Sunday’s sermon: Rejection vs. Redirection

You Are Special

Texts used: 1 Samuel 8:1-10, 19-22 and Mark 3:20-35

  • [Read 1st part of You Are Special by Max Lucado[1]] → Grey dots. So many grey dots. Flaws. Snubs. Mistakes. Humiliations. Labels. Misunderstandings. Failures. Unfortunately, friends it’s not hard to find rejection in this world. The Wemmicks may be fictional characters, but there are far too many ways that we give each other grey dots today.
    • News media = full of stories about people hurting, excluding, or retaliating
    • Congress can’t seem to get much done – too busy digging their heels in and pointing fingers at each other across the aisle
    • Society = full of ways that we try to separate ourselves from each other – socially, economically, politically, racially, etc. → separation = exclusion = rejection
  • So imagine how the characters in our Scripture readings this morning would look if they had been in the habit of assigning grey dots. – texts full of rebukes and rejections
    • 1 Sam
      • Samuel’s sons rejected role of judges – text: [Samuel’s] sons didn’t take after him; they were out for what they could get for themselves, taking bribes, corrupting justice.[2]
        • BACKGROUND – role of judges[3]:
          • Local leaders – authority recognized by local groups/tribes beyond their own
          • As title suggests: arbiters – officials with authority to administer justice
          • Acted as military leaders in times of war
        • In the reading – people do more than just reject Samuel’s sons as judges → reject the idea of judges all together – to Samuel: Here’s what we want you to do: Appoint a king to rule us, just like everybody else.[4]
          • Samuel’s response: He was crushed.[5] → But why was this such a big deal to Samuel? The people sought the security and strength and power of a king – someone who could overturn unjust decisions like the ones Samuel’s sons had been making, someone who could be a leader and a protector. This desire for a king instead of the judges just sounds like a political shift – something hundreds of societies have done time and time again throughout the centuries. No big deal, right?
      • Wrong. You see, in this seemingly-slight rejection, we find the people’s most detrimental rejection: the rejection of God Most High.
        • God = supposed to be people’s leader and protector, sources of their strength and security and power – sort of links back to that pesky 1st commandment: No other gods, only me. … Don’t bow down to them and don’t serve them because I am God, your God[6] → Remember, for a very, very long time in a lot of cultures (including all of those that surrounded the ancient Israelites during the time of our story this morning), royalty was regarded as divine. Pharaohs and kings were treated like gods, praised and worshiped and revered. And here in our Old Testament story this morning, we find the people of God begging God’s own messenger, Samuel, to boot God out of that place of exclusive divinity and select a king to take God’s place.
          • Scholar clarifies further: To seek an earthly king was a rejection of God’s rule as divine king. It was a challenge to divine sovereignty, and at root it was idolatrous. God equated the desire for a king with Israel’s forsaking of the Lord in favor of serving other gods.[7]
          • Hear God’s perception of this in Heb. – God’s describes situation to Samuel: people are “leaving me for other gods” – “leaving” = abandoning, deserting, neglecting → There is a feeling of finality in this. When you abandon something, you leave it without any definite plan or intention to return. That is serious rejection.
    • Rejection in NT passage = rejection of Jesus for who he was
      • By the Pharisees – text: The religious scholars from Jerusalem came down spreading rumors that [Jesus] was working black magic, using devil tricks to impress them with spiritual power.[8] → This is obvious rejection. Blatant rejection. And it’s not a surprising rejection. We know that the Pharisees were constantly pestering Jesus about who he was and who he said he was and who others said he was, just waiting for him to slip up so they could arrest him and get rid of this religious rabble-rouser.
      • Less obvious rejection – text: His friends heard what was going on and went to rescue him, by force if necessary. They suspected he was getting carried away with himself.[9] → more than just a fear that Jesus was going to get tired or hungry or the he was overexerting himself
        • Gr. “getting carried away with himself” = amazed, astounded confused → They seem to be worried that Jesus is going too far with his words and actions … that while he may have been able to talk the talk, Jesus wouldn’t be able to walk the walk.
        • And who is it that rejects Jesus like this?
          • Text: His friends heard what was going on and went to rescue him.
          • Pew Bibles: When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.”[10]
