Pentecost 6 B 2021 Home Field Advantage
Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Home field advantage... something that is sought by sports teams. One researcher discovered that over a ten-year period, the homefield advantage in the MLB was 53.9%, in the NHL 55.7%, in the NBA 60.5%, and in the NFL 57.3%. It is no wonder then that sport teams covet the advantage they have playing at home.
Today in our Gospel reading, we quickly discover that Jesus did not enjoy the home field advantage many sports teams do. In fact, His home field, or hometown of Nazareth proved to be a dis-advantage when He preached the Good News to the hometown crowd.
Our Gospel text today states that the hometown folk’s unbelief was so notable that it even amazed Him (by the way the only two things in scripture that ever-amazed Jesus were faith and unbelief).
Now, one would think that if anyone would believe in Him it would be the people in His hometown. But that was not the case. In Mark’s Gospel the hometown folks took offense at Him. Other Gospel accounts tell us that the hometown crowd tried to push Him off a cliff.
That is not just disagreement. That is not just finding His sermons boring. That is outright rebellion.
But Jesus was not the first person in scripture to experience this rebellion. Ezekiel, in our first reading today, also experienced rebellion. In fact, Ezekiel was called by God to speak to a rebellious people. God said to Ezekiel “Whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house), they shall know that there has been a prophet among them.
As the history of the prophets clearly shows, many if not most people would refuse to listen to the prophets God had sent to speak His Word of Hope and Salvation. God’s very own Chosen People often refused to hear the message God sent His messengers to deliver.
And so it is not surprising to hear that Christ’s own disciples experienced the same chilly reception when Jesus sent them out to the surrounding villages two by two, and when He gave them authority over unclean spirits.
Jesus said to His disciples “If 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.” Jesus knew that His messengers, and the message that they were sent to deliver would not always be well received. Nonetheless, Jesus did send them out to the surrounding villages with God’s message of repentance.
And so, it is almost like Jesus wanted His disciples to see Him fail when He spoke at his hometown so that they would not get discouraged when they are rejected too.
And the same is true for us today. When God’s Word is spoken, and when the Sacraments are properly administered, people today still get offended. I think some people would prefer watching paint dry or having a root canal than having to sit and listen to what God has to say.
And it is this attitude towards Jesus that still impedes the ministry we have been sent out to do. Mark reports that Jesus could do no deed of power in Nazareth, except for healing a few sick people. Mark’s point is unmistakably clear – our attitude towards Jesus can help or hinder God’s Redeeming Activity in our lives.
For you see, the importance of one’s attitude and relationship to Jesus is highlighted in Mark’s Gospel by the way in which Jesus is depicted as having power and authority over nature but not over people. Jesus heals diseases, casts out demons, controls the wind – but Jesus does not control people and dictate their response to Him.
For example… Jesus commands people to be silent, and they go and tell everything He told them. Jesus commands the women at the tomb to go and tell His disciples the news of His resurrection, and they go and say nothing to anyone because they are afraid.
Since God has given us free will, our attitude towards Jesus is a critical factor in determining the works He can or cannot do among us.
Jesus cannot heal people who have no desire to be healed. Jesus cannot forgive people who have no desire to be forgiven. Jesus cannot teach people whose minds are closed. Jesus cannot bring new life to people who have no desire for new life. Jesus cannot create peace in people and among people whose desires are expressed in hate and revenge.
Our attitude towards Jesus does affect the work Jesus can do among us. That is why Jesus said “Blessed are they who are not offended at me” because when we are not offended, we are able to receive the gifts (and share the gifts) that God desires to bestow upon us.
My friends, as Christians living in the world, we do not have the home field advantage. The Good News that God has given to us to share will be offensive to some. People will reject us. People may even want to throw us over a cliff. But others will not be offended. And others will welcome the Good News that we share and receive the joy and peace that God so freely shares.
Let us pray: Eternal God, you alone are constant in this changing world. Grant us true wisdom of heart and guide us in serving you all the days of our life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.