Proper 9, Year B The Rev. Katie Holicky, Assistant Rector
My grandfather, Colonel Joseph Holicky II, was a gem of a man. He had a great sense of humor, loved sweets, and was absolutely a father to me. Grandad was also the white Colonel of the Montford Marines. The black unit of Marines who were often first on the ground in the Vietnam war. While we, understandably, did not speak much about the thirteen tours he did during the war, he always spoke to me about the importance of the work we are called to.
He taught me so much about what it means to clearly know one’s sense of priorities and call within those priorities. For him, like so many others, it was God, The Corps, and Family. He took great risks, and came close to giving up his life in service many times. He had nothing but love and profound respect for the black men he stood shoulder to shoulder with in service. While I do know he held internal conflict about the work that was before him, he never left the side of his men.
Beyond my love of sweets, I inherit my high sense of integrity and understanding of call from my beloved Grandad. Phil and I spent so much time with him in his final years. We laughed and joked. We talked about what sermons I might preach one day, as I had in those years come into my own sense of call to ministry. He even gave me a little box to hold index cards of future sermon ideas. He was the BEST! The week he died, I preached my first sermon. Until the very end, he made sure I understood and knew my own sense of call, and how to embody it. And I often feel his presence when I am discerning how to live into my call as priest, wife, and activist.
And here we are in Mark in the midst of this arch of stories that reflect the power and nature of Jesus. I love the sense of urgency that we feel in Mark. Jesus is on the move, the kin-dom of God is right here, right now. It is awaiting those who are ready to hear the word and welcome Jesus as their King, rejecting at least in some ways, a connection and attachment to empire, to the oppressor. We start with Jesus’ second rejection in his hometown, and are reminded of the, “Hebrew expression ‘There is no prophet in his own city’” (JANT, 71).
I don’t often think of Jesus being “amazed”, yet here at the end of this first section we are given a deeper glimpse into Jesus and those rejecting him. “And he was amazed at their unbelief”. Yet, their unbelief is a reminder to the divine authority of Jesus, a reminder of the context of his Kingship being of God, not of humanity (FOTW, 214). Some of the commentaries posit it’s not necessarily that they don’t believe in the nature of him, it may be that they feel the nature of Jesus may be of danger to them. And it makes me ponder, what do I hold on to what is comfortable when God puts kin-dom/ opportunity for growth/ Jesus/ God breaking into the world … right before me? Am I holding on to empire, or tools of empire, like white supremacy?
Following this rejection and the reaction of Jesus, we get the answer to the nature of Jesus in the second section, as he sends them out by twos to teach and heal. Jesus is King of the spiritual realm (FOTW, 214). The sending, the commissioning of disciples. “There is a theology of discipleship that brings Bonhoeffer to mind… the disciples’ initial foray as missoners is not a reward for their growing faith. It is rather a sign that faith brings authority and authority brings responsibility.” (FOTW, 216).
In the commissioning of the twelve we are being shown the difference of doing the word versus speaking the word (FOTW, 214). Jesus is teaching his disciples what it truly means to be followers. The brass tacks, a favorite saying of Grandad’s, of the work they were to do. And like any good leader, he is doing so strategically. He knows he is on his way to Jerusalem, and that he will be stopping in new towns. Now, I think we all remember what happens, what he is going to be doing in Jerusalem, so we know, like Jesus must have, that he has to make this journey towards Jerusalem really count. Jesus gives them a chance to practice doing the things that we are asked to do as followers of The Way.
I am reminded once again this week that all of this is not easy. In this instruction, it is not just going into the unknown that I struggle with. It is also the promise of knowing that the love and peace I share will not always be met with warmth, but rejection. AND, most notably in the sending, they are sent out in twos. Together not just as witnesses as described in Deuteronomy, but also to support and encourage one another. This juztoppostion of a lack of supplies and rejection, to a trustworthy companion reminds me just how much we need each other. We are not called into this wild discomfort of stepping into the world in the name of Jesus alone, we are called to do so together.
I think of Bill Withers’ “Lean On Me”. A song that has always held a deep place in my heart. Probably because of its message of truly relying, or leaning on one another. This truth that together we can bear the load. Together we must be willing to step out beyond ourselves, taking risks, leaving behind comfort, and work in the midst of our own vulnerability. Together, we must find ways to walk out of our comfort and into the world.
I often look over these words tattooed on my arm just here (point). Before he died, Grandad penned the prayers of intercessions that he wrote to us, his grandchildren, and that we read at his funeral. One of the lines was, “Today is the first day of the rest of your lives, make the most of it”. Typically, I’d like to leave you with a question. Something to chew on and turn over a few times. However, this week I am giving us all a task. Let’s listen to this call and be sent out. Over the next weeks I want us all to find some way to live into the discomfort of following Jesus. It does not have to be a big act that takes you to distant lands. Maybe it is something that has been stirring in you for some time, or maybe you needed to hear this sending to be invited to feel where God is calling you. I want you to look, listen and feel for the action, and go and do it. Let us make the most of the call that God plants in each of our hearts.
References: Feasting on the Word, Jewish Annotated New Testament