Just A Carpenter

Let us listen with open hearts and minds for God’s wisdom and guidance.  Amen.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (CEB)

7 I was given a thorn in my body because of the outstanding revelations I’ve received so that I wouldn’t be conceited. It’s a messenger from Satan sent to torment me so that I wouldn’t be conceited.

8 I pleaded with the Lord three times for it to leave me alone. 9 He said to me, “My grace is enough for you, because power is made perfect in weakness.” So I’ll gladly spend my time bragging about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power can rest on me. 10 Therefore, I’m all right with weaknesses, insults, disasters, harassments, and stressful situations for the sake of Christ, because when I’m weak, then I’m strong.

Mark 6:1-13  The Message (MSG)

Just a Carpenter

6 1-2 He left there and returned to his hometown. His disciples came along. On the Sabbath, he gave a lecture in the meeting place. He made a real hit, impressing everyone. “We had no idea he was this good!” they said. “How did he get so wise all of a sudden, get such ability?”

3 But in the next breath they were cutting him down: “He’s just a carpenter—Mary’s boy. We’ve known him since he was a kid. We know his brothers, James, Justus, Jude, and Simon, and his sisters. Who does he think he is?” They tripped over what little they knew about him and fell, sprawling. And they never got any further.

4-6 Jesus told them, “A prophet has little honor in his hometown, among his relatives, on the streets he played in as a child.” Jesus wasn’t able to do much of anything there—he laid hands on a few sick people and healed them, that’s all. He couldn’t get over their stubbornness. He left and made a circuit of the other villages, teaching.

The Twelve

7-8 Jesus called the Twelve to him, and sent them out in pairs. He gave them authority and power to deal with the evil opposition. He sent them off with these instructions:

8-9 “Don’t think you need a lot of extra equipment for this. You are the equipment. No special appeals for funds. Keep it simple.

10 “And no luxury inns. Get a modest place and be content there until you leave.

11 “If you’re not welcomed, not listened to, quietly withdraw. Don’t make a scene. Shrug your shoulders and be on your way.”

12-13 Then they were on the road. They preached with joyful urgency that life can be radically different; right and left they sent the demons packing; they brought wellness to the sick, anointing their bodies, healing their spirits.

Just a Carpenter

Jesus was just a carpenter.  God could have sent his son to earth as the king of the entire earth, but instead Jesus was just a carpenter.  And did you notice, the hometown crowd is quick to point this out.

“He’s just a carpenter, Mary’s boy.  We’ve known him since he was a kid.  Who does he think he is?”

Even though carpenters were respected enough in Jesus’s day, the crowd is pointing out that Jesus had not had the formal training of a rabbi, and yet here he is acting like a rabbi –but he’s just a carpenter.  And maybe the hometown crowd is remembering what happened the last time Jesus was in his hometown when his family thought he was crazy and tried to take him away, and the Pharisees accused him of having the devil in him.  So, they say:  “Who does he think he is?”

Scholars think that Nazareth would have been a town of 500-2000 people – about the size of Dover.  A town small enough so that everyone would know everyone else, and also everyone knows everyone else’s business.  Am I right?  I can just imagine that everyone in Nazareth had an opinion about this man, Jesus, who is just a carpenter.

But it is through the mission of just a carpenter that the entire world might be saved!  It is through the mission of just a carpenter that each of us might be saved!  And it seems that God consistently works through people who would seem totally incapable of the task that they are called to.

It was just a slave who feared public speaking named Moses who led God’s people out of slavery, through the desert and into the promised land.

It was just a shepherd boy named David that God chose to be Israel’s king, and whom God called a man after his own heart.

It was just a bunch of fishermen–

And it was just a tax collector that Jesus called to be his disciples.

And it was just a conceited Jewish Pharisee named Paul that God called to preach the message of salvation to the gentiles.

