PENTECOST 6, B – July 5, 2015

 SCRIPTURES – Ezekiel 2:1-5; 2 Corinthians 12:1-10; Mark 6:1-13

 

[Jesus] went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and 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 and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. Mark 6

 

“Who do you think you are?” This is what the people of Jesus’ hometown said to Him. His miracles of healings and the casting out of evil spirits from people should have made it obvious to them that He was not only a powerful man of God; He was a good man, a man who cared about people and helped all who were in need. But, no. They saw Him as a man who was getting too big for his britches. He was putting Himself above them and was threatening to rule them, not serve them. Their fear and opposition had the unfortunate result that He could do few miracles there. His help was rejected.

 

“Who do you think you are?” This is what the people among whom Ezekiel lived were saying to him. God had made Ezekiel His voice. He would speak God’s good Word to them, telling them who they were as God’s people and how God would bless their lives as they listened and obeyed Him. But, they wanted no part of that. They rejected God’s teaching and lived and worshiped as they chose. As a result, God sent an enemy to defeat them, and they now lived as captives in a foreign land.

 

“Who do you think you are?” We who follow Jesus hear this today. Some think that our good Savior restricts their freedom and independence. And, in a way they are right. Although we celebrate our country’s independence, this does not mean that we have no rule, none to whom we must answer; and this is especially so for you. You who believe in Jesus are, like Ezekiel, “son of man.” This not only means you are mortal. Above all it means that you are called by God and made His servant, His spokesman. What an honor and blessing, that the Most High God has reached down to you, a sinner, to forgive you, to give you His life and His name, and to raise you up to represent Him! Now, you are not a son of man like Ezekiel, whom God made His prophet. You are not prophets or clergy. But, He still speaks and works through you. He does so in your vocation, in the life and work and position in which He has placed you. In every vocation you have – father; mother; husband; wife; parent; child; employer; employee; citizen; police officer; nurse – you are to live, not for yourself alone and as you wish, but for the benefit and blessing of others as God directs. This is true even in settings and relationships which seem to benefit primarily yourself.

 

Consider marriage, which is a topic of much debate right now. You know that the Supreme Court, by a 5-4 majority, recently ruled that marriage is a constitutional right for people of the same sex and cannot be denied to them. In reactions to this I’ve heard people say things like, “It’s all about love,” or “Who you love and choose to marry is up to you and no one else.” This ignores the fact that marriage does not just affect the couple. Marriage is public love, a public statement of love. It is a public statement before witnesses of how each will live with and treat their spouse and live toward other people. Private love is not marriage and does not need marriage. For the sake of the public good, then, laws regarding marriage have been established. There are laws setting a minimum age for marriage, disallowing marriage between close relatives, and forbidding having more than one spouse. With regard to same-sex marriage, until the last few years no society in all of recorded history allowed it; the Supreme Court majority acknowledged this. Marriage exists for the public good.

 

Well, more than anyone else God knows and wants what is good for all people. He is our good Creator and loving Savior who wants above all to bless us with and guide us in what is good! This is especially so with regard to marriage, which is the first blessing that God gave to us after our creation. Our Lord Jesus pointed to this when teaching about marriage. He said: “At the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’” (Matt. 19) The union of a man and a woman as one flesh is God’s good gift from the beginning. Jesus praises only that union.

 

Regarding same-sex unions, we have very clear teaching from the apostle Paul, whom Jesus spoke to and taught from heaven. He traveled extensively throughout a Greek and Roman society in which same-sex sexual unions – although, not marriage – were well known. In fact, same-sex sexual unions were even encouraged in many of their temples! To the new Christians in Corinth, Greece, who were very familiar with this, Paul wrote:

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor those who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God… your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God. You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor. 6:9-11, 19-20)

Notice: Paul did not say that homosexual sex was a worse sin than any other sin. He did call it sin, however, and said it would keep a person from going to heaven. For this reason he did not simply condemn and then reject homosexual people and those who had had same-sex unions. He welcomed them to Christ, baptized them, and declared them new people who were pure and holy, filled with the Holy Spirit of God! He followed Jesus in welcoming and serving sinners. We are to do the same.

 

Accepting and believing and living this will mean hardship and rejection. If people rejected Jesus, saying to Him, “Who do you think you are?” they will surely reject you and me. We must expect this. In fact, Chief Justice John Roberts, who disagreed with the majority decision of the Court on same-sex marriage, warned of this in his dissent. He wrote:

“    The majority graciously suggests that religious believers may continue to “advocate” and “teach” their views of marriage. The First Amendment guarantees, however, the freedom to “exercise” religion. Ominously, that is not a word the majority uses.

     Hard questions arise when people of faith exercise religion in ways that may be seen to conflict with the new right to same-sex marriage––when, for example, a religious college provides married student housing only to opposite-sex married couples, or a religious adoption agency declines to place children with same-sex married couples. Indeed, the Solicitor General candidly acknowledged that the tax exemptions of some religious institutions would be in question if they opposed same-sex marriage… There is little doubt that these and similar questions will soon be before this Court. Unfortunately, people of faith can take no comfort in the treatment they receive from the majority today.”

Difficult days are ahead for us – even though we love and serve people with the Lord who died for all that we might live forever with Him in heaven! We cannot avoid these days by rejecting or ignoring God’s teaching, for then we reject what is good, what helps and protects and saves us and others, and we bring God’s judgment upon ourselves. When the difficult days come, then, know that your Savior is with you and His power will rest upon you. He promised Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” You are no less than Paul. You have the same Savior who died and rose for you. You have the same forgiveness, the same Holy Spirit given to you in your Baptism and dwelling within you. You have Christ Himself, at whom the people of His own hometown were offended, holding you! He will never let you go.

 

With Paul, then, we say: “For the sake of Christ I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” In the name of Jesus! Amen.