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"Making Lemonade"
by SueCan
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 unwanted.

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.

Hmmmm...... 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!