Welcome to Dan Schwerin as the newly appointed Assistant to the Bishop, as his first devotion is posted for our reading and contemplation. We look forward to the future of his ministry among us in this new role.
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. Mark 6:1-13
The first two words in the gospel text for Sunday July 4th are: ‘He left.’ Jesus was leaving a place where he enjoyed seeing the fruits of his ministry. Then he returned to his hometown. For many of us, transitions are leaving places of certainty for uncertainty. These days a goodly number clergy and churches are in transition. Many clergy are following pastors who have been local favorites. Some clergy and churches are entering into cross-racial appointments. We pray that these relationships can make Christ known in a special way. Scripture is clear: creation is in process. Everything is in process—and God is in process with us. God uses our humble transitions to display a power made perfect in weakness.
Jesus endured some tough sledding in his hometown. He could do no deed of power there. As we lived out covenantal community during a pandemic, our disagreements and our divisions have caused great pain. There are days we struggle with the depth of the losses we have endured. Even so, I appreciate how Jesus is steadfast, whether he can see fruits or not. Jesus stayed in relationship, whether he was received or not. The late Rabbi Edwin Friedman used to say, ‘how we begin and end relationships is how we do relationships.’ How we attend faithfully to beginnings and endings really communicates the integrity of our shared ministry. If it is true the average American is in transition every 18 months, then we are attending to beginnings and endings constantly. Jesus is steadfastly in process with us.
What fascinates me about this passage is how Jesus orders those on the discipleship path to take nothing for their journey but a staff for protection. We do not need to load up on bread or take a bag or worry about our own provision. Jesus sends us out to live in the Kingdom’s interdependence, to live with neighborliness that exemplifies how we rely on each other. The way of Jesus is programmatic interdependence. Trusting that generosity makes Christ known!
During the bible study at annual conference, Bishop Malone said, “racial justice is the systematic fair treatment of people that results in equitable opportunities and outcomes for everyone.” We do not need to hoard bread or buy bigger bags. Part of any leave-taking trusts that we go from God to God. God is in our every step. Are you saying farewell to a pastor? Are you welcoming a pastor? Have the moral courage to begin and end well.
The text begins, ‘he left.’ We have the courage to leave certainty because Jesus is steadfastly in process with us. Thanks be to God.