Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Proper 9, Year B

July 4th, 2021

O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection;

What will people think?

This is a small-town question we are familiar with.

What will people think?

…there are a million scenarios in our world to which this question might pertain.

She did what?

He bought that?

I trust I don’t need to give you more elaborate examples.


What will people think?

Jesus had given the townsfolk plenty to talk about.

Large crowds had been following him everywhere.

He’d been healing and teaching, raising the dead for heaven’s sake.

Now he arrives back in his hometown with more than his 12 disciples,

likely he had a whole entourage with him.

And on the Sabbath day, he stands up to teach in the synagogue.

His family’s neighbors are there, the kids he grew up with, his mother’s friends, his brothers’ and sisters’ extended family.

They listened to him and were amazed, then the questions and comments began….


This is Mary’s son, the people remark, faintly slighting him,

most men would be called their father’s son.

There is no mention of Joseph, not in the whole of Mark’s gospel.


Who does Jesus think he is, teaching like this?

He is only a carpenter.

There are accusations in the people’s comments too.

He’s the oldest son.

He should be working, supporting the family,

not galivanting around gathering crowds.

What will his mother live on? What about his sisters?

They all knew this man,

and they hadn’t forgotten there was some question about Jesus’ birth,

that his mother was pregnant before she was married.


We’re familiar enough with the story to know what happens next.

Jesus is rejected, right here in his hometown of Nazareth.

The people are not questioning what Jesus has to say.

They had even called his words, words of wisdom.

No, they question HIM.

“They took offense at HIM,” the scripture says.

Jesus is not supposed to be doing this, he is a first born son,

he should be working; his birth was scandalous,

he should be as one not seen;

he is trained as a carpenter, not a prophet or healer.


Jesus replies to their questions and comments with simply,

“A prophet is not without honor except in his own hometown.”  




Jesus is rejected not because of bad preaching

or wrongful teaching,

he is rejected because he is not acting as the people expect him to act.

AND even THEN, after their rebuffs,

Jesus doesn’t act like they might think.


Or perhaps as we might think he should.


Jesus does not condemn them for rejecting them.

He does not rant and rave and call for fire and damnation upon them.

He doesn’t even make snide comments.

No. Quietly, he heals a few people and leaves. Jesus moves on.


Jesus does not act as the people expect him to.

What do we do with people like this?

What do we think of people who don’t act as we expect them to act? 


Years ago, I taught a girl who was a fine student.

She was Smart, kind, athletic.

Then all of a sudden, she started acting

–in mine and my educated colleagues’ professional opinion– “Like a jerk.”


She was late to class, and couldn’t care less.

She forgot her homework and made jokes about the assignment.

She was mean to some classmates

and unkind at times to her soccer team members.


To make matters worse,

her actions were in direct conflict with how she SHOULD be acting.


Her brother had been diagnosed with cancer the year before.

He was undergoing multiple treatments and surgeries.

For a few months, it seemed he had gotten better,

but at the time this girl was in middle school,

her brother was very, very sick.


She should have been more serious, not less, more somber.

She should have been more respectful, not less.

Or at least that is what we expected.

But the truth is, who were we to say?

….none of us had experienced something so terrifying as she.

How should one act when your brother is dying?


I can tell you this,

if I’ve learned any wisdom in my fifty some odd years,

it is this: people will react/act differently than we expect them too.

Don’t condemn them—don’t call down rain and God’s thunder upon them. Give them space.

You don’t know what they are going through.


One of my favorite books of all time

is a book by James McBride entitled, The Color of Water.

If you want to read something beautiful and loving and strong,

read this book.

It is autobiographical:

a young man finds himself by exploring his mother’s story.

He titled the book,           after an answer his mother gave him

when he asked the question, “Momma, what color is God?”








She tells him wisely,

“God is the color of water. Water doesn’t have a color.”


The author describes his childhood, openly and honestly—

he was a mess growing up;

his father died when he was born;

he was the youngest child of 8

he got into lots of trouble.

His mother never fit the mold her Jewish family wanted,

especially in marrying outside the faith,

especially in marrying a black man.

So James responded to his life experiences,

by being difficult, breaking rules and getting in trouble.


Looking back, after he’d grown and made it through his adolescence,

he remembers having heard more than one time,

“You have to choose

between what the world expects of you

and what you want for yourself.”


Then his sister would say with emphasis:

“Put yourself in God’s hands and you can’t go wrong.”

Lord only knows what James thought the world expected of him,

growing up in the housing projects of Brooklyn,

a fatherless child (Until his stepfather came along),

raised by an outcast white Jewish mother,

who had immigrated from Poland.

“You have to choose between what the world expects of you

and what you want for yourself.”

It took time, but these words sunk in.

“Put yourself in God’s hands and you can’t go wrong.”


Mark’s gospel doesn’t tell us what scripture Jesus was teaching that day;

to Mark, that is not the point of the story.

We are supposed to see that Jesus put himself in God’s hands

and not only withstood the rejection but used it.

God can use this too.

Jesus made this a teaching moment

He used this moment to send his disciples

into the countryside to teach and heal.


It seems Jesus needed the hometown rejection—

he needed to show his disciples how they should act,

because surely, they too would meet rejection.

“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…”


We Christians struggle at times

to see the whole of God’s purposeful plan of reconciliation.

Maybe it is that feeling of “We want it all now.”

Perhaps it is our zealous desire

that others must come to see things the way we see things.

Or it is that we feel justified in our convictions

when our beliefs and practices are accepted.








Jesus knew, you can’t force belief,

you have to teach, love, heal, lead, and hope—

You have to understand that sometimes,

people aren’t ready to hear the message,

they need space, time to grow.

You have to believe in the power of the Holy Spirit

to move and shape and change people’s hearts.

“Put yourself in God’s hands and you can’t go wrong.”


What you do in the name of love is never in vain.

What you do in the name of love

becomes part of God’s enormous plan of redemption—

this is our walk of faith.

Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, Lord Christ,

that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart,

not looking to the world to commend us for our works,

but united to one another with pure affection,

United to you, Father Son and Holy Spirit, forever and forever more.