The Work of the People

2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10; Mark 6:1-13

Sermon The Work of the People

Good morning! My week of study leave was amazing and I want to thank all of you who sent me messages of support on Facebook. I’ve heard horror stories from some of my friends who have gone through doctoral programs. Even though I seem confident on the outside, I’d be lying if I said I’m not nervous about this process. Your messages were very encouraging and they helped me to relax and be fully present in class. Thank you!

One of my friends back in Pittsburgh asked me: “after you finish your doctorate, can you write prescriptions?” I asked him what he needed. He said, “salvation.” I said I can already write that one: the prescription is Jesus! I’m here all week!

Of course, Jesus is always the answer. The problem is, we’re asking the wrong question. We’re asking, “what’s the answer?” when we really need to ask how. That is: How do we follow Jesus? There’s no simple prescription for that; when we commit to following Jesus, we commit to a lifetime of service. This sermon is all about service.

The title of my sermon is The Work of the People. How many of you recognize that phrase in the context of church? “The work of the people” is the classic definition for one of those fancy, church words that pastors and some lay people use: liturgy.

If you grew up in a Presbyterian church and you’re over the age of 40 or 50, you probably recognize the word liturgy, even if you can’t exactly define it. The liturgy is all the parts of the service that you folks participate in: the call to worship, the prayer of confession, the prayer for illumination. When we celebrate the sacraments, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, we recite special liturgies. This is how we participate in the sacraments—we’re not just passive bystanders, we’re active participants.

This is the most basic way that we participate in Christ’s call to be the church—we participate in worship. This is the beginning of the answer to the question, how do we follow Jesus?

Our lesson this morning from the Gospel of Mark is all about following Jesus. He’s in Nazareth, preaching and teaching, and the people are amazed and astounded by Jesus’ wisdom and deeds of power. They’re dumbfounded. This is not a positive reaction.

We are told that the people took offense to what Jesus said; they said, “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?” In this verse, Mark says a lot in very few words.

First, the word “carpenter” is a poor translation. The Greek word is teknon, and literally, it refers to a person who works with his hands. While carpenters certainly work with their hands, they are very definitely skilled workers. By describing Jesus as a teknon, there’s an implication that he’s not a skilled worker, he’s of a lower class.

Also, Jesus’ father, his human father, Joseph isn’t mentioned anywhere. This is interesting. The human Jesus lived in a patriarchal culture. Jesus is described by his relationships: he’s the son of Mary, the brother of James, Joses, Judas—not Judas Iscariot, but a younger brother named Judas—and Simon, who is NOT Simon Peter. And he also has some nameless sisters. But there is no mention of a father. This could mean that Joseph had died sometime prior to the events of the story, or it could mean that some people in Nazareth still questioned Jesus’ legitimacy. I think that we need to consider this along with the description of Jesus as an unskilled lab