It’s almost like God wants to find the least likely person for a job, and call them to it.  God knows that if he calls us to something that we could absolutely never do on our own, we will have to turn to God for help.  And God knows, too, that when we submit to God and allow ourselves to operate under the power of God, everyone will notice God’s power – everyone will know that only God alone could have accomplished this.

The Apostle Paul talks about this in the 2 Corinthians passage.  You may know the story of Paul.  Paul went by the name Saul when we first hear about him in the Bible.  Saul was a Jewish leader – he was a Pharisee – he was highly educated and trained in God’s law.  But Saul persecuted Christians – hunting them down to put them in prison, and even holding the clothing of Stephen as he was killed by stoning because Stephen followed Jesus.  Saul stood there supporting and agreeing with that act of murder. And it was just a Pharisee filled with hate that Jesus blinded as he walked on the road to Damascus.  And it was just a Pharisee filled with hate that God called to the mission of telling the world about the good news of Jesus Christ.

In the 2 Corinthians passage, Paul had been afflicted with something that he calls a thorn.  Scholars think perhaps he had some kind of medical problem – maybe even macular degeneration – so that he was losing his eyesight.  And Paul begs God to take away this thorn – but the answer is “no.”  God did not heal Paul’s affliction.  And that is when Paul writes:

“I pleaded with the Lord three times for it to leave me alone. 9 [The Lord] said to me, My grace is enough for you, because power is made perfect in weakness.” So I’ll gladly spend my time bragging about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power can rest on me. 10 Therefore, I’m all right with weaknesses, insults, disasters, harassments, and stressful situations for the sake of Christ, because when I’m weak, then I’m strong.

It is not our own power that we must rely on, but God’s power that we must rely on.  God’s grace is enough for us, because power is made perfect in weakness.  When I’m weak, then I’m strong.  When Paul was able to persevere and do God’s work even with this thorn that he suffered with – people must have been amazed at God’s power!  When we are weak, then God’s power is crystal clear in us.  When God’s power becomes our strength, that is when people will say – surely God is at work.

Jesus had confidence that even these ordinary men could do great things for God.  And so, today we read about Jesus sending his disciples out on their mission under the power of God.  He commissions the disciples by giving them God’s authority and power to deal with evil opposition.  And he sends them with some instructions.

First Jesus says:

8-9 “Don’t think you need a lot of extra equipment for this. You are the equipment. No special appeals for funds. Keep it simple.

10 “And no luxury inns. Get a modest place and be content there until you leave.

Keep it simple.  You don’t need a lot of equipment.  You are the equipment.  I think Jesus is saying, you have the power of God – that is sufficient for you.  You only need to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice for God.  You don’t have to take anything with you.  Jesus says, “keep it simple.”  You don’t need to overthink this, just do it.  I really do think we try to overcomplicate and overthink things when we feel God calling us to a particular work in the world.  I know I’ve argued with God, and I’ve tried to convince other people who were more qualified to take on a mission that I felt called to.  I know that many times we try to over plan, and we have meetings to figure it all out – we meet and meet and meet when we feel called to take on a mission.  Sometimes, we talk things to death, and we never get up and go!  Did you know the word mission means “to go!”

I think Jesus is telling his disciples that God’s power is what you have – you really don’t need anything else.  You are just the hands and feet and mouths to go and to proclaim the good news of God’s love to the world.  I can almost hear Jesus saying, “Look, I’m just a carpenter—surely you can do this!  Now just go!

Amber Feezor is just a girl from Dover UMC.  And she is going out on a mission next week.  In fact today, we as her church are going to commission her into service to the world.  Amber is going out as a missionary to Washington DC, to work with churches across the country to help them seek justice in tangible ways.  And it has been quite a journey.  As of today, Amber has no idea where she is going to be living.  The Board that she is working for in DC is arranging her housing.  She assumes that wherever she lives will be furnished, but she has no idea.  So over the last few weeks, Amber has given away her possessions, she has brought things to the church yard sale, and she has taken her sweet dog Amelia to live with her family.  She is in the process of selling her car.  She has stored a few items with her family, and she is down to about two suitcases of possessions.  Much of her furniture she brought here to the church, and she set up a special play room for our kids.  If you haven’t seen the awesome room that Amber gifted to us, please do that today.  It’s the room where the Wii is, and it is an amazing place for our kids to be.

