What if God Was One of Us    

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Readings: Numbers 22:21-34, Mark 6:7-13

I want to start by retelling a little story I heard a few years ago.  I’m sure some of you have probably heard this story or some variant of it.  I don’t doubt the story’s true – at least in part as something similar to what happened in Clarksville TN a few years ago.  It goes like this:

A Pastor transformed himself into a homeless person and went inside a giant mega church.  He walked around for 30 minutes while it was filling with people for service, and only 3 people out of the thousands entering said hello to him. He asked people for change to buy food – no one in the church gave him change.

He went into the sanctuary and sat down in the front of the church and was asked by the ushers if he would please sit in the back.  When he greeted people they stared at him, made dirty looks, and were obviously looking down on him.  As he sat in the back of the church, he listened to the church announcements and such. When all that was done, the elders went up and were excited to introduce the new pastor of the church to the congregation. The congregation looked around and started clapping with joy excited to meet this new pastor they had heard about. They were all excited.

About this time the homeless dude stood up and walked down the aisle. The clapping stopped and everybody was staring at him. He walked up the altar and took the microphone from one of the elders who him.  He walked up behind the pulpit and paused for a moment, then introduced himself as the new Pastor they were all so kind to clap for.  Then he recited some verses from Matthew 25 many of you have heard.

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Many of you know this passage.  How does it end?  ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”   The pastor ended the service and sent the congregation home.

In the Gospel of Mark this morning we’re going to talk about what happened to Jesus when he went home to Nazareth.  Jesus had been away from home a long time and just prior to our reading in Mark 6, he was casting out demons and bringing the dead back to life.   He was certainly on his A game – Baseball has restarted so I’ll say he was batting a 1000%.  When he got to Nazareth he went into the synagogue and amazed everyone with his knowledge.

But then something strange happens.  Mark 6:3 says they started talking about him.  They said:     3 Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

Jesus is in his home town, where everyone should be excited to see him.  But once he starts to preach even his family didn’t want to hear it.  The verse says “They took offence at him.”  Wow – that had to be depressing!

But it gets worse.  In this short lesson It says, “5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 He was amazed at their lack of faith.”  Yep – it got worse.  One chapter earlier Jesus was raising the dead and in this verse we learn he could only heal a few sick people.  In his home town nobody believed he was who he said he was and what he could do.  It says in Mark – They didn’t have faith!   He was the son of a simple carpenter.  Who was he to think he was anything special?  His family didn’t think so.

Now I am going to tell you a true story about myself that I am not very proud of.  Several years ago. I was attending my home church we had our usual big crowd of probably – twenty people.  I sat in “my pew” and after a few moments I noticed two rows up on the aisle there was a homeless dude sitting there.  Well, he looked homeless anyway. You know – his clothes were clean but they were old and wore. He had a scruffy beard and his hair down over his collar.  You all know the type.  You see them around town, right?

You probably know where this story is going, but let me say this – I had already heard the story I read to you earlier, but it obviously did not have any impact.  Maybe some of you have already forgotten what it was about.  Well, to continue, we did our Call to Worship, sang a few hymns and then the Pastor stepped up to give his sermon.

But before he began I was surprised that he suddenly introduced the homeless dude and asked him to come up to the pulpit.  I was thinking – wow, where’d he find this guy?   Turns out, he wasn’t homeless.  He was a street preacher trying to raise money to start a men’s shelter in town. He had already started a small church back behind an old Antique Mall.  He was married and had four or five kids and that was his livelihood.  He gave his testimony with a passion about his mission like no person I have ever heard

Any of you want to guess how big I felt when he was finished and I remembered my first impressions?   What was he doing here in “our” church?  Who let him in? I wonder if he is going to ask for money.  Yep – I could have passed through the eye of a needle I felt so small.

But like most stories God writes this one has a good ending.  That day was a turning point for me in my growing my faith in Christ.  Boy did God wake me up!   I had not ever thought of myself as selfish in that way – but I was.  Here’s the God works in mysterious ways part.  Less than six months later my Pastor got sick and I was asked to step up.  A year and a half later I was sent as a supply Lay Pastor to two churches. And I have been there close to a year!

