"Offense and Grace" Mark 6: 1-13 Sermon Pr. Lucas Albrecht Sunday July 8th 2018 Season of Pentecost
Text: Mark 6:1-13
Theme: Offense and Grace
Intr – Looking around and paying close attention we will realize we are living in times of what I would call “The Offense Factory”. Or the industry of the outraged. Taking offense and being offended seem to be products being produced 24/7.
Two examples to illustrate it. One of them, the use of words. In many cases, if you don’t use the assigned words to be employed to describe concepts, culture, choices, then offense is established. Even when we notice those words keep changing their meaning all the time. Another one: The content is not offensive per se, but it depends if you are or not the right person saying it.
This “industry of taking offense” works in pretty good capacity when it comes to Biblical teachings too. If you stand for what you believe, being respectful with everyone but not yielding just to please different beliefs you will hit and offend sensitivies and ideologies.
On top of that, there’s no need to be logical or true to be offended. If you say you are offended that’s evidence enough.
You see, this is not about denying there are real offenses that need to be addressed, and being so the case punished. However, the undeniable fact is that playing the victim has been increasingly used as a tool to try to silence people’s opinions and to exercise power over them.
In his hometown Nazareth, Jesus experienced something similiar. Which shows that this factory, perhaps only smaller, was already operating hundreds of years ago. Our Gospel reading today shows people taking offense by His presence and His action. Even when He was there using all the right words to speak to the people, teaching God’s Love and Truth. That was more than enough to bring about a bunch of offended people, which led the Master to utter the saying: “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” The offended that raised their voice in the end prevented Jesus even from helping people, except for a few healings. And the Master marvelled at their unbelief.
Now, we need to get used to it. Because the Gospel actually offends people. Not some people, not many people. The Gospel offends all people. It is the crazy message of the cross that challenges all human paradigms, desconstructing our own thoughts of faith, works, merit and salvation; having no fear of using the right words even when one thinks they may be wrong.
After all, words come and go, cultures change all the time. But the Word of the Lord remains forever.
Did you pay attention to the OT reading today? If not so much, listen to it again, as it is closely conected to this context:
“And God said to me, “Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels, who have rebelled against me. They and their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day. 4 The descendants also are impudent and stubborn: I send you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’ 5 And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them. 6 And you, son of man, be not afraid of them, nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions.2 Be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house. 7 And you shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear, for they are a rebellious house.
Words come and go, people change all the time, cultures embrace all sorts of different things in different points of time. But the Word of the Lord remains forever. His Law and Gospel will be always proclaimed and witnessed around the world.
When we think of what the the Word of God teaches and proclaims, it puts us on the offended side. All of us. Yes, because Grace offends us. Christ’s work and words offend our reasoning. Our way of trying to figure out justice, grace, merit, punishment. In one hand, shatters our presumption of being somehow good to deserve something. On the other, brings the sweetest, greatest comfort that we can find nowhere else. As we are brought to the faith realm we start to understand the Word as not an offense anymore, but as the life giving Word of Love.
Back in Nazareth, back in Palestine, Christ might have had used the same weapons to combat the offended and equalize, or even change the game. “Hey, is that how you treat Me? I come here with all my good will to help many people and you throw stones at me? I come from a small town in the North, I am from that area that you usually discriminate. Are you saying that I don’t deserve to be here? Now I am offended by all you are doing. Just wait until you read my next Facebook post.”
That’s not what Jesus did, even when He had reasons to. Imagine if after He fed thousands of people with fish and loaves He would be offended? “You are here just because I give you food, isn’t that right? So from now on it’s over. No more miracles for you, you profiteers”. Or imagine at the mountain top, prior to ascend into Heavens, if he would take offense and answer the question about and earthly kingdom like this: “Hey guys, it’s been three years of teaching and you still come up with this stupid quiestion? Are you implying I am a bad teacher? Now I’m offended. I’m going away, don’t count on me ever for anything anymore. You’re on your own, bye”.
Think of Jesus before the ones who arrested and beat him. Those were real offenders. Jesus would have all the right reasons to throw the offense card. He had all the reasons in the world to go to Rome and sue everybody. But He didn’t. While being offended, He traded it for love. While being humiliated, he traded it for forgiveness and bearing of His Cross. While being condemned, he trade it with deliverance from eternal condemnation, peace and salvation.
As we are brought into this new reality of life, we are called to practice things that are actually an offense in many situations. Here, another type of offense to our intellectual aspirations weighs in. We are called to love and to help, to consider others above ourselves, to serve without interest. to help even those who want to harm us. To be understanding even with those who want to expose and shame us. To forgive even when there’s no sign of accepting the forgiveness. Even to pray for our enemies. We are called to live our faith in a world that needs to be disarmed from so much offendedness and rage by being brought to the caring hands of our Saviour. Also here, we cannot avoid it: the Gospel will always confront, challenge, and even offend humans paradigms and thoughts.
It is a tremendous task and not an easy one. That’s when we can perk our ears to St. Paul’s words in the epistle today. Someone we would think mastered at it without a problem:
“9 But God said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
God’s Grace is all we need, God’s love is all we have. God’s presence is everything in our life to keep us going, in the up and downs of the life with him. Fighting for justice, for sure, when it is needed and necessary. But above all, trusting Jesus who was made victim in our place so that we can live a secure, confident life with Him.
Cc – As we witness an “offense Factory” in our time working in full capacity, we are reminded that forgiveness for our offenses cannot be fabricated. It is for free. Freely given by the Lord that forgives our offenses and offers Peace. Since the good news of the Gospel is outlandish to our human minds, we might as well say that through faith He wants our minds to be daily offended by His amazing and astounding Grace, and our hearts to be forgiven from our daily offenses by His unending love.
 If you are on the right side, its fine, If you are on the wrong side, your reputation might be on the verge of being dragged in the mud.
Taking offense gives you power. We may call it “The power of the victim”. If you take offense in things that shouldn’t offend you, instead of a victim you actually become a powerful persion, who is now in a position to opress people who disagree with you.
 His offensive death – as a criminal on a cross – gives us a new life. He didn’t come to play the offended, but to forgive us our offenses. He came to give a new life where our emotions, especially the negative ones can be subordinated to principles. He came to foster the industry of the offended for sure. But not the way it is today. He wanted to have more and more people reached by the Gospel, so the Holy Spirit comes to work in their hearts the faith that will take the offense away and receive the offering of the free gifts from the Lord.