Tuesday, July 17, 2018

"Become Known" from the series "Healing Hands." Sermon, July 15, 2018

Community UMC, Quincy
“Healing Hands: Become Known”
Rev. Andrew Davis
July 15, 2018
Mark 6: 13-16

This last month and a half, I have been attempting to not use a full manuscript, but an outline.  However, I have decided to return to manuscripts, as I do not presently have recording capability in worship yet.
What are we known for?  I think I may have teased it some last week when I talked about some of the ministries we have going on in our church or that are housed in our church.  Or, in the case of people seeking assistance, we are oftentimes the first church people will call because we are known for our willingness to help or at least try to help where we are equipped to do so.  And even though there are people out here without a church home, we have a relationship with many (which is important in its own right), even though we might not see them in worship on Sunday morning.  We are known for our music ministry and our choir, even though the choir is on its summer break right now.  Our denomination, The United Methodist Church is known for its quick response to disasters throughout our nation and world, particularly through our work with the United Methodist Committee on Relied (UMCOR), or because the UMC as a denomination is big on social justice, the UMC is oftentimes a strong presence in many social justice causes. 
Along your own faith journey, what do you want to become known for, especially as a follower of Christ?  How are you living your life in a way that reflects being like Christ and what does it mean to be known as a follower of Christ among your friends, coworkers, and family?[i]  Those are a few questions to consider this morning as we continue our series, “Healing Hands.” As we have covered in the series so far, Jesus has become known throughout Galilee as a teacher and healer, often drawing great crowds who come to be healed and to learn from him. 

