based on Mark 6:1-13
We all have one. A sack, a burlap sack. Some of us may not even be aware that
we have this sack, we may not have been told about it. But it was given to each
of us, and it's itchy. You see, we needed the sack to carry our load of stones
around with us. Rocks, boulders, pebbles, all sizes and shapes...............all
Some are the rocks of rejection. Perhaps given to us many years ago, or
perhaps they are fresher in our memories. These rocks were given to us when we
tried out for the team and weren't chosen, or when we didn't get the job we had
hoped for, or when a friend made choices in life that didn't include us.......
the rocks of rejection are heavy.
Then there's the rocks of failure. When we discovered that not all of our
plans were going to work out as we had envisioned them. When relationships just
could not be worked out, when we had to let go of dreams and start looking for
new ones. The rocks of failure often include the unwanted bonus of rocks of
guilt. And that itchy burlap sack gets heavier and heavier with the weight of it
all. We don't always know it, but we carry the sack with us everywhere we go.
Oh, we can forget about it for awhile. We can bring it to work with us, drop
it at the door and immerse ourselves in the day's tasks, but it's there waiting
when the day is over. We can place it in a corner somewhere while we party and
entertain, but it will demand to be picked up again and carried. Over time, the
sack wears us down, and we become weak with its weight upon us.
We seek rest...... The apostle Paul has good news for us today, telling us
that where our human weakness leaves off, God's love will take over. Paul tells
us that human frailty simply makes room for God's power. Today's Gospel is a
great lesson for holding up the "raw" humanity of Jesus. The One that we often
describe as "perfect" experiences failure and rejection when he tries to
minister to the people of his hometown. All of us here have experienced failures
and have been rejected ourselves, so it's a comfort to know that Jesus truly
understands what that feels like! But more than that, Jesus tells us that even
in those times when we are most aware that we are not perfect, God is still
working in and through us. Jesus calls us to get on with it, keep on responding
to God's best hopes for our lives, and he sends us out to keep loving and
serving in his name. As Jesus sends out the disciples to share his vision of
God's will for the world, so he sends us out, with orders to leave behind
everything that hinders us in our spiritual journey.
all that hinders us. Could he mean our burlap sack? I want to share a few
examples of people who have not let failure get in the way of seeking out their
dreams. Several years ago, Fortune magazine did an analysis of several hundred
successful people. The magazine's researchers found that most had failed several
times before achieving their success. Henry Ford went broke five times before he
finally made it in the car industry. Babe Ruth may have been famous for setting
a home run record, be he also held the record for strikeouts. Winston Churchill
did not become Prime Minister of England until he was 66, after a lifetime of
defeats and setbacks. Thomas Edison once said to an assistant who urged him to
quit after hundreds of failures on a particular project, "Why quit now? We
know at least a hundred things that won't work?".
There are, of course, many more examples than these, including those in our
own lives. Each gives us good reason to ask – what is success and failure
anyway? What this gospel tells us is that success and failure are only human
barometers of our worthiness. They are not necessarily of God. Jesus was
genuinely hurt by his rejection. We're given a sense of this in his
powerlessness, where the gospel writer tells us that he was not able to perform
the kinds of miracles that we heard of in last week's story of the bleeding
woman and Jairus' daughter. His own people, those who knew him better than
anyone, had declared him to be a laughing stock.
His mission to carry to the word of God's power and love had attracted
followers throughout the countryside, and yet his neighbors turned him away and
laughed at him. Jesus was hurt and likely a bit confused by their attitude, so
he healed a few people who were ill, and returned to his ministry. He encouraged
the disciples to continue on their way, sending them out in twos.
Jesus is NOT telling us in this gospel to give up when things go wrong. In
this passage, he is telling us that when things don't go the way we planned, God
still has a plan. And we need to be about putting that plan into action. What
Paul tells us, is that God WILL work through us, and with us, just as we are.
God isn't waiting for our perfection, only for the integrity of our faith. And
isn't that really the good news for us today? That even when we experience what
the world would call failure.........even when we feel the sting of rejection,
God's arms are open and ready to accept our very best efforts at faithfulness.
Songwriter and poet Leonard Cohen says, " Forget your perfect offering,
There's a crack in everything, That's how the light gets in". So what does that
tell us about the burlap sack that we're all carrying around with us? You
remember, the one that's filled with our rocks of past rejections, past
failures, guilt, and regret........ it's still there, bearing down and
scratching our backs.
I think that what Jesus, and the apostle Paul, are telling us is that we can
take that sack to the foot of the cross of Jesus and leave it there. We can open
the sack and take a look at what lies inside of it..... recognize that each rock
has caused us hurt, but each has also been an opportunity to grow and
learn.......... and then we can shake the dust off our feet, leave the rocks
there in the safe shelter of God's love, and get on with the work of loving and
serving our Lord. Thanks be to God!