Proper 14; Pentecost 5
MP: St. Mary the Virgin, St. Paul the Apostle EP: Holy Trinity
July 9, 2006
Focus text: Mark 6:1-13
If I were to ask you, “What is your identity?”, how would you answer? Some of us would begin with where we come from-I’m from Cape Breton, my family are Scots, or French, or “I’m a townie from the Nish”–I’d be grateful for someone to explain that one to me! For a time after I moved to Charlottetown, I was Fred Dickieson’s little sister, or Carol’s daughter. Or I am a mother or a father. Many of us would begin with what we do-I’m a doctor, I’m a farmer. I was looking through the parishioner information sheets many of you filled out at one time, and one woman declared her occupation as house queen!
Yes, today we do live in a world where people are over-occupied with their work. In spite of ever increasing technology which is supposed to make our lives easier, we as Canadians actually, on average, devote more time to our occupations than ever. Even moreso, then, what we choose as our occupations says a great deal about who we are. Many fishers, for example, will have inherited the occupation from their parents. This says something about values, about how one regards oneself in relationship with family. Those who work from the land and sea will very often have a particular perspective on creation—and not just the weather, either. My own personal heroes are entrepreneurs (because I could never keep track of everything). Being an entrepreneur speaks to a particular set of gifts and values that person holds closely.
In today’s gospel reading, there is one little verse that tells us a great deal about Jesus’ identity. “Is not this the carpenter?” Don’t you just love going home?! You go away, you get in with a new set of friends, absolutely clean slate. You can recreate yourself, leave all your dorky childhood behind. Then you come home, and no matter how old you are, you are still little Johnny Fraser and “Remember that time you lost your pants in the hay thrasher?” Last week we saw Jesus at his most powerful, his most appreciated, and his most merciful. He has been called on by the leader of the synagogue to heal his daughter. Jesus heals a woman simply by having her touch the hem of his cloak. He is surrounded by people who witness firsthand this amazing Jesus. He is so powerful, he can declare without even seeing the girl–”Don’t worry, she’s not dead, just asleep”.
Then he goes home. And he proclaims the same good news he has proclaimed everywhere. And what does he get? “Isn’t that the carpenter?” They are astounded, Mark tells us, at the wisdom he has attained in his travels. Imagine a carpenter from Nazareth getting all that learning. But instead of rejoicing in his accomplishments and tending closely to his words, they are preoccupied with his humble beginnings. He’s a carpenter. Then they are scandalized. Is it jealousy? Is it bitterness? Who knows but we do know two things-Jesus’ brother and mother remain faithful to him, and Jesus is, himself, stunned… and hurt at their lack of faith in him. These people who should know him best. But they know him for what he was, and refuse to see that as the foundation for what he was to become.
Jesus never denied where he came from, but it is interesting that in our tradition, these humble beginnings have been known to be swept under the rug. As we understand the gospel tradition, Mark’s gospel was the first written, then Matthew and Luke, then John. The later the gospel was written, the more clearly defined is Jesus’ identity as God, to the most glorious and mysterious descriptions of Jesus as “the Word” in John’s gospel. Here in Mark’s gospel, the question is, “Isn’t that the carpenter?” By the time this episode appears in Matthew’s gospel, the question becomes, “Is not this the carpenter’s son?” (Matt 13:55) erasing the years Jesus himself would have spent at the workbench. By the time the episode appears in John, Jesus is simply, “the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?” (John 6:42). Why is it so difficult to comprehend that the Creator of the universe could also be a carpenter?
In spite of the reaction of his hometown, Jesus never denies from where he came. In fact, it becomes the source for many of his most famous sayings. The following is from Max Lucado’s Next Door Savior…
God created us as we are, to be where we are, at this time and at this place. Perhaps there were moments, at his father’s workbench, when Jesus daydreamed and anticipated the day he would heal the daughters of rulers. He also knew that every strike of his hammer brought him closer to the cross.
As we spend our day, doing our work, visiting our parents, taking care
of our children, tending our flowers, let us appreciate the extraordinary presence of God in the ordinary, always aware that God is here, open to the possibility that these simple moments are preparing us for a moment in God’s glory. AMEN.