Amber doesn’t need a lot of equipment – no luxury items. In fact, she can’t have a lot of equipment.   She is keeping it simple and trusting in God’s provision and trusting in the hospitality of others along the way.  Sometimes as part of our mission God calls us to keep it simple by literally getting rid of our possessions.

But there are so many ways we can follow these instructions.  Some of us may need to simplify our lives so that we can focus on God more – we may need to give some up things or some activities so that we can engage in the mission that God is calling us to. We may need to simplify our lives just so that we can spend time with God listening for what mission God might have for us.  Some of us may need to simplify by focusing on the main thing.

We keep it simple when we focus only on loving God and loving others.  So, what great instructions, as we go out: “Keep it simple.”

In this scripture, Jesus also warns his disciples, saying:

11 “If you’re not welcomed, not listened to, quietly withdraw. Don’t make a scene. Shrug your shoulders and be on your way.”

The success of the mission is not our concern.  If we go and do what God calls us to, it is up to God to produce fruit.  That takes a lot of pressure off of us – that takes the fear of failure off of us.  If we faithfully obey, the rest is up to God.  Don’t make a scene when it’s time to move on. Not everyone will listen to us.  Not everyone will be receptive to us.  We will certainly fail.  But Jesus says: “Just shrug your shoulders and be on your way.”  There are so many others who need to hear the good news – there’s no time to waste!

But let’s get down to the bottom line.  What does this scripture have to do with us?

Each of us today, could say, “I am just a kid or just a widow or just a teacher or just a lawyer or just an old person.” We could all fill in that blank.  We could all make excuses that we are not qualified to be sent out on a mission for God.  But think about how God works – do we really believe that God works?  Are we praying, “Our Father who art in heaven, please stay there?”  If we really do believe that God is powerful and alive today, why wouldn’t we expect God to work in us the way he has worked since the beginning of time?  Why wouldn’t we think God would choose those who are weak so that his power could be revealed?  If God’s grace was sufficient for Paul, isn’t God’s grace sufficient for each one of us?

Every single one of us have a mission for God.  Every single one of us are called into ministry with the world.

Scholar Paul Wesley Chilcote said this: “While some are called to ordained ministry, [our] baptism represents the call of every follower of Jesus into a unique ministry in the world.  Moreover, it unites us in a common mission to proclaim and live the way of Jesus.”  (Chilcote, Paul Wesley, Recapturing the Wesleys’ Vision, page 97).  When we were baptized, we were commissioned – we were called to go!  We are each called to a unique ministry in the world, and we are also all called to the same mission in the world – to live the way that Jesus taught us and tell others about the way of Jesus.  Paul Wesley Chilcote went on to say that “mission on its most basic level, is nothing more nor less than offering Christ to others through concrete actions.”  (Chilcote, p. 102).  So, where is God urging you to mission (to go)?  Where is God urging, or maybe even harassing you, to offer Christ to others through concrete actions?

As you think about it, and as you ask God about where your next mission might be — no inferiority complexes are allowed.  Remember that God worked through just a carpenter, just a fisherman, and just a slave.

And God is just waiting to act through just a drug addict, just a teacher, just an unemployed person, just a kid, or just a grandpa.  God can work through you!  It’s all about God’s power – and if we have a lack of power or skills, that’s even better.  And by the way, I sure hope that we will never say, “We are just a small church.”

We all have a mission in this world – every person and every church.  We can all offer Christ to others through concrete actions.

So – keep it simple.  Don’t make a scene if things don’t work out –  just move on.  And just go!

Go and tell others with joyful urgency that life can be radically different! In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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