It’s the Fourth of July, Independence Day. I usually do not make special recognition of holidays, especially civic one. The RCL does not coincide with those days, and since I am picking which days out of the 7 days that are covered by the weekly RCL passages the verses are not meant to coincide with any specific day of that week. Of course the church/religious holidays are different – the RCL takes those into account. So it is sure happenstance that this day this passage from Mark is being presented to you on the Fourth of July. Let’s see what we can make of it.
“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.” (Mark 6:1-3)
The Fourth of July celebrates the United States freedom from the “tyranny” of England. One privileged and powerful group was trying to take advantage of and gain financially/materially from less powerful and more needy group. And the less powerful/more needy group rose up in protest, and cast off & chased out the representatives of the powerful and privileged group; they demanded and eventually received self-government and autonomy. This is a scenario that has been repented endless time, and considering human nature, will be repeated endless times. The prevailing and powerful groups will always wonder how and by what right the smaller and less powerful groups came to have the desire and display the ability to be more than what others thought they would be. Now THAT is a sneaky and round about way of putting this bible passage in context for this day!
“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.” (Mark 6:4-6a)
We can often get bogged down in seeing only one side of a situation, and identify too strongly with only one side such that we cannot see the opposing view. We who live in the United States get so used to being those of privilege and power that we forget what it is like to be small and powerless. I am not so sure that Fourth of July celebrations are a remedy to that.
We also have a history and heritage of being the underdogs and see ourselves pitted against the “larger” and more privileged group, and we forget that many times the larger group is just trying to sustain their own status quo and does not mean to thwart of our self-determination.
The people of Jesus’ town knew him only as an ordinary boy who had grown to manhood before their eyes. He was one of their own, and as such would be/should be no different than they. And they felt it was an insult to their self-perception that he should consider himself so different. But there can be seeds of greatness in all people; and that should not be stifled simply because we cannot imagine ourselves, or just as accurately do not want to strive to make ourselves, any different or greater.
“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 6:6b-13)
We pride ourselves on being a “great nation” that has come from “humble beginnings” and has had to fight against enormous odds to be successful. But in the rush and flourish to celebrate and congratulate we inadvertently or, more to our shame, consciously stifle and thwart the advancement of others.
Jesus told his disciples to go out humbly and thoughtfully; and they ended up doing great things. I fear it would ruffle too many feathers if I voiced my thoughts concerning the opposing but parallel perspective I hold of the United States. Not quite the Fourth of July rhetoric you usually read – but then I am Canadian and Canada’s Independence Day is past. More importantly, I am an Anabaptist Christian. And look at the issues of independence and the days to celebrate it differently. Shalom!