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Worship, Prayer and Bible Study Resources

Ordinary 14 - Year B

Liturgical Colour - Green

Opening Sentence http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=54175 This Roman sandal, dated to 200 years after Christ, recalls Jesus' admonition to his disciples in Mark 6 to wear simple sandals, and to shake the dust off of their feet if ever they are unwelcome in a home where they seek shelter. Today we are made aware of the current symbolism of shoes, of the foot unshod, in the region where Jesus, Paul, and the early Christians lived, as we learn more about the values of cultures far from us in distance, but bridged by the gospel's cultural reminders.
Collect Prayer
First Reading:
Second Reading:
Gospel Reading
Post Communion Sentence
Commentary:
Meditation:
Hymns
Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead:
Intercessions from our Sunday worship
Sermons

throw jesus off a cliffIntroduction

The passage from Mark today tells of the disturbing rejection of Jesus by his nearest neighbours, people who had seen him grow up in Nazareth. These people knew the brothers of Jesus  - James, Joseph, Judas and Simon and also his sisters. They were not prepared to consider that Jesus had anything profound to teach them, simply because they knew him too well.

Often people rely upon reputation, or qualifications to impress us, but we do well to remember that sometimes the very best things we can learn come from those who are closest to us.

We are taught to try to be successful at what we do, we all want to give of our best and hopefully be appreciated for what we do. Jesus did many amazing things, but he was not always appreciated, in fact the lesson today tells us that even his closest friends and family rejected Jesus and thought he was getting too big for his boots.

Jesus knew what it was like to seem to fail in ministry. In his hometown of Nazareth he was just not able to make an impact, and he prepared his own disciples for failure when he sent them out on their own mission tour.

Is that what we should expect? When we follow Christ and do his will that we should be prepared for rejection and failure?


Opening Verse of Scripture

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Collect Prayer for the Day

Merciful God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as pass our understanding: pour into our hearts such love toward you that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord. CW

Creator God, you made us all in your image: may we discern you in all that we see, and serve you in all that we do; through Jesus Christ our Lord. CW

First Bible Reading Ezekiel 2:1-5

The heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God. When I saw this, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of someone speaking. He said to me: O mortal, stand up on your feet, and I will speak with you. And when he spoke to me, a spirit entered into me and set me on my feet; and I heard him speaking to me. He said to me, Mortal, I am sending you to the people of Israel, to a nation of rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have transgressed against me to this very day. The descendants are impudent and stubborn. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD.’ 5Whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house), they shall know that there has been a prophet among them. NRSV

Second Reading 2 Corinthians 2:2-10

I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven –  whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. And I know that such a person – whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows –  was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat. On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. But if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think better of me than what is seen in me or heard from me, even considering the exceptional character of the revelations. Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong. NRSV

Gospel Reading    Mark 6:1-13

Jesus came to his home town, 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 offence at him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are not without honour, except in their home town, 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

Post Communion Sentence

God of our pilgrimage, you have led us to the living water: refresh and sustain us as we go forward on our journey, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. CW

 

Commentary

When Jesus returns to the small town of Nazareth after having calmed a storm at sea, raised the dead little girl, healed and performed miracles, surely we would expect a celebration and the village to be in jubilant mood? Not so, all of the Gospel writers tell us that far from Jesus being welcomed as great religious personality, instead he was attacked and Luke tells us that they tried to kill him by throwing him off a cliff. Is this the way to treat a man who has just healed a child ?

We need to think carefully about what was happening and what it was which provoked such anger that people would kill a man they had seen grow up in their midst as the local carpenter/builder. The first thing to remember if that everybody would have known Jesus. Nazareth would have been a small town with perhaps up to 2,000 people and there would have been no secrets! They would know who he was, his mother and the rest of his family. we are told that they called Jesus the ‘Son of Mary,’ which is not how we would expect him to be addressed and the only time in the Bible when Jesus is referred to in this way. ‘Son of Joseph’ would be normal, and it might be that Joseph was dead, but we have to expect that this was a deliberately derogatory title, it was an insult. The inference is that this is a way of drawing attention to his illegitimate birth and the shame that Mary had brought upon her family.

