7th Sunday after Pentecost – B (Proper 9) LSB #’s 555:1-4, 524, LW #457
Text – Mark 6:2-3
And on the Sabbath [Jesus] began to teach in the synagogue, & many who heard Him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to Him? How are such mighty works done by His hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary & brother of James & Joses & Judas & Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” And they took offense at Him.
ISN’T THIS THE CARPENTER?
Yesterday a child came out to wonder, caught a dragon fly inside a jar. Fearful when the sky was full of thunder & tearful at the falling of a star. Then the child moved ten times round the seasons, skated over ten clear frozen streams. Words like, “When you’re older,” must appease him, & promises of someday make her dreams.
Sixteen springs & sixteen summers gone now, cartwheels turn to car wheels through the town. And they tell him “Take your time, it won’t be long now, till you drag your feet to slow the circles down.”
And the seasons, they go round & round, the painted ponies go up & down. We’re captive on a carousel of time. We can’t return we can only look behind from where we came. And go round & round & round in the circle game. PAUSE
The lyrics were written by Joni Mitchell & some of you who were around in the 1960’s might even remember them. Their message, however, applies to every generation. Children grow up fast, & the point of the song is to highlight that fact so others might not fall into the same trap of taking their children’s early years for granted.
Things like changing a child’s diaper, & many others that are encountered in life, day after day after day, become so ordinary, so normal, expected & tedious, that we take them for granted. In fact, after awhile, we often fail even to notice. Some things become so ordinary that in effect, they cease to exist. And once things start ceasing to exist, once we lose that childlike sense of wonder about life, then we’ve started down the road to resentment. We begin to resent the very presence of those things we take for granted, because of the demands they place upon our time & our energy. We take, what are blessings from God, & turn them into curses because of our own self-centeredness, our own lack of appreciation & gratitude.
The song by Joni Mitchell is an attempt to remedy that. It’s an attempt to help us miss the water even before the well runs dry. Her lyrics are a wake up call to the reality & the blessing of the ordinary.
In reading the Gospel lesson, we find that Jesus has been taken for granted. He had become so common & ordinary to the people of His hometown that they were now resentful of Him. They objected to the miracles He was performing, & the wisdom of His teaching, because they had thought Jesus was just one of them.
“Isn’t this the carpenter?” might well be re-phrased, “Who does He think He is? Where does He get off on performing miracles?” He’s no better than any of us. Look, we have his mother & brothers & sisters right here.
It sounds like they were jealous. They envied the success of Jesus, because it only highlighted their lack of it. Jesus had appeared so ordinary, so much like one of them. They could not possibly accept that He was the Messiah. And no matter how many miracles He performed they were not going to change their opinion.
In fact, they hated Him all the more for having grown up just like one of them, yet succeeding beyond their wildest dreams. They resented the fact that He’d risen above them after having grown up with them, but the heart of the matter is this: they refused to accept the true identity of Jesus as the Chosen One.
In spite of what the people heard & saw from Him, they failed to penetrate the veil of
ordinariness that characterized Jesus. The everyday hum drum routine had dulled their perceptions, & their jealous, sinful nature was working to block any true understanding or appreciation of who this Jesus is. Isn’t this the carpenter?
Likewise today, many who don’t “get” anything out of church because of its ordinariness & routine, are struggling with the same problem. They’re taking for granted the blessings that God gives during worship. Those blessings have become so ordinary that people fail even to notice them. It’s as if the blessings no longer exist.
And when a person no longer recognizes the blessings of worship, then attending church becomes nothing more than a chore. At that point resentment sets in, but whether you are resentful of Jesus, or resentful of keeping the Sabbath holy, the problem is the same, & the problem is not with Jesus nor with church the services. The problem is with the sinner!
Just as sinful parents can take their child’s childhood for granted, & miss all the blessings of those years, people can take worship for granted & miss the blessings given by their Lord & Savior – blessings of life here in this world, & paradise in the next.
Just like it has to be pointed out to some parents not to view the growing up of their children as ordinary, dull or routine, it also has to be pointed out to church members not to view their attendance in the Lord’s house as ordinary, dull or routine.
King David wrote in Psalm 27, “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD & to inquire in His temple.”
Those don’t sound like the words of a man who dismisses Sunday morning church as dull, routine or expendable, & Psalm 122 echoes that thought, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’” So you might ask, “Why doesn’t God give all of us that gladness to be in His house? Why do I have to suffer with boredom in church or in practicing my faith?” The Apostle Paul gives some guidance in today’s Epistle reading: “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:8-9a ESV)
Weakness doesn’t sound like much of an answer to our human ears, does it? Yet, in the Gospel lesson the people were insulting Jesus as being weak, by calling Him a carpenter, & the son of Mary. Carpentry was considered a menial trade in that day, & it was contrary to Jewish custom to describe a man as the son of his mother, except in insulting terms.
Jesus entire life here on earth was one of weakness. He’d voluntarily chosen not to use His godly powers, in order to live His life as a man. The ultimate in weakness is for God to become one of His own creation.
So, if it seems weak for you to attend church every Sunday morning, if it seems weak for you to pray to God for guidance whenever you have a decision to make, think of the carpenter. Think on Jesus. His grace is sufficient for you as well. PAUSE
As it takes an incredible amount of patience to raise children before you see the results of your efforts, it also takes an incredible amount of patience to see the results of the Holy Spirit’s work in sanctifying us & the rest of the whole Christian church on earth.
That incredible amount of patience is something neither you nor I have. Yet, in our weakness, the gift of patience that God gives is revealed as just that, a gift. Neither does God require of us strength or courage, for He gives those as well.
Therefore Paul writes, “I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9b, 10b ESV) Paul understood that it is in our weakness that we finally surrender to God’s will. When we recognize how truly helpless we are, then we realize we have nowhere else to turn; & it is through God’s power & will, that we are made strong for the journey. But, when the journey goes well, how quickly do we again take God’s power for granted & drift away from it? Eventually our strength produces more folly & more failure.
Our lives are an endless cycle just like the Circle Game. Our faith grows & then shrinks; it waxes & then wanes. The seasons go round & round & round. The painted ponies go up & they go down. It is true faith in that Christ carries us through. Faith in Christ is the carousel that takes us through the trials of life & on to our heavenly home.
Take a moment someday & reflect upon your life. Think on the seasons of your time here on earth & the frozen streams of time that you have crossed. Then write down the blessings your heavenly Father has given. Think about which of those blessings you planned out, & think about which of those blessings were a complete surprise.
Maybe your life has not been so ordinary after all. If you step back for a moment & look through the eyes of faith, you may find a new appreciation for your Lord & what He’s done for you. His truest work happened upon the wood of the cross. Isn’t that the carpenter? Amen.
How sweet the name of Jesus sounds in a believer’s ear! It soothes our sorrows, heals our wounds, & drives away our fear. It makes the wounded spirit whole & calms the heart’s unrest; ’Tis manna to the hungry soul & to the weary, rest. Dear name! The rock on which I build, my shield & hiding place; my never failing treasury filled with boundless stores of grace. Amen. LSB 524:1-3.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet