July 4, 2021

Prayer of the Day

God of the covenant, in our baptism you call us to proclaim the coming of your kingdom. Give us the courage you gave the apostles, that we may faithfully witness to your love and peace in every circumstance of life, in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.Amen.

2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10

1All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron, and said, “Look, we are your bone and flesh. 2For some time, while Saul was king over us, it was you who led out Israel and brought it in. The Lord said to you: It is you who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you who shall be ruler over Israel.” 3So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron; and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel. 4David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. 5At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months; and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years.
  9David occupied the stronghold, and named it the city of David. David built the city all around from the Millo inward. 10And David became greater and greater, for the Lord, the God of hosts, was with him.

The New Colussus by Emma Lazarus (the poem on the Statue of Liberty pedestal)

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

2 Corinthians 12:2-10

2I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. 3And I know that such a person—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows—4was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat. 5On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. 6But if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think better of me than what is seen in me or heard from me, 7even considering the exceptional character of the revelations. Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. 8Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, 9but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

Mark 6:1-13

1[Jesus] came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him.2On 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! 3Is 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. 4Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” 5And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. 6And he was amazed at their unbelief. 
  Then he went about among the villages teaching. 7He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; 9but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. 10He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. 11If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” 12So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. 13They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

What does it mean to be embodied? How do we get grounded? What does it mean to be from a place and space or to journey physically? These are just some of the questions I have had as I thought about physical dislocation, the last kind of dislocation described in Diana Butler Bass’ article , “Religion after Pandemic”

Bass proposes that we are experiencing four different kinds of dislocation: temporal, historical, relational, and physical. She suggests that communities like ours need to be about the work of relocation. This includes finding what has been lost, repairing what has been broken, and re-grounding people into their own lives and communities.

As I said, this week we are focusing specifically on physical dislocation. Bass writes, “We’ve lost our sense of embodiment with others and geographical location. For millions, technology has moved ‘physicality’ into cyber-space and most of us have no idea what to do with this virtual sense of location. Without our familiar sense of being bodily in specific spaces, things like gardening, baking, sewing, and painting have emerged as ways of feeling the ground and the work of our hands. We’ve striven to maintain some sort of embodiment even amid isolation. But the disconnection between our bodies, places, and other bodies have been profound. That’s physical dislocation.”

Jesus has his own dislocation experience in our story from Mark this week when he returns to his hometown. The truth is that he does not seem too bothered by the entire affair and is as grounded as ever. It is the people in his hometown who are more dislocated. They recognize the hometown boy, “the carpenter, the son of Mary.” With those two phrases they recall with clear shame that there was no birth father involved. They are suspicious. Will they welcome Jesus’ physical self back to his hometown?

Jesus knows that his vocation will be rejected in his native region, by his relatives, and finally in his own household. He must concede that he is a prophet without honor, stripped of status and robbed of clan identity. He is disowned. He withdraws and takes up again his mission to the village circuit. 

Jesus sums up the general mood: “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.”  The more familiar something is, the harder it is to believe it to be holy.  

We know something about this in our own time and place.  Most of us have grown up with the sacraments, with the word of God read and preached, with the liturgy.  We have seen countless baptisms, confessed our faith through the creeds countless times, and heard hundreds of absolutions. We take our place easily at the Lord’s Table.  

During the first part of the pandemic, so much of embodied worship had to change. Good things came out of that experience, in my estimation. Chief among them was that people created, sometimes for the first time, sacred spaces in their homes. This was biblical—just look at Jesus using the very ordinary to create the means of grace, what we now call Sacraments. That faith would be practiced and taught in the home is also in line with what Reformer Martin Luther tried to do with the Small Catechism—giving parents a tool to teach the faith in every household. 

And yet, people have always made pilgrimage to holy places. People have built temples, altars, synagogues, churches, temples, mosques. And those places, whether a special rock outcropping or a valley or a structure built with human hands became holy. In our tradition, physical spaces like sanctuaries can help people feel closer to God, especially because of the memories and relationships and moments of immanence and transcendence. Can we make idols of church buildings? Yes, and that is surely something to be wary of. Maybe the pandemic helped us find an equilibrium—not idolizing the things or place of worship, but we no longer take for granted this and other sacred spaces and faith practices, particularly when we practice together for the sake of our neighbor and our broken world. 

Back to the story in Mark’s gospel, Jesus summons his community. Originally the community of the twelve disciples was created for two reasons: to accompany Jesus and to be sent out to preach and cast out demons. This is a simple start, just the beginning. Later, this community will reckon with a second call—to a discipleship of the cross. In such discipleship they will experience the clash between the kingdom of God and powers of the world. 

We, listening in 2000 years later, are struck most by the utter dependence of the disciples upon their hospitality. They are allowed the means of travel (staff and sandals). They, like Jesus, who has just been renounced in his own “home,” are to take on the status of a sojourner in the land. The focus of the hospitality is the household. The apostles are told to “remain there until you leave that district.”  

Jesus reckons with the inevitable prospect that certain places will refuse to “receive or hear” the apostles.  The symbolic gesture of shaking dust from the feet implies “a witness against” these places. The vocation of hospitality is taken with deadly earnest. Households that refuse it are thereafter shunned.

I love one scholar’s suggestion about the contrast here—the similarities and differences between the marching orders for Jesus’ nonviolent campaign and the traditional strategies of other subversive movements.  Like modern guerillas, for example, Jesus’ disciples are subject to the social and political perceptions of the local population. These perceptions will determine whether or not they will be “received”—always a good test of one’s “Popular base.”  

Unlike normal guerillas, however, who must “eat and run,” Jesus’ followers make no effort to be covert. Where they are offered accommodation, they stay and establish a profile. And whereas a military-based movement will usually seize by force what is needed, at least in situations of acute need, Jesus forbids retaliation in the event of rejection. This makes the missionaries completely vulnerable to, and dependent upon, the hospitality extended to them.  It prevents them from being able to impose their views by force.

As our physical bodies relocate this physical sanctuary, I confess having more questions than answers. What is essential to our embodied gatherings? Besides bread and wine? What is equivalent to the staff and sandals? What are the necessary tools for us to praise God, to pray, to listen, to hear the promises of God’s love and mercy? I admit being quite grateful for our sanctuary’s simplicity.

Another question, in light of Jesus’ sending out the disciples, is how do we balance rest and comfort with the call of discipleship? We know that many of us are more than tired. The word buzzing around on social media is “languishing.” I know that what many of us want, including myself, when we come to this space is comfort and peace. At the same time, we know that the call to discipleship is a call outward. In other words, while we physically relocate ourselves in this space what physical symbols are needed to remind us that this is primarily a place to be sent forth from? How do we find rest and restoration in God and in the life of intentional Christian community while being mindful of the call to love our neighbor when we leave this physical space. 

The story of Jesus and his early followers, including the story today, is ultimately one of people on the move, sent forth, meeting people where they are. The breaking in of the reign of God is also about physical bodies—God embodied in Jesus but then this Jesus healing and restoring and welcoming back to community physical bodies that have been cast out or marginalized.

We are more like Jesus’ community than we think.  We can sound like those people in Jesus’ hometown. But the story never ends in those broken places. God keeps calling people to embody God’s word. God chooses to touch and heal us through the ordinary physical stuff like water, bread, and wine. As we go to proclaim the good news and care for the marginalized and sick, we go with this authority.  It does not look like much, but in the kingdom of God, looks can be deceiving.

Prayers of Intercession

Let us come before the triune God in prayer.

A brief silence.God of all, through the waters of baptism you claim people of all races, ethnicities, and languages as your beloved children. Sustain the baptized and increase their faith, that your gospel may be proclaimed throughout the earth. Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer.

God of the heavens, your creating Spirit animates the universe. We give you thanks for the moon and stars, for the planets and the Milky Way Galaxy, and for all of the mysteries of the cosmos that remain unknown to us. Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer.

God of freedom, you have liberated us from sin and death and rescue us from all forms of spiritual, social, and political oppression. Defend us from tyrants in our midst and deliver us from all forms of slavery or corruption. Direct our freedom for works of liberation and wholeness. Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer.

God of compassion, you became vulnerable in the person of Jesus Christ in solidarity with the disempowered. Strengthen those who feel faint, give courage to those who fear, and bring wholeness to those in need (especially). Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer.

God of holiness, you send us out into the world to proclaim your love. We pray for our outreach ministries (local ministries may be named). Equip us as we leave this place to witness and serve our neighbors. Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer.

Here other intercessions may be offered.We give you thanks that in every time and place you call forth prophets who move us towards freedom. Thank you for those who work for human rights, community organizers, and all who strive for liberty for all. Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer.

We lift our prayers to you, O God, trusting in your abiding grace.Amen.

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