Today we would be rightly proud of a child who turned his hands to carpentry and learned skills to enable them to build and make things - a trade. However the word tekton which we translate as ‘carpenter’ did not denote somebody of social standing at the time, it was a lower class of manual labourer, the same word which is used for his father Joseph (Matt 13:55). People who worked outside with their hands were of less social standing than the priests, rulers and bureaucrats. In spite of his lowly class Jesus comes as a visiting rabbi, reading Hebrew and giving teachings. The vast majority of people at the time were illiterate and it seems Jesus is getting a bit ahead of himself. That in itself would not cause insults and the anger which later followed and enraged them to try and bring about an execution on the sabbath! It wasn’t just that he was a builder, or that his mother was Mary and his brothers were James and Joses and Judas and Simon. (We know that he had sisters but they are not named!). Neither was it just that they considered that an ordinary man should not be teaching them, such envy would be unlikely to provoke murder.

We know that the scene had been set in part by an earlier episode in Nazareth where Jesus (Chapter 3:22) having healed a man with a withered hand was accused by the Jewish leaders from Jerusalem of being possessed by Satan. On this occasion his family again are mentioned and they are clearly rattled by what Jesus is doing and try to seize Jesus themselves, perhaps fearing for his own welfare. Yet whilst we have this campaign to undermine Jesus and turn people against him, there is still even more going on. To understand the reason for the violent response from the people of Nazareth towards Jesus we need to look at what Jesus actually said and it is Luke who records the speech which Jesus gave in detail.

Luke tells us that Jesus read from Isaiah and claimed himself to be the fulfilment of prophecy. Jesus would be the one who released captives, gave sight to the blind and set the oppressed free. This text was supposed to be fulfilled at the time of the coming Messiah, so Jesus is claiming that the end time had come in his ministry, surely he is making a claim that he is the Messiah. Perhaps even that might not have been a sufficient trigger to cause everything to blow up. Jesus went way too far when he began to teach and tell his listeners that prophets are not honoured in their own country. The Jews had a history of rejecting the prophets God sent to them. Jeremiah was persecuted in his hometown of Anathoth (Jer 1:1, 11:18-23). Jesus starts to mention widows and lepers, those on the margins of society and the weakest ones and as he does so he mentions Elijah going to Zarephath in Sidon and Elisha curing Naaman the Syrian. The point about this was that God was bringing healing to the Gentiles. Jesus was not just claiming to be a Messiah, if that was not an issue in itself, he was proclaiming that as Messiah he was bringing salvation not just to the Jews but the Gentiles!

Jesus was fulfilling the prophecy made about him as a child by Simeon, that he would be a light to the Gentiles. This explains why everything became so inflamed and why Jesus could not be allowed to get away with it. Everything about Judaism suggested that God had favourites, that the Jews were special ones with divine privileges. Jesus was not actually taking away the VIP passes which allowed the Jews special access to God, but he was now sharing them out to everybody and that could not be tolerated. If Gentiles could walk into God’s favour then Jesus was destroying the need to be a Jew and this of course started off a confrontation which was subsequently to lead to the desire by faithful Jews to kill all Christians. We are told Jesus escaped the attack on his life which followed and avoided being thrown off a cliff and the subsequent stoning which would have ensured that he was dead. Sadly others like Stephen, the first Christian martyr, were not so fortunate. Before he was so dramatically changed into being a follower of Jesus and became known as Paul, men like Saul of Tarsus saw it is as their God given duty to kill as many of these Christians as they possibly could. The reason was to ensure the purity of the Jewish faith and avoid the terrible consequences of the Jewish faith being corrupted.

We might think that faced with the same rejection as Jesus we would have reconsidered our position, perhaps questioned our motives. Not so with Jesus, he has already been through that questioning process; we know of his time in the wilderness and the decision which he had to make about what kind of Messiah he was going to be. His response now to the challenge was not to withdraw or scale back his mission objectives, he goes on the offensive. Jesus now commissions his disciples that they should go out and start ministry themselves. Jesus is under no illusions about how that task with be, he knows that there will not be adulation for his followers and so he sends them out two by two, there is always strength in numbers and no being alone. Moreover he prepares them for rejection, they are to expect it and be prepared for it. It should not take them by surprise or make them feel inadequate or to have failed in some way. Their task is simply to go and be faithful to God, who would do the rest. Charles Royden
 

