I found in today’s readings a strange contrast of reactions to leaders being welcomed (or not!) by those they were visiting. Let’s look more at this.
We are in week four of nine weeks of OT readings about the story of King David. Nine years ago, in my first year of preaching here at St. Mark’s, I did two sermons all about King David, pointing out his greatness—and also his humanity and faults—and his devotion to serve God even with those huge shortcomings. In studying about David then, it at least helped me to understand how we all can be faithful to our God, while knowing that we will mess up and fall short in our following what Jesus asks of us.
The 2 Samuel reading today gives us the story of how David actually became the unified King of the Jewish 12 tribes, and how he was clearly known by them to be chosen by God: “The Lord said to you: It is you who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you who shall be ruler over Israel.” David was their unified king for 33 years, and it was a great time for the Jews, as David’s army took the land and formed their royal new city of Jerusalem. This was only improved on once, when David’s son Solomon built the 1st temple and ruled even more wisely than David. David was welcomed as their supreme king and leader, and we will hear more about that welcoming next week.
Our reading from 2 Corinthians seems to be Paul at his absolute craziest—talking about someone who had been caught up in heaven and then talking about the experience. What Paul was actually telling the Corinthians was that they have, and will hear, all kinds of wild testimony from bogus preachers and charlatans who will claim all manner of ways of being close to God, and want them to believe their perverted faith. Under attack from "false apostles," Paul is fierce, ironic, even sarcastic, drawing the Corinthians away from the illusions of superior spiritualities. (Have we seen this anywhere today?)
Paul tells them he won’t be caught up in this, and won’t be perverting them, because what he teaches is the truth about Jesus. He adds to this by declaring that he is fully aware of his own weaknesses, but that is where the presence of the living Christ enters in: "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness" This is not a general truth, but the specific truth of the Gospel that "the power of Christ may dwell in me." Paul had to fight for himself and his faith against those who would lead some of his people away using false teaching—a far cry from a wonderful welcome David got.
In our Gospel reading from Mark, Jesus goes to his hometown and preaches in the synagogue on the Sabbath. The people are astounded; how can this be that a lowly son of a carpenter can teach with such knowledge? They do not believe it all, and therefore Jesus is not really able to break through with them, except to perform a small number of healings. (Does this say anything about the depth of our own faith in the power to heal or see the miracles of God taking place around us?) This was certainly not a welcoming people either.
Jesus turns it all around by sending his disciples with him into the surrounding villages, in power and with the proper instructions, and they were able to do great things among the people there. Those instructions include traveling simply, looking for charitable people as they could find to stay with, and moving quickly on if their teachings and works of healings were rejected. (There is probably a message for us here, too, about being careful where we use our talents and resources to do the most good, and with those who truly want and need it.)
I had to keep the sermon simple this week, because I have had my own crazy last week or so, what with completing two finances reviews for other churches, working on getting all the items needed to get our house project plan and costs provided to our bank for approval so we can start on our new house soon, and working for the first time on the Chaplains’ Harbor Roots Farm finances to get them consolidated and on track. It all culminated in going to the beautiful wedding yesterday of Sarah and Emily at Sam Benn Park in Aberdeen, where Bonnie was the priest, and a great group of people celebrated this event with them.
The real culmination, though, or beginning of another new week, is our time together today to worship and praise God. AMEN.