Biblical Text: Mark 6:1-13
Full Sermon Draft
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.
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If they hear about the stock market at all, most people hear the quote of the Dow – the Dow Jones Industrial Average – which is a straight-up average of 30 representative stocks. Nobody would make such a composite today. The S&P 500 is a weighted average which means the bigger companies get more weight. Also 500 stocks are more representative than 30. But those two averages correspond something like 99% of the time, so the Dow isn’t as bad as all that. Every now and then the components of the Dow get changed. A dowdy company, like this year’s Bank of America, or just plain daft ones, like Bethlehem Steel or Kodak, that lost their way and are no longer icons – they get unceremoniously dropped. And new behemoths of American greatness get added.
Here is the WSJ on the most recent round with a great little interactive chart of the subtractions and additions over the last three decades. This year, being let go are Alcoa, HP and Bank of America. The tech-phase is over. The Dow still contains: Cisco, Intel, IBM and Microsoft. HP? Sorry, just a second tier maker of declining gadgets. Of course looking at those 4 remaining techs, how long until Microsoft gets the boot? Alcoa is somewhat surprising, but I guess the Dow said Exxon Mobil is enough of raw materials for 30 companies. When Charles Dow put together his first list of 12 companies, 11 of 12 were in or close to the extraction and delivery business. GE was the only one that might have been a step away, but back then, it was about lighting and wires, so still rather close. The changes a century brings. And poor BoA; always a bridesmaid and never a bride. Well, they used to be groom I guess when they were gobbling up smaller banks, but you can’t help but smirk at the Wall Street sneer as they kick the country bumpkin bank out to add Goldman Sachs. I’m pretty sure that GS is the modern day incarnation of the whore of Babylon (Rev 17:5), but they do it with such NY style. Even the Devil gets his due. When St. John saw the great whore – even he marveled (Rev 17:6). Not last, at least by the name of the winged goddess victory, Nike. The old fairy tale of the cobbler and elves has the elves making such great shoes that the cobbler becomes rich. And he repays the elves with some new clothes. Does Nike at least give some nice clothes to their sweat shops? Probably not, because Nike is not sold on the quality of the shoes which wear out in about 1 year. The secret Nike elves are at work on Madison avenue turning a $2 item into something gang-bangers will kill over. And everyone knows that the MadMen are snappy dressers.
So what does a Pastor have doing commenting on the Dow? Well, I wasn’t always a pastor and the MBA in me still likes this stuff. But I guess I would say something similar to why did St. Paul use so many sports analogies (run the race, the winners crown, train the body, and more)? How we work and how we play are jumping off points to talk the spiritual life. Paul pointed at the best, the winners of the race, and said they all do the training but only one gets the crown. (1 Cor 9:24-25) They do that for something that perishes. Shouldn’t we likewise run for the imperishable? Those Dow companies work quarter by quarter, “to make the quarter” a common phrase, just to go back and do it again. And the crown is some cash and a moments notice. The gold-watches went away a long time ago. They build statues in front of buildings, that 20 years from now, if they are not Woolworth (dumped from the Dow in 1997), the people entering will pause a second and ask “Who was Thomas Watson?” In the Spiritual life our names are added to the Book of Life. We are waiting for the revealing of the eternal weight of glory and not a bronze statue. And in the case of Goldman Sachs – Jesus did say something about learning that when in the midst of wolves be as wise as serpents. (Matt 10:16).