“Following Jesus Includes Rejection” by The Rev. Stephanie Kendell
The River at my family home in Douglas City, CA
I hope this week has helped you find new life-giving spaces of renewal of your spirit. I know it can be a challenge, but it is important to see how the spirit is moving you. To pick up and join or to sit this one out and rest. I am thankful for those of you who have kept me in your prayers while I have taken some time to rest, pray, and imagine for The Park.
I don’t know why I am always so surprised that the scripture of the week is exactly what I need to hear. I hope you find yourself in this same space. God’s work and word is still moving in this world and for that movement I am eternally grateful. As many of you know I have spent the last two weeks with my family at our home in Douglas City, CA. It is a space that has seen little change since my family bought it over 20 years ago. Something about that space, and its familiar smells, sounds, and sights is always so holy to me. It reminds me not only of times in my life that I have truly loved, but it also reminds me that I have grown. I have grown in age. I have grown in body. And I have grown in faith. However, being around my family has also reminded me that, who I am to my family, doesn’t shift as much as I think it has. And sometimes even hoped it had. But that family reminds me that I am a whole person. A person beyond my physical location and vocational call. And that is a gift, but it can also be a challenge. This story in Mark about Jesus reminds us of that tension and holds it with loving care.
“1 After leaving there, Jesus came into his own town, followed by the disciples.
2 When the sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and the many listeners were astonished and said, “Where did he learn all this? What is this wisdom that has been granted, and these miracles that are performed by his hands? 3 Isn’t this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joses and Judah and Simon? Are not his sisters here with us?” They found these things to be stumbling blocks.
4 Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometowns and among their own relatives and in their own households.” 5 And he could work no miracles there, apart from laying his hands upon a few sick people and healing them; 6 their lack of faith astounded him. He made the rounds of the neighboring villages instead and spent the time teaching.”
“Then Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out in pairs, giving them authority over unclean spirits. 8 He instructed them that they should take nothing for their journey, except a mere staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts. 9 They were to wear sandals but, he added, “Do not take a spare tunic.”
10 And Jesus said to them, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave town. 11 Any place that does not receive you or listen to you, as you leave it, shake off the dust from the soles of your feet as a testimony against them.”
12 And so they set off, proclaiming repentance as they went. 13 They cast out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.” Mark 6:1-13
I have always been the outspoken one in my family and as I continued through my many forms of education more than once has someone in my family (origin and chosen) has said some version of “Where did you learn all of this?” What that question does is twofold, and I imagine Jesus felt this as well. First that question recognizes that there is a change that has happened. Jesus is not the same person he was last time he went home. And the second is that it has challenged the status quo. Each interaction we have in life changes us. So when we come home, we are not exactly the person we were when we left. That is part of God’s will for us, but it is also the hard part about being human.
It can be hard for us to let go of the things that we once valued in a person so that we can see and value their growth from that place. Every time I go back home, and someone learns of an academic achievement, I will inevitably be asked if I “missed any school in graduate school?” referencing my attendance record from High School. It is hard for people to let go of defining characteristics from certain points in a person’s life. I suspect that is why, Jesus is so blunt about the expectations of going home. Would his mom’s best friend talk about that time she gave him a bath? Would his dad tell an embarrassing story about potty-training? Would his childhood crush only see him for who he was as a child?
Going home can be hard because we are no longer the people that we were. Jesus was keenly aware of that. It can feel like rejection when people don’t see and value the work you have done on yourself to become the person you are now. But that doesn’t mean that we should stay away, we just need to manage our expectations. This is true whether you are the one returning home, or the community that someone is returning to. We need to open our hearts and spirits to the new sense of self that accompanies each of us on our faith journeys. In the words of Dr. Namsoon Kang, we should let go of the old greeting of “nice to see you again,” and replace it with “nice to meet you again,” because when we enter someone’s life or “house” as it is in the scripture, God helps us profoundly change with each day and in turn we change others.
Friends, I can’t wait to see you next week. This time home has changed me, and I know you have all experienced spaces of growth and renewal as well. I can’t wait to meet you again.