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  • Writer's pictureThe Rev. Matthew Wise

In the Unexpected

Jesus 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. 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 6.1-6

One of the things that strikes me from the first half of the Gospel text for this coming Sunday is the limitation of Jesus’ power. I wonder if you caught it: “he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them.” While I’m certain the few sick people who were cured were grateful, the text implies that Jesus tried to offer even more salvation (see last Sunday’s sermon), even more “deeds of power,” but he could not. He was unable to do so. And why? Because of the people’s unbelief. They wanted or needed him to be the carpenter’s kid they expected him to be, to fit within the convenience of their previous experiences and when he does not, they take offense. They witness a new thing that they themselves speak of as wise and powerful, and Mark describes them as astounded by what Jesus is doing. And yet, because it is not how they expect him to act or because it is not the way they’ve done things before, they are not receptive to it. And because they are closed off, Jesus can’t do as much for them, can’t do as much WITH them as he wants.

Over the last seven weeks, our beloved community has joyfully encountered Jesus in some new and unexpected ways, and we’ve been open to what the Spirit has been up to. Forced to move out of our historic worship space while the lights were being replaced, we’ve been celebrating the Eucharist together in Bethlehem Chapel during the 8:30 am liturgy and in Gish Hall during the 10:30 am liturgy. Both settings have gifted us with more intimacy in our worship – a sometimes difficult task for a large, downtown parish. The beauty in the design of the Chapel has drawn us into one another and up close and personal with the Altar. Quire style seating in most of Gish Hall had us looking into one another’s eyes rather than at the back of each other’s heads while we prayed and sang together. There has been a palpable energy and excitement before and after each liturgy, and we’ve been able to hear one another laugh. Now that the lighting project is complete, the later liturgy will move back into the sanctuary, and those of us who worship at that service may be tempted to simply revert back to what once was. But, these experiences have blessed us, have changed us as a community. Jesus has been in our midst anew, doing deeds of power and offering salvation even outside of the ways we’ve always done it. He’s proven that he’s not only present in the ways we are most comfortable or familiar with and that he loves stretching us.

So my invitation over the next couple of weeks is this: talk to one another. Ask each other, “What was it like for you to worship in Gish?” And, “What might God want you to do or be or change because of that experience?” Early service folks, ask one another, “What has opened for you since we began worshipping in the Chapel?” The Spirit of Jesus has been and will continue to be among us – between, within, and all around. And the more we are open, the fewer boxes we build, the fewer labels we assign, the more the Spirit can do for us, and with us.

Peace, Matt +


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