          • Gr. is ambiguous – phrase = literally “those from/with him” → The point is, this dismissal and criticism and rejection came from “those with him,” those who are supposed to be on his side – his friends, his family, his supporters. And in all honestly, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who hadn’t felt the sting of that kind of rejection, the kind you feel when a friend or family member – those who are supposed to be “with you” – are suddenly against you instead.
            • Pain of rejection layered with confusion, anger, desperation, uncertainty
  • But the incredible thing about faith is that it brings us the exact opposite of rejection. Faith brings us welcome. Faith brings us acceptance. Faith brings us acknowledgment not for who we could be or what we might do but as one of God’s beloved creations. Period. Faith brings us unconditional love.
    • Doesn’t mean our lives are going to be all sunshine, rainbows, and gold star stickers all the time → scholar: The qualities of our faith communities include love, justice, peace, compassion, and worship. This is not an easy calling. The pressures toward cultural conformity are great, and we live in a culture that often elevates a different set of qualities from those of the covenant model.[11]
      • Jesus response to his own family = perfect e.g. of this – text: [Jesus] was surrounded by the crowd when he was given the message, “Your mother and brothers and sisters are outside looking for you.” Jesus responded, “Who do you think are my mother and brothers?” Looking around, taking in everyone seated with him, he said, “Right here, right in front of you – my mother and my brothers. Obedience is thicker than blood. The person who obeys God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”[12] → You may have noticed that I didn’t mention this particular rejection earlier. It wasn’t because I was avoiding Jesus’ seemingly harsh and difficult words. It’s true that this passage is often viewed negatively, like Jesus is turning his back on his family – kicking them to the curb, leaving them behind, rejecting them. But did you hear it say anywhere in our passage this morning that Jesus’ family wasn’t granted entrance? Did you hear it say that they were turned away? Did you hear it say that Jesus rejected his family? … I didn’t.
        • Difference between rejection and redirection
          • In hunt for new leader, Israel rejected God by cutting God out of the picture
          • In NT story, Jesus redirected notion of family and acceptance and love to include more than just those linked by blood and lineage → elevated all those who had been marginalized by the culture – those who had found nothing but rejection throughout the rest of their lives simply by including them
            • Scholar (poignantly): Looking around him at the crowd of misfits, crazies, and his relentlessly undiscerning disciples, [Jesus] says, “This is my family.”[13]
            • Rob’s quote (extends this responsibility to us): We are called to stand on the margins, and if we were to live this way, the margins would expand until one day we would all stand together.
            • Ever-familiar Scripture quote (read just last week): For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.[14]
        • This is exactly why I use the words I do in the invitation to the Lord’s Supper: When the world tells you they don’t have a place for you, you can find a place here. When the world tells you that you are lacking, you can find wholeness here. When the world insists on taking everything you have to give and more, you can find renewal here. No matter who you are … no matter where you come from this morning … no matter what you bring with you … you are welcome here, at this table and in this community. → Friends, our faith is not about rejection. Faith is about God reaching down into our days, into our lives, into our hearts and saying, “You are mine. I created you. I love you.” Amen.

[1] Max Lucado. You Are Special. (Wheaton, IL: Good News Publishers, 1997), 7-15.

[2] 1 Sam 8:3.

[3] “Biblical judges.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_judges. Last edited 18 Feb. 2015, accessed 4 June 2015.

[4] 1 Sam 8:5.

[5] 1 Sam 8:6.

[6] Ex 17:3, 5a.

[7] Bruch C. Birch. “The First and Second Books of Samuel: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections” in The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary series, vol. 2. (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1998), 1027.

[8] Mk 3:22.

[9] Mk 3:21 (The Message – emphasis added).

[10] Mk 3:21 (NRSV – emphasis added).

[11] Birch, 1030.

[12] Mk 3:32-35.

[13] Wendy Farley. “Proper 5 (Sunday between June 5 and June 11 inclusive) – Mark 3:20-35, Theological Perspective” in Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B, vol. 3. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), 116.

[14] Jn 3:16-17 (NRSV).

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