Saint Andrew Church in Moore, OK
Ezekiel 2, 2-15 + Psalm 123 + 2 Corinthians 12, 7-10 + Mark 6, 1-6
The ministry of Jesus in Galilee is over. Having set a possessed man free, calmed the raging sea storm, raised up the daughter of Jarius, and cured the woman who touched him, he turns back to his own region of the country, and we find him at what Mark calls, “His own native place.” The mood is different, and it is not friendly. The startling report from Mark is that apart from curing a few sick people, “he was not able to perform any mighty deeds”. The implications of this report ought to leave us stunned. Is there a limit to the power of God? Is there something that can interfere with and stop mighty deeds?
It would be simple to say that where there is no faith, God’s mighty deeds are ineffective. However, there is more to this than a lack of faith. These people are not simply faithless, they are arrogant, proud, and very full of themselves. So sure of their opinion, and so confident that they know everything, the gift they might have found in Jesus is refused. Consequently, they have no share in the signs that point to God’s presence among them. Blinded by their certitude they cannot see who stands before them in their synagogue. Deaf to everything but the sound of their own voices, they cannot hear the good news being offered and proclaimed to them. Instead of engaging in conversation with the one who calls for their conversion, they talk to themselves and seal their fate: no mighty deeds!
Mark would have us see that there is a direct connection between faith and mighty deeds, but even before faith is formed and acknowledged there must be an openness that allows faith to find a home. These people in Nazareth are not open to anything new, to anyone who goes beyond their narrow minded, self-protecting expectations. They reject the whole idea that someone can change, grow, and become an instrument of God’s mercy and love. In doing so they cannot change. They do not grow, and God will do nothing with them: no might deeds!
It is a powerful lesson and message for all of us whose conversion and growth in faith must be a continual way of life. At no point in our lives may we entertain the idea that we know everything, and a refusal to listen and explore ideas contrary to our own is a hint that pride is at work, and it is a deadly sin when left unchallenged. These people are incapable of change and growth, and so they deny it and refuse to acknowledge it in others. Deadly.
An open heart and an open mind is the seed-bed of faith. People who stop learning and cease to wonder and study about faith, revelation, and God’s mighty deeds will not see them. Worse than the tragedy of indifference is the haughty and smug attitude of a closed heart and a made-up mind that judges others and their ideas with presumptions and assumptions that come from within rather than from without. The Gospel and the faith it nourishes must be fed by wonder and awe, curiosity and a desire for life which always means growth and change. This is what feeds conversion and ultimately repentance which is essential for the Kingdom of God. The mighty deeds worked by Jesus were always signs that Kingdom of God was near; but for those in that place, it was a long way off.