In the first part of our series, Jesus brought new life to a woman who had been suffering with bleeding for twelve years, then resuscitated the twelve-year-old daughter of Jairus, a high ranking official of the synagogue and giving her new life.  Last week, Jesus sent the disciples forth to teach and to perform healing acts as they began actively participating in the ministry of Jesus.            
In our text from Mark this morning, we have some overlap from what we read last week.  In this very short text, King Herod Antipas (the son of Herod whom we hear about in Jesus’s birth story) is receiving word as to who Jesus is, as Jesus is becoming known among the rulers and the religious authorities.  While Jesus does not directly appear in this passage being a transition between stories, Jesus’s name is becoming known, even though there is some lingering confusion to who Jesus is (See back to last week when the disciples struggle to understand who Jesus is in Mark’s Gospel).  As Herod Antipas is hearing about Jesus and that we read about in the Gospel lesson, some think that Jesus is the second coming of the prophet Elijah that we read about in the Old Testament, while Herod is believing that it is John the Baptist being raised from the dead. 
One of the things that threatened Herod and caused him to execute John the Baptist was that John preached a message of repentance, or turning away from our sins, our shortcomings, and changing our hearts and minds.  Given that John the Baptist and Jesus complemented each other throughout the Ancient Near East, “stories of healing followed Jesus. John the Baptist declared to all the importance of repentance: change now! John and Jesus offered the world new hope that was different than what King Herod offered.”[ii]
Now, we aren’t going to be getting into the gory details in the rest of this chapter and what ultimately happens to John, yet around the season of Advent (the four weeks before Christmas), we will read and hear how John the Baptist is this rough-looking dude that goes calling on people to repent and foretells that a more powerful one than him is coming.  Herod Antipas being someone of power and envious of anyone who will threaten his power, has John the Baptist beheaded, as John called Herod out for marrying his brother’s wife, which was unlawful in that time.
Following the Christmas story in the Gospel of Matthew, King Herod the Great was jealous and caused Jesus’s family to flee to Egypt (Matthew 2), so the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree in his son, Herod Antipas who used his power to eliminate someone he felt was a threat to his power.  John and Jesus offered a message of hope and peace, not of fear and intimidation.  Jesus and John were known in positive ways, while Herod Antipas was known in not so positive ways.  Even though this story takes place over 2000 years ago, each of us are known among people, whether it’s in our community, our jobs, at school, etc..  Of course, we can be known in a negative light too, hence why it is important that we ask ourselves how we want to be known.  Do we want to be known as someone who brought hope and made someone’s day, or do we want to be known as someone who is never happy with anyone or anything and brings negative energy into any space we enter?  It’s a choice we have in how we become known. 
One of the challenges I face as preacher of the word is that so often, a text will be highly relevant, especially when we see the forces and “sins of envy, hatred, jealousy, and greed seeking to take control of society” and actively at work in our world today.[iii] It is a danger given that we live in a divided society and the question to what truth is carries different answers, as one side or another will claim that their truth is the absolute truth or how each side is known.  If we are known fighting because we have succumbed to the sins of hatred, envy, jealousy, or greed, it takes us away from our mission as followers of Christ, as Christ is the one who came to bring us the truth.  It’s hard not to get caught up in it and I even find myself slip up here and there.  Yet as a follower of Christ, I know I would rather be known for being a peacemaker and sharing a message of hope and love, even trying my hardest to love those I don’t like or love those whom I don’t agree with, as Jesus commands us to love, even if it means getting attacked for it.  My favorite saying is that when I reach the pearly gates, I would rather that God be upset with me for erring on the side of love and including those we don’t want to include. 
Given the tensions in the news, on social media, in the letters to the editor of the newspaper, it’s easy to resort to cynicism and even joining in on the name calling and mudslinging (and I’m preaching to myself too!!).  However, is that how we want to become known for?   I should hope not.  While we are fortunate to live in a community like ours that respects each other for the most part, we can always perfect our skills and influence the greater world by becoming known for what we sang about as we gathered, our love.  Or as John Wesley calls it, going onto perfection in love.   
In light of Jesus becoming known to Herod Antipas followed by Herod’s actions in executing John the Baptist, our Gospel lesson raises an important question (among many) worth pondering and reflecting on during the week: “Are there blind spots [in my own life and personality] that cause me to operate as if I was King Herod?  While it does not feel like there is much in the way of Good News in our Gospel lesson, there is some Good News to consider here.  By God’s grace have a chance to repent, or turn away, or change our hearts, especially if we are known for cutting people down or calling people names, even in conversation, or just being negative Ned’s/Nellie’s in general.  A few years ago while I still shedding away parts of my old self who could have an acidic tongue and heart like Herod at times, I had no problem referring to people as jerks or idiots, something I’m trying hard not to do today, yet still fall short as I haven’t quite perfected myself in love yet.  As I was about to say something towards a person I read about in the news and was saying, “yeah, well this person is a…,” one of my classmates quickly interjected with “beloved child of God.”
That’s something that is worth pondering, because in all honesty, I think I would rather be known as a beloved child of God and as someone who sees others as a beloved child of God instead of whatever bad name can be inserted there.  I would rather be known for having a heart like Christ than a heart like Herod, as it’s a lofty challenge and so, so hard to do.  Being a follower of Christ doesn’t mean that we don’t slip up here and there, as that’s where God’s grace works, along with that opportunity to repent.  I still repent of my past behavior and instead of seeing someone as a jerk, I try to see them as a beloved child of God, even those we may have a hard time loving. 
One of my daily devotionals that I enjoy reading and pondering is Father Richard Rohr’s daily meditations and on Thursday morning, the devotion hit the nail on the head.  In one paragraph, Father Rohr writes that
Jesus tells us to not harbor hateful anger or call people names even in our hearts like “fool” or “worthless person” (Matthew 5:22). If we’re walking around all day thinking, “What an idiot he is,” we are already in the state of sin. Sin is more a state of separation and superiority than any concrete action—which is only the symptom.  How we live in our hearts is our real truth.[iv]

As we go into our new week, how do you live in your heart and how  are you known by those around you?  What does it mean for each of you to be a follower of Jesus Christ?[v]  Do you want to be known as someone with the heart of Christ, or as asked earlier, are there blind spots that might be more like having the heart of Herod?  These are by no means easy questions to ponder or think about, and these are good questions to reflect on in a journal.  Yet as we reflect on such questions, this is how we too can use our hands and hearts for healing or to work toward healing as we think about how we want to become known.  Jesus’s acts of healing were becoming well known during his ministry, and even today in the midst of skepticism and living in a post-Christiendom world, my hope today and every day is that we can still become known as Christians by our love and become known as having the heart, healing hands, and the mind of Christ. 
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, let the Church Say, AMEN!! 

[i] 2018. Gbod-Assets.S3.Amazonaws.Com. Accessed July 12 2018. https://gbod-assets.s3.amazonaws.com/legacy/kintera-files/worship/July2018_Healing-Hands-worship-series.pdf.

[ii] Ibid.
[iii] Ibid.

[iv] "Radical Politics - Center For Action And Contemplation". 2018. Center For Action And Contemplation. Accessed July 12 2018. https://cac.org/radical-politics-2018-07-12/.

[v] 2018. Gbod-Assets.S3.Amazonaws.Com. Accessed July 12 2018. https://gbod-assets.s3.amazonaws.com/legacy/kintera-files/worship/July2018_Healing-Hands-worship-series.pdf.

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