Meditation

At different times of our lives we can all discover what it feels like to be rejected. At such times it might help to know that you are not alone. We all know that Jesus was eventually crucified, a most complete rejection, but he also knew what it was like to be abandoned by those who were his own friends and family. Perhaps it was because he was so badly treated and experienced such incredible rejection that he was able to be so compassionate towards those who were on the fringes of society. He went out of His way to meet a lonely 'foreign' woman who no-one else had time for. He touched people who dreaded skin diseased which made them outcasts. He knew how important it is to give time to those who feel rejected or bullied. When being executed, Jesus was rejected by society and was abandoned by many of His friends. He even cried out that he was 'God forsaken'! Jesus fully understands what it's like to be alone and can help us when we feel isolated unwanted or unloved.

Somebody asked me this week if I knew a good carpenter. They are not easy to find and they are not cheap! These days carpenters are skilled people, who can command a good price if you are lucky enough to find one. The reading from mark today is the only place where we learn that Jesus was a carpenter. However in his day carpenters were not regarded too highly. They ranked below the peasant farmer. Furthermore, to call Jesus "son of Mary" is a possible slur upon Jesus' questionable parentage. The normal reference would be to the father, not the mother. Jesus however will not be held back by the things others say about him, or the way they categorise him. If people have a problem then he will move on. Prophets are generally honoured, he says, but not in their hometown, nor among their clan, or even in their own house! Jesus leaves his hometown and continues his mission among the other rural villages of Galilee.

Jesus sends the disciples out two-by-two. They are allowed means of travel (staff, sandals), but not means of day-to-day nourishment (bread, money). They will be entirely dependent on the hospitality of those they encounter. They will go into houses, some houses, however, would not be safe because the people there would neither "receive" nor "hear" them. In that case, the disciples are to "shake off the dust under the feet as a witness against them." Opponents are not to be fought but rather avoided and left to their own devices--"shake off the dust"--and let it be known that they are opponents.

It is interesting that three of the four brothers of Jesus named in this lection also share the names of three of the twelve disciples. Some think that these three were members of the Twelve, in which case one-fourth of the original inner circle of 12 would have come from Jesus' own family. After Jesus death, his brother, James, headed the church from Jerusalem until his own death in AD 62 (or AD 69). On the other hand, these names were all relatively common at the time. In fact, outside of James, and rather remarkably, none of the other siblings of Jesus appear to have been active in the early church.

 

Hymns

  1. Ye servants of God Tune Hanover

  2. Thank you Jesus

  3. The Church of Christ in every age Tune Heronsgate

  4. When our confidence is shaken Tune Rhuddlan

  5. Father hear the prayer Tune Sussex
     

 

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

Prayer encouragement in the Christian life

Prayer is a plant, the seed of which is sown in the heart of every Christian,
if it is well cultivated and nourished it will produce fruit, but if it is neglected, it will wither and die

 

Though we cannot love you as we ought, O Lord, let us love you as we are able, that guided by your light and kept by your power, we come at the last, into your glorious presence. Amen.
Thomas Ken (1637-1711)

Lord God, Father of all, you have made of one blood all the nations to dwell on the face of this earth. Pour down your spirit of peace, that we may learn to love each other as you have first loved us. Give us tolerance and understanding towards those who are different from us. Shed your love abroad in our hearts that we might break down the walls of partition that divide your people from each other; until all men and women are brought into unity with each other and with you. That all nations and kindreds and tongues, may with one mouth glorify you. Amen

Grant that it may be our meat and drink to do the will of our Father in heaven. Grant unto us to take up whatever cross is laid upon us and gallantly and gladly to carry it. Grant that as we may share his cross, so we may share his crown; as we share his death, so we may share his life. And so grant that having suffered with him, we may also reign with him. This we ask for your love’s sake. Amen.

