7th Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 9, Year B)
O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Jesus came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.
Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.
Faith from the Margins to the Web Contributors: Ty, Mary, and John
“Why does Jesus say to shake the dust off his feat?” asked Ty. “I always wanted to know that!”
“Well, he was in his home town…and you know how that goes.” said John.
I posed a question to the group members: “What do you all think it means? What tends to happen with you in your home town? Are you always welcome there?”
There were a few head nods, but more knowing glances and at least one, “well, sometimes…but…”
“It’s a little more ‘sometimes’ for me, too” I added. “In fact, I think this whole story makes us realize that Jesus may have felt that same thing we do.”
“That’s right, for me too” said John. “You know, it’s hard when you decide to do things on your own terms, to not fall back into a crowd where you’ve been pulled down before. I started making decisions that were right for me, to focus on my family, to put my faith in God. And, it was like I wasn’t welcome anymore. And that’s OK, you know, because everyone has their own path. I still pray for them and I believe in their time they will come around. But, I just can’t let them pull me down in the process.”
“Sounds like shaking the dust off to me!” said Ty. “Maybe I just got the answer to my question! I can relate to that, too. And even when the people I once knew seem like they’re listening to me, I can tell by the look on their faces that they have already moved on and left me standing there in the dust. But, a verse like this, it reminds me that we’re not alone in that. Jesus knew that.”
Mary, who had been quiet, bravely joined in to share her own story: “You know, I’ve been kind of quiet but I need to say something. I admit, I used to use drugs. And it was so hard to quit. I went to rehab, and when I came back my old “friends” wanted nothing to do with me. I had to wonder, in the end, were they really friends with me, or were they friends with the drugs? So, finally I had to shake that dust off and move on. I went to church; I found new friends where we had God in common. I’m not ashamed of that; I learned from that.”
“But we still love people” said John. “I still love my family, and I think Jesus still loved people even if they weren’t accepting of him or the message he was sharing. Shaking the dust off the feet doesn’t mean shaking people off. It means loving them in God.”
Ty agreed, “I think that’s right. Our human side is hurt, so we can do one of two things: go back to what we were doing with the people we were doing it with, or find a way to live into who we are called to be. That’s where our spirituality comes in, the spiritual nature of our beings. We can shake off the problems while we pray for the people. Caring about what they think, we can let that go. Caring about them: now that, we can pray about. Hmmm…I guess I answered my own question! Or maybe, we all did.”
Yes, we all did hear the movement of the Holy Spirit in our midst in this holy conversation. I’m grateful, as always, for the gift of stories and the depth of sharing that this project brings to our weekly scriptures!