Worship for Sunday, July 4, 2021

Ezekiel 2:1-5

[A voice] said to me: O mortal, stand up on your feet, and I will speak with you.  And when he spoke to me, a spirit entered into me and set me on my feet; and I heard him speaking to me.  He said to me, Mortal, I am sending you to the people of Israel, to a nation of rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have transgressed against me to this very day.  The descendants are impudent and stubborn. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, “Thus says the Lord GOD.”  Whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house), they shall know that there has been a prophet among them.

The Word of the Lord.

Psalm 123

To you I lift up my eyes,
to you enthroned in the heavens.
As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters, and the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,
  so our eyes look to you, O LORD our God, until you show us your mercy.
Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy,
for we have had more than enough of contempt,
too much of the scorn of the indolent rich,
  and of the derision of the proud.

2 Corinthians 12:2-10

I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. And I know that such a person—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows—was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat. On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. But if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think better of me than what is seen in me or heard from me, even considering the exceptional character of the revelations. Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

The Word of the Lord.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint Mark 6:1-13

[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.

Jesus 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.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

For months now we have watched and listened and learned along with the disciples. We were there when Jesus first called his disciples.

We were there when Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River. And God the Father claimed Jesus as his own beloved son. We watched as the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove.

We stood awestruck with the disciples as Jesus cast out demons and healed the sick. We sat terrified in a boat in the middle of a raging storm on the Sea of Galilee. And we were there when Jesus calmed that same raging storm with just 3 simple words. Then last week we were amazed as Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead.

Along the way we have heard about God’s will for our lives, and we have learned so much about God’s love – grace – and mercy.

We have watched the disciples grow in faith and understanding. The disciples are different men now. They have been changed by their time with Jesus.

These past months have prepared the disciples for what is coming next. Big changes are coming for the disciples. Jesus is sending them out into the world. Because they too are called to share the Good News of God’s grace – love – and mercy with the world.

At long last – they are ready to be fishers of men.

Before Jesus sends the disciples out into the world – he gives them important advice. Jesus also gives them authority over unclean spirits. Then finally – when it is time for them to set out – Jesus sends them out in pairs.

But why does Jesus send the disciples out in pairs? Certainly it would make more sense to send each disciple out into the world on his own?

After all – Jesus – himself – said – “the harvest is plentiful – but the laborers are few.” Going solo – the disciples could have covered twice the territory in the same amount of time. It seems like Jesus is wasting precious resources and squandering manpower.

Well – Jesus knew exactly what he was doing. He knew living as a follower of God in this world can be incredibly challenging. Jesus knew we would need each other for support. And we are better off – if we have a traveling companion or 122 in this life.

What Jesus did with his disciples reminds me of the Buddy System my Girl Scout Troop always used whenever we ventured forth into the great wide world. Wherever we went and whatever we did – we had a buddy – from the days we were 6-year-old Brownies until we were worldly fifteen-year-old cadettes.

Again and again my buddy was an incredible blessing.

I had a buddy with me when my suitcase fell out of the tent into a mud puddle on the very first day of sleepover camp. She couldn’t make my ENTIRE supply of clothing less wet and muddy – but she was there with me which somehow made it bearable.

It was my buddy who explained that “bug” juice wasn’t actually made from bugs – but was really just plain – old grape kool-ade. (Boy – was I relieved!)

I had a buddy with me the day I summated a real Swiss Alp. Yes – it was a small-ish Swiss Alp – but it was a mountain in Switzerland and we hiked it together.

Sometimes my buddy held my hand. Sometimes my buddy celebrated with me and sometimes she made me braver than I would have been on my own. I quickly learned if we have a buddy – we have support which is something we all need in this life!

I know our all-American pioneer heritage celebrates independence and going it alone in this life – but I just don’t think this is what our God wants for our lives.

Just look at Jesus’ earthly life. As soon as Jesus began his ministry – he called disciples. Jesus surrounded himself with friends and traveling companions. They were an essential part of his support system and they made his life richer and more blessed.

So if – our Lord and Savior – needed traveling companions and a support system – how much more do we need them?

We need each other. Yes – first and foremost we need our God – but we also need that human hand to hold. And loving companionship is one of our church’s greatest blessings to us.

Think about what it means to have brothers and sisters in Christ.

We are part of a family that makes our lives better – richer and more blessed. As brothers and sisters in Christ we share life together. We care for one another. We celebrate – mourn – worship – and work together. And we support and love one another.

When one of us grieves – we share that grief. No one mourns alone in a Christian community – because together we share this heavy burden.

When one of our members celebrates – we celebrate and rejoice together too. The birth of a new baby is made even more blessed by the joy of our brothers and sisters in Christ. A confirmation or graduation or new job is more joyful – because we can all rejoice. When we celebrate God’s blessings together – life is richer for all of us.

Our worship is more worshipful – when we worship our God together. When we worship together it delights God, and it blesses us.

When we work together – we can reach and bless so many more lives than we could on our own. When we work together we are stronger and more powerful and certainly more talented than we are by ourselves. And we have a whole lot more fun.

I cannot image life without my church family. I would not want to know a world without brothers and sisters in Christ. Life is so much richer – so much more blessed – so much more wonderful than it would be on my own.

Jesus wants us to know we are stronger together. We are better together than we are by ourselves. Yes – we may disagree sometimes – that happens in all families. Yes – we may have our struggles and our problems – but without each other we would all be less. Less blessed – less strong – less joyful – less in almost all ways that I can think of.

I thank God for you – I thank God for this church – and I thank God for traveling companions.

This week let us take the time to thank our Lord for the blessing of Christian community. And let us remember when we love – care – support – worship – work and live together we are being who God made us to be. Truly this is Good News. AMEN.

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