It is time to put up or shut up.
It is time to admit once and for all that we trust God . . . that we trust Jesus . . . and, to live our lives as if we do.
It is time to move on.
It was not a good homecoming for Jesus. He was not welcomed with a hero’s welcome; no, far from it. He was questioned . . . he was ridiculed . . . he was not embraced and given a parade to mark his homecoming. Far from it. He was one of them and they knew him . . . they had seen him grow up . . . seen him working with his father . . . and, they wondered who in the world he thought he was to come waltzing in to preach to them. They did not believe him, nor did they trust him. The writer of the Gospel of Mark tells us that Jesus could perform no miracles and was amazed at their lack of faith . . .
. . . so, he moved on. He moved on proclaiming, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” So, he move on . . . went out teaching in all the neighboring villages. Outside of his hometown he was well received and performed all sorts of miracles and healings.
What is the issue?
They don’t trust him. They don’t trust that he speaks for God, or can do the things that he says he can. How does this hometown-boy have the gall to come back and act high and mighty? The problem is that everyone knows him . . . they know his family. They don’t trust him any further than they can throw him and they can’t throw him too far because he is one of them. The issue is one of trust. Jesus tells them to trust in his words . . . to trust him . . . and, their only response is, “Yeah, right!”
What can Jesus do? He can only move on and keep doing the things that he has been doing . . . he has to earn their trust. He has to keep preaching . . . teaching . . . changing people’s lives . . . he has to die . . . and, he has to rise again.
Tough lesson to learn, but a lesson none the less. Jesus realizes that he cannot sit there and waste time, energy, and resources trying to invite his hometown and family to come into the Kingdom of God if they are not going to give him the time of the day. Knowing this he heads down the road to share with those who will listen.
And so it would be for his disciples . . . they, too, needed to learn this lesson. Thus comes the day that they are given their first assignment . . . to go out into the nearby area and to share the Good News. The instructions were simple: go out among the people . . . be like the people . . . and, share the Good News of God’s Kingdom. Accept the hospitality offered; but, warns Jesus, do not waste time attempting to change those who do not want to change or hear what is being shared. He tells the disciples: “And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against .”
Reality is sometimes the best teacher. The disciples would learn a lot on this assignment, and from what the writer of the gospel tells us . . . well, they did well. People listened. Miracles and healings were performed. All in all, it was a job well done . . . and, if the disciples encountered any who would not listen, they shook the dust off of their feet and moved on.
And, why wouldn’t the people listen? I imagine that those who did not listen were those who did not trust. Why should they trust a bunch of strangers? They didn’t know these guys . . . for all they knew these guys were just selling a bunch of hooey.
That is the tough part of evangelism . . . or the tough part of being an evangelist. Remember, an evangelist is one who shares the Good News about God’s Kingdom. Plain and simple they tell the story and invite others to come along and join in. It is not the evangelist’s job to make the listeners believe . . . it is not the evangelist’s job to make the listeners convert. And, that is what make it so tough because as an evangelist . . . as one in relationship with God and knowing the blessings that relationship has . . . well, we naturally want that for everyone else. But, you know what, that is not our problem . . . that is between God and the individual. Ours is to share the Good News and invite others to join in.
So, how is the “church”—and I do not mean this local congregation of followers; but the “church” as a whole doing?
Apparently not very well. We could point our fingers at a myriad of excuses as to why the “church” is not doing well . . . why it seems that the “church” as we know it is falling apart . . . why more people are leaving through the back door than coming in the front door. We could blame secularism or pluralism or the lack of having a great contemporary service on Sunday morning. We could blame a lot of things . . . point our fingers in a lot of directions; but, none of them would be the real reason.
The real reason is because people don’t trust the “church”. The track record of the “church” does not provide a whole lot of ground to place trust in it. So, what is the “church” to do? What are we to do as individual followers of Jesus here in this place of worship and fellowship?
I would say that the first thing that we need to do is to “put up or shut up”. If we are going to proclaim that we believe in the loving and grace-filled God that Jesus preached and taught about, then we better start living as if we believe. If we trust God . . . if we trust Jesus . . . then we ought to live like we do. Which brings us to the second thing we need to do . . . we need to make the actions of our lives congruent with the words out of our mouths. We need to live our lives in faith . . . in trust . . . . we need to remember that God never abandons us . . . that God can be trusted . . . that God is our rock and redeemer . . . that God never lets us down. We need to believe it and live it.
And, lastly, it does not matter what words we speak . . . what actions we take, there are going to be people who will not trust us. We are going to be rejected . . . Jesus told his disciples this . . . they witnessed it when it happened to Jesus in his hometown. We are going to be rejected . . . going to be ignored . . . ridiculed . . . and we are to shake the dust off of our feet and move on. Move on because there is still much work to be done. The work of sharing the Good News of God’s Kingdom here and now.
The question becomes . . . can we do it?
I don’t know. It is up to each of us as individuals to step up to this challenge . . . that is all that any of us can do . . . to take care of ourselves. But, if we take care of ourselves . . . work on trusting God . . . work on building that relationship between us and God . . . and, continue to share the Good News . . . well, people are going to notice. People are going to begin to trust.
It begins with you and me as individuals. May we all move on. Amen.