It happens occasionally, July 4th falls on a Sunday. And unless you’ve got your head in the sand, the role patriotism and nationalism is a cultural divide or some magnitude. This is my attempt to think through a Christian patriotism. The divide is between those from somewhere and those from anywhere. And I think this puts forward a fair case that even though the worries of anywhere are real, somewhere is necessary for the gospel.
As I was preparing for this sermon this week I kept bouncing back and forth between two parts of the text. Jesus visiting his hometown is just a fascinating text, especially for someone like me who has lived a few different places in his life, but my kids have only really lived in one. But I was also pulled toward Jesus’ directions to the twelve apostles right after that hometown seen. He is sending them out two by two, but one of the restrictions he puts on them is if a place receives you, stay. The other restrictions, basically go out with nothing, would feed into that stability. After bouncing around it ended up a meditation on a paradox of the Christian life. The Christian life has a motion and a direction to it. We are sent. We are not at home here. The Christian life is one of stability. It can be lived anywhere it is received. How do we reconcile that paradox of sent stability? That is what this sermon ponders. How the spiritual life of the Christian moves out from the childhood home and can’t really stop until we reach the New Jerusalem, but it also it a spiritual life full of stability. I hope it might be a fruitful meditation on living the paradox for you.
Under the biblical text I put the full text I was drawing from. The reading is only Mark 6:1-13, but I think that cuts off a significant element of interpretation. What we see in this text is Jesus marveling at his rejection by his hometown because of what they “know”. They don’t really know anything, but what they “know” gets in the way of actually seeing. What this represents is the start of the hard opposition and rejection of Jesus. His ministry which has been one of crowds and superficial acceptance up until this point makes a turn toward the cross. At the same time he sends out the twelve. This is the beginning of their ministry. So we have the beginning and the beginning of the end in the same story.
What that highlights for us is the nature of Kingdom growth. The Kingdom grows not because of any individual ministry, but it grows through multiplication, through death and resurrection. A seed falls to the ground and produces a hundred fold. Jesus’ successful ministry healed people one at a time. We he was nailed to a tree, he healed the entire world. God’s power is revealed most sure in weakness, in the midst of the trial. And that is what the stories the church tells, the lives of the saints reflect most clearly.
Recording note: The hymn left in is Fight the Good Fight (LSB 664). The lyrics and the music reflect that cruciform nature of discipleship in this world. Success is not about the outward appearance, but about Fighting the Good Fight, Keeping the Faith, because God’s definition of success is found in Christ.