Today's Gospel picks up where last week's left off. If you remember, last week Jesus was not having one of his best days. Those people who knew him best, his neighbors and kinfolk, heard him preach in the synagogue and, instead of being proud of him, they said, "Isn't this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and aren't his sisters here with us?" And, Mark says, they took offense at him. Jesus was amazed at the lack of belief they had in him. He was so amazed, and perhaps even disheartened, that he wasn't able to do much good for them. In fact, he left them with a kind of proverb, "Prophets are not without honor, except in their own hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house." We've heard proverbs like this in our own time. You often hear people say, "You can never go home again," or "In my parents eyes, I'm still 10 years old." Now, if we really listened to that, we might be tempted to sit back and let a lot of opportunities pass us by. We could become frustrated with trying to do anything new or make a needed change.
The section of Mark's Gospel that we read today shows us that Jesus didn't let that happen. He did what he could and kept going. He kept going through the villages teaching, and in today's Gospel we hear that he's beginning to send out the Twelve Apostles to proclaim the same message about the kingdom of God. That should tell us something about having confidence in the message that we proclaim as Christians. One of the things the church has learned from this Gospel story is that, like the Apostles, we're given the charge -- by our Baptismal Covenant -- to share what we believe about God, and to live a certain way because we are Christians, and to share that way with others. It's not always easy for us, either. We meet people who don't believe the things we do, and maybe they make us feel foolish. We could get discouraged, or we could even be afraid that we don't really know enough to talk about the message we're challenged to share. Sure, we should always keep learning, but if we remember what we do each Sunday here together and that we're made in God's image and are loved and forgiven by God, we have a good start.
It might help us to look at the rest of today's Gospel and think about the way Jesus sent out the Twelve. One of the most important things to realize is that he sent them out together. They went out by twos -- like them, we share the life of a "community." We aren't expected to do it alone. Jesus also told them not to take anything extra with them -- not to take an extra tunic or bread or a bag or even money. Now, we often hear that this should teach us to rely on God for all we need.
Well, in many ways that's true, but like most Scripture readings, this Gospel has several messages. It does teach us to rely on God, but it also teaches us that we don't have to have a whole lot of "stuff" or have our whole act together before we can begin to share the message of the Gospel. Maybe these Apostles didn't have two tunics to begin with--maybe they didn't already have extra money they could put in a bag. Remember, these men were fishermen for the most part. They were laborers and family men, not the high priests or scribes of that day. They certainly hadn't spent years in school. They probably struggled with everyday living the way many of us do today.
So, here Jesus is sending them out with what they have and no more, and the interesting thing is that the Gospel says that, "he gave them authority over the unclean spirits." So off they went and found out that they could call people to repent. They could even cast out demons. They anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them. We might not see ourselves doing that sort of thing today; as many kids say today, "That was then, this is now." What was relevant then is often very different from what is relevant now. We are given authority to do things that are relevant to our own lives. For instance, remember what we're told to do in our Baptismal Covenant. Those five promises are what we are called to do--whether we are bishops, priests, deacons, or lay people, and whether we're rich or poor.
So take a few minutes sometime this week to look at pages 304 and 305 in our Book of Common Prayer. If Jesus were commissioning us today as he commissioned the Twelve Apostles, he just might use these five promises. The first one asks if we will continue in the Apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers. In this way, we're in community with those Jesus sent out in today's Gospel. It's an exciting and challenging life!
We'll continue our liturgy now, gathered as God's people, renewed and strengthened just knowing that we're part of community that includes those who've gone before us and those who will follow.