JULY 22, 2012 Showing Up
Mark 6: Smith Falls The Rev. Dr. George Hermanson
One of the ways I read Mark is to imagine that he is making a movie on the life of Jesus. Like all artists he begins with a theory about the hero and then shows the hero in action, in reflective times, and in conflict. He is creating a big picture about Jesus as the teacher of the Kingdom of God. He paints images of Jesus as a reformer of the religious reality. He has Jesus meeting and healing in synagogue, house, and field. All of this action creates a conflict with the powers, the empire and those who want to maintain the religious status quo.
Mark writes when the times had made it hard to believe in God. Mark has Jesus preaching that there was no split of the sacred from the profane. All is holy. We experience God in the events of daily life. In healing and teaching Jesus helps people experience the reality of God.
Jesus teaches that the reality of God is found in ordinary times and places, that the whole earth is sacred space, and to find God, just look at beauty exploding from the cracks in the cosmos.
I cannot stress too much this radical teaching that the whole earth, all that is within it, and humans who inhabit it, are locations of sacred space. Rather than religious reality being shut away and only in private time, God’s time is present time and is felt all the time. To be in the kingdom of God is to be over our head in the reality of our world, to see God in all that happens. It is connecting the inner work of spirituality with action in the world.
In today’s lesson we come to a dramatic turn, a shift in the experience of the sacred.
It is written out of the experience of the early church. Their enthusiasm had run into a brick wall. Not everyone welcomed them. There was danger from the empire, and they had lost their home in the synagogue. They had become an orphan people.
The issue then, given rejection and lack of success, what were their traveling orders? The question behind the text was, would they be faithful to a vision of the whole world being sacred space or would they run away? How were they going to be faithful to the in-breaking Kingdom of God?
Here is Jesus - engaged. Yet the question of energy from the followers. Jesus suggests some time for quiet time. That is immediately connected to more encounters. Spiritual renewal is needed and it is always connected to engagement. He preached sacred space means showing up - face the reality. It means being present - offering acceptance and healing to the context. It means telling the truth - keep the faith that God is here, as close as ones breath. Finally it means letting go - that is turning over to God’s lure the results. It is to trust that God is in the mix working at creating beauty and trusting that working which is persuasive. It is to trust that God is everywhere and we are not the only ones announcing the beauty. God is at work in those we don’t know, have not meet - wherever beauty is being created God is at work.
Jesus sends his disciples out to do the same work he has being doing. This is to heal the sick, to announce good news to those without hope, to point to the fact that this world is God’s world - sacred space. He reminds them to show up, be present, tell the truth and then let go. The task is one of presence. It is not to be judged by outcomes, numbers added to the list. It is to be a symbol and presence of sacred space, in the world as it is with all its failures and brokenness. Not to worry, just keep on trucking and healing.
Now this is a story for the present church. Our role in society has changed. This is because at one time the church was seen as an ark rescuing sinners from this world. The world was fallen and broken so the church was to prepare people for heaven. Sure the saving might mean healing some broken relationships and experiences, but the goal was an ark. It is the view that only the church represents God. This does not work.
Mark offers us another vision of being the church. It begins in understanding that Jesus preached a kingdom of God where God’s hospitality was for now, not for some future. By being for the present it helped create a better future. This creation is blessed and is the body of God. It may be broken but it isn’t evil. We may only see through a glass darkly but what we see are hints of beauty in the world as it is.
The image of God found here is not some distant monarch sitting on a throne tossing out life lines to those who deserve it. No, the God Jesus preached is the one who we feel in our bones, whose home is with us, and needs the world to love.
God is all that is and is more. Everything that exists finds its home in God, is in relationship with a lover.
That lover will be there eternally, caring for each of us, continuously offer love to every nanosecond of existence. That love is offered for us to actualize, to be a home for it, to share with all.
God’s goodness is at work diffusively in the world. This means the church has no monopoly on goodness or salvation. I put it this way: God is at work in the world as it is to lure it to where it could be.
The church has its traveling rules. We have a crucial role. We are to name God and God’s activity in the world. We are to witness to this reality. In the mixture of the good and evil to be found throughout both the church and the world we are to name the outbursts of healing the common good as God’s agenda. With the help of worship and tradition we help realize more goodness. Our language and ritual is to be used to increase salvation in the world. Thus we have a unique role - a distinctive role to offer the world. To name the world as sacred space.
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