I’m convinced that God gives us plenty of chances – we simply need to show our faith.  In the 90’s there was a popular song called What if God Was One of us:  Here are some of the lyrics:

If God had a name what would it be?

And would you call it to his face?

If you were faced with Him in all His glory

What would you ask if you had just one question?

What if God was one of us?

Just a slob like one of us

Just a stranger on the bus

Tryin’ to make his way home?

You see, at that moment, when I realized what a bad witness to Christ I was, I decided to change.  I started asking the Pastor for his bible verse early so I could read them before he preached it.  When I decided to change, when I grew in my faith, then God opened me up and moved me in a direction I did not expect.

So, what did Christ do with his disciples?   We learn all about it in the next part of Mark 6:6b-13.  Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. 7 Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits.  8 These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. 9 Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. 10 Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. 11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” 

That “homeless looking man” I saw in church surrendered to Christ and was put on a mission to save homeless men in his own home town.  The lesson here is you do not need anything but the Good News to save souls – no wallet, no bread, no bag.  Just your staff!

It’s interesting though – Jesus also told them if you are turned away you move along.  He tells them to “11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”  What does that mean?

Twenty-five years ago, I dabbled in telemarketing sales.  Yes – I was one of THOSE guys!  Every day I had make at least 100 phone calls and try to get people to just let me send them an envelope with information about our company.  That’s it.  I was paid by how may envelopes I sent out.  My first week there devastating.  Not only did I not hit my daily quota of calls I only managed to send out about ten envelopes.  I thought about quitting.  Monday morning wasn’t any better.  Well –to make a story short too long –my boss came over to by me and he saw someone had hung up on me. He said – “David, you have to shake the dust off your feet.”  He explained that not everyone is ready to hear what I had to say, and that it was not personal.  In fact, be thankful for hang ups as I can get to my next call faster.

Jesus is telling his disciples the same thing.  Not everyone is ready for the Good News.  Not all will be saved.   Jesus reminded his disciples that the road was going to be hard.   A lot of doors are going to be slammed in your face.  And guess what – it is even harder in your home town.  After all – who are you?  “I remember that time you…”  I’ll let you fill in the blank.  In the closing verse of this lesson today we see that the disciples did what Jesus told them and they had great success.

12 They went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.” I imagine they soon learned what Alexander Graham Bell said – “When one door closes, another one opens.”  And guess what – that goes for you too.  But let me ask you a question, are you answering the door when God knocks?

Don’t forget how this lesson started.  Jesus “5 could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 He was amazed at their lack of faith.” 

In closing this blog, I want to ask you this.  How many of you here know you have faith that your savior can heal you right now?  If you have a chronic health problem or financial problem or marriage problem or problems at school – and you pray about it…  but you don’t really expect anything to get better.  Well guess what – Jesus can’t fix you!  He is standing there right beside you ready to pull the yoke – but if you don’t get strapped in he can’t take you anywhere.

Now to bring this full circle I want to ask you – how do you know God hasn’t already been acting on you in your life and you don’t see him.  I saw what I thought was homeless dude in church – and it turned out he had more faith in his pinky than I had in my entire church tithing body.  I was made stronger in my faith by seeing God work in another person.

People are brought to Christ in all kinds of amazing ways.  People encounter the holy in differently.  We read earlier in the OT readings that God got so fed up with Balaam that he finally made his donkey talk – now that would get my attention too.  Our savior is everywhere.

What if God was one of us?

Just a slob like one of us

Just a stranger on the bus

Tryin’ to make his way home?

God is standing right next to us.  It is like the old hymn goes:

“I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene, and wonder how he could love me, a sinner, condemned, unclean. Oh How Marvelous! O How Wonderful.  How Wonderful is my Saviors love for me!” (UMC Hymnal #371)

Every one of you is ready to be a disciple of Christ.

Get out there and share how Christ is working in you.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, and who ever believes in him will not perish, but will have everlasting life!

Amen