Prayers for Baptism. Creator Spirit, who in the beginning hovered over the waters, who at Jesus’ baptism descended in the form of a dove, and who at Pentecost was poured out in fire and rushing wind: come to us, open our hearts and minds so that we may hear the life giving word and be renewed by your power. Amen

We pray for those who are to be baptised today, into the family of this church and of all believers. Help us to nurture and encourage them, and help us to be renewed in our own baptismal promises. For the sake of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Lord God, our Father most loving, we would not even if we could, conceal anything for you, but rejoice rather that you know us as we are and see every desire and every motive of our hearts. Help us, Lord, to strip off every mask and veil when we come into your presence, and to spread before you every thought and every secret of our being, that they may be forgiven purified, amended and blessed by you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Additional Material

Verse from scripture

‘I lift up my eyes to you, to you whose throne is in heaven.’ Psalm 123

Collect Prayer

Almighty God, you have broken the tyranny of sin and have sent the Spirit of your Son into our hearts whereby we call you Father: give us grace to dedicate our freedom to your service, that we and all creation may be brought to the glorious liberty of the children of God; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Commentary

The population of Bedford is about 150,000, yet I often think what a small place Bedford is. There are few secrets, everybody seems to know what is going on and you bump into people you know all over the place. At the time of Jesus Nazareth had a population of perhaps between 500 and 2,000 people. It is no surprise that everybody would know everybody else. They would know who was the child of who, who was married to somebody else. It is the same principle upon which the now ridiculous marriage banns operate.


It is to this small village of Nazareth that Jesus returns in the episode from St Mark. Over the last couple of weeks we have heard about the most amazing miracles of Jesus. He has been tremendously successful, he has stilled the storm and healed the demon-possessed man, he has also restored the daughter of Jairus to life. Jesus has shown his great power on both sides of the Sea of Galilee − the eastern Gentile side and the western Jewish side. It is following this that Jesus returns to his hometown of Nazareth, perhaps expecting a hero’s welcome. If he was then he would be disappointed. The passage today is quite remarkable, for Jesus is shown to fail in his ministry and he will later send his disciples out expecting them to fail also. The passage is often referred to as Jesus rejection at Nazareth.
 

In Nazareth Jesus went to teach at his home synagogue. The response of those who heard him had the potential to be deeply hurtful to Jesus. They know Jesus, they know he was a carpenter, his mother was Mary and his brothers were James and Joses and Judas and Simon. The crowd also knew sisters of Jesus. They knew that Jesus was an ordinary man, how could he teach them?
 

The use of the phrase "the son of Mary" (v. 3), is interesting. People would usually identify a man by his relationship with his father rather than his mother, and he is so identified in John 6:42. It is possible that Joseph is dead by this time, although we would expect people to identify Jesus by his father's name even after the father's death. This identification by Mary's name is probably intended as an insult and is perhaps a slur on the legitimacy of his birth.
 

There has been long-standing controversy over Jesus brothers and sisters. Catholics, favoring a doctrine of Mary's perpetual virginity, believe that these are Jesus' half-brothers and sisters − perhaps the children of Joseph by an earlier marriage. Protestants believe that they are the natural children of Joseph and Mary.
 

For all of his success Jesus was not unused to failure. In Mark 3:21, we are told that his family thought that he was out of his mind and tried to restrain him. In Mark 3:31, his mother and brothers and sisters try again to remove him from his teaching ministry. It is against this background of rejection by those who were nearest and dearest to him that Jesus speaks the famous words

"Prophets are not without honour, except in their hometown,
and among their own kin, and in their own house."
 

Following his own complete rejection Jesus then gives to his disciples their task of ministry. He tells them that they should go two by two into the countryside preaching and casting out unclean spirits. He advises them to travel lightly taking nothing but a staff. They are to carry no bread, no bag, and no money in their belts. They are to wear sandals and not even take an extra tunic. Yet Jesus prepares the disciples in advance for the failure which lies ahead of them also. In verse 11, Jesus says, "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." Jesus makes it clear that they will not be insulated from failure just because they are going in his name.

 
Jesus knows that failure will come and so they are to be prepared with a predetermined response - shaking the dust off their feet. It is not that Jesus is sending the disciples out to fail. Rather, he is showing them how to carry on in the face of failure. The failure should not come as a surprise, or catch them off guard. Forewarned is forearmed, so that we are empowered to carry on when we fail.
 

It is important for us to understand that we can fail even when we are doing everything in our power to serve Christ. In a generation in which it is common to hear that faithfulness to Christ will be rewarded with all manner of success, this is an important message. Jesus warns us to expect the same kind of rejection that he experienced, so we should not be surprised that that almost all of the first twelve disciples suffered martyrdom for Christ. It is appropriate therefore that immediately following this passage Mark will tell us of the death of John the Baptist. The greatest servant is willing to suffer and die for the master. Charles Royden

 

Prophecy and the role of the Prophet

The theme which links all three of today's lectionary lessons is that of prophecy, with the emphasis on the role of the prophet.

Ezekiel, who lived somewhere about 585 BC, is sent to a “people who are obstinate and stubborn”, his own people, probably in exile. His message was not popular or comforting, and they might “listen or fail to listen”, but that was not an issue for him. His task was to convey God’s word faithfully in a situation where he would not necessarily be welcomed. Prophecy is not some inspired crystal ball gazing, but rather a look at the world through the eyes of God, a task which is not confined to Old Testament times, and which remains as a challenge for us today.

Moving chronologically, we turn to the gospel in which Mark reminds us that Jesus was not always valued and especially not among the people among whom He had grown up. You can almost hear people saying “Who does He think He is? Jumped up so-and-so”. And his work was stultified as a result. The second part of the reading contrasts Jesus’ “failure” with the success of the Twelve as they go out preaching and teaching – not quite what one might have expected. There is some question about the chronology, and it may be that Mark is actually bringing together two stories, the second of which actually happened after Jesus’ ascension, so as to emphasise the point about Jesus’ weakness. Be that as it may, what is important for us is, I think, that Jesus proclaimed the good news fearlessly and was not fazed by lack of success. If you think of it, he had already turned down the spectacular and crowd pulling when he had rejected the temptations in the wilderness. We need not be surprised in our own day if people do not listen – even the healing of a few sick people in his home town did not dispel the cynicism which his fellow townsfolk directed towards Jesus, the prophet without honour in his own country. By any objective standard His whole life appeared to be heading towards failure culminating with His death on a cross. But we know that the outcome was ultimately triumphant.

Paul, in the letter to the church at Corinth, begins paradoxically by saying he does not want to boast, while doing just that! He is making it clear that in any “I’m better than you” game, he is likely to win but that is not his real concern. Set alongside his boasting, he puts another picture of himself. Earlier in the letter he says that while his letters may be weighty, “in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing” (Chapter 10 v 10). Not quite the sort of person one might have expected. And to add to this he has the “thorn in the flesh” which constantly torments him. We do not know what that thorn is – any suggestion is ultimately guess work. What is key to his life and work is found in verse 9 – God says “my power is made perfect in weakness”. And for that God’s grace is sufficient for Paul. So what is the message these readings give us? Based on a cry in the Old Testament “would that all God’s people were prophets”, we are challenged to prophesy, to look at what is wrong in the world, and to do something about it. It will not be easy and we may often be afraid, but the example of the three lives we have looked at is that what is required of us is faithfulness in that task, and the power to do it will come from God himself. A friend of mine once said “when something is really important, the Holy Spirit won’t let us fail”. And as Paul reminds us at the beginning of the previous letter ( 1 Cor.l v 27) “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise: God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong”. To be part of the foolish things of the world is both our challenge, our promise and our strength. John Stubbs

Hymn for this Sunday

  1. Morning has broken
  2. Jubilate
  3. Father hear the prayer
  4. I rejoiced to hear them say
  5. Guide me, O thou great Jehovah
  6. Immortal, Invisible
  7. Give me joy
  8. Great is thy faithfulness

 

A meditation

He had no wife, no family, he had no children of his own;
he once had been a refugee, despised but never left alone.
To all the widowed and the fatherless he showed the love that none had shown.

He liked to watch as children played and knew the lyrics of their song;
he cared for those that lived at risk, the ones whose rights had all gone wrong.
The plight of helpless and homeless folk would always in his heart belong.

He had no job to pay the rent, but women gave him house and food;
they saw in him no hidden threat, his singleness was safe and good.
And those whom no one ever listened to discovered that he understood.

He chose to eat in simple style beside the wounded, hurt and poor;
he told them tales to make them laugh and, for their stigma, was their cure.
In crowds and circles of rejected folk his generosity was sure.

Those whom he calls his family are this through love and not reward:
sisters and brothers we can be, if we but take him at his word.
And so we join to celebrate the life of Jesus Christ, our friend and Lord.
Present on earth, Wild Goose Resource Group, 2002