Alan Roxburgh’s recent book, “Missional: Joining God in the Neighborhood,” lead me to a different sort of reading of a recent Sunday Gospel lesson from Mark 6:1-13. Jesus goes into his own home town with his disciples, teaches in the synagogue and is generally rejected by his own townspeople. As a result his ability to perform miracles seems seriously compromised. The experience results in some sort of transformation in him, as if a profound realization has occurred for him.
He summons the 12, dispatches them in pairs and instructs them to leave everything behind except for a walking stick. You wonder what went on in the mind of Jesus to make him suddenly