took offense at him.” Luke tells us they drove him out of town and were ready to throw him off a cliff.
It was all because he didn’t meet their expectations. The Jews wanted their promised King. They wanted a strong leader that would release them from Roman rule. “Hey, we know this guy!” they said. “In fact, we know his whole family! How can he claim to be the anointed one?”
The people from Jesus’ own hometown limited him. They limited God. This man was too weak. After all, he’s only a carpenter who’s now tying to be a rabbi who must have too much wine because now he’s claiming to be the messiah. He’s nuts! Throw the bum out!
Our world calls us to be strong, to succeed, to be upwardly mobile, to make more to buy more to ‘make more noise’, but our God calls us to surrender, to be dependent on him, to be concerned about our neighbor, to treat others with kindness, humility and honesty and to love.
Jesus came as a servant. He came to show that God didn’t want men of superhuman ability, but he wanted men who would believe in God’s power for their lives. He showed that God wanted people who would live in a new way. He showed that when you are weak, believing in God and not self, then you are really strong.
Paul said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
In our weakest moments, God’s grace is sufficient for us. And that grace gives us strength.
Jesus sent his disciples out telling them to take nothing but the clothes on their backs. Can you imagine leaving on a business trip or for a vacation without taking “things” with you? No extra clothes, no money, no credit cards, heaven forbid – no laptop, cell phone or Blackberry – nothing. Just take your faith. My grace is sufficient for you. And Mark’s gospel tells us that the disciples were successful.
The disciples chose the freedom, the grace, offered to them by their teacher.
Connie is reading a book – The Shack – she recommends it – and she told me a story from the book about a bluebird. In the story, the bluebird – very much looking every bit like a bluebird looks – chose to hop about rather than to fly. His hopping made him no less a bluebird, but it certainly did limit him. The book also attempts a description of the Trinity. A man can be a husband a father and an office worker; fulfilling his role as one does not negate his roles as the other two.
Our God is like that, and our community can be like that. We can place limits on what our God is just as we place limits on our freedom. We can place limits on our God by neglecting the independence granted to us by the Christ that went to the cross to give His life to gain our freedom from sin. We can limit our strength by refusing our weakness.
As we approach the communion table today, let’s remember the new way of looking at strength that Jesus gave us by revealing his weakness. Let’s remember that our independence relies on interdependence. And let’s remember that God’s grace is, and always will be, sufficient.