Year B 2018
“He could do no mighty works there”
I grew up in a wonderful family. My parents worked hard but I never felt that they placed my sister or me second. I knew they loved each other and I knew they would take care of me. I don’t think I ever worried about their presence or that they would always be there to care for me.
I also knew my faith. We were Christians and after I was six years old we were Episcopalians. I was confirmed at age seven. I knew that meant certain things. It meant church was not a second thought. Sundays were days of obligation for us. Week by week our place was in church together.
I was an acolyte from the first time I could remember. I sang in the children’s choir. We gave, and I was expected to tithe; to give ten percent of my earnings to the church. Allowance did not come without responsibility. Allowance was something I earned by taking out the garbage and mowing the lawn.
I also knew God and from my earliest understanding who Jesus was. He died for me. But one thing I did not know was that there was a choice in my faith. I was a Christian. I did not know there were other options. I knew there were Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christians. I knew there were Presbyterians and Baptist Christians. I also knew there were people who weren’t Christian. But I was raised as Christian and I really only knew Christians. It was not until I went to seminary that I realized I had choices; that even my faith was a choice. Did I want to be Jewish or some other religion?
The first time I chose Christianity was in seminary. I had always been Christian and always knew God’s love, but in seminary I realized I had a choice. I also realized how important making that choice was. Being able to choose is freedom. Being able to choose means I take on ownership. It means that my faith could move beyond my head — to my heart. Freedom is choice. Freedom is choosing to follow. Freedom means choosing to live under law. Freedom does not mean we will not be jailed or betrayed or sick or killed, but it does mean that we make a choice.
“ and he could do no mighty works there.” These few words stick out. Jesus was rejected, and it conflicts with my understanding of who Jesus is. He could not. Jesus Christ could not. Mark is very careful and clear when he tells this story. Jesus could not do any miracles. Those from Jesus’ home town had a choice that day. Their choice was to say no and when they did, God could not work in their lives.
This past week we celebrated our freedom as a nation. We gave thanks for all who have given of themselves so that we are free. But freedom is not something we can take for granted; freedom is not something that came and now all we must do is enjoy it. No, freedom is our work and our call; it is our choice. We must fight today for freedom. Like faith, our freedom as a nation is a choice everyday. We celebrate having a choice and being free to choose.
I am thankful for Jim’s presence over the last two weeks. I heard his sermon last week touched on the separation of families at the border. I started my sermon two weeks ago wondering what terror must happen to the human soul when a child is taken from a parent - for both the child and the parent. I don’t think I can even imagine what it must be like. I do believe it is part of our freedom which we must continue to fight for.
When I read this Gospel, I thought about the border. I thought about the freedoms we celebrate and how we must continue each day fighting for what we proclaim in our baptismal vows; that we will strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being.
Laurie Lane-Zucker wrote these words. They express so much about the power of our nation - our democracy - but they also express a truth about the power of faith when we choose it; when it becomes not just a head thing but a heart thing. "For a democracy to be truly alive, vital, and revolutionary, for it to rise beyond abstraction and mere symbolism, for it to become a throbbing head-and-heartfelt presence in our lives, we need to make it personal."
Now, listen to it again when I replace the word democracy with faith…”For faith to be truly alive, vital, and revolutionary, for it to rise beyond abstraction and mere symbolism, for it to become a throbbing head-and-heartfelt presence in our lives, we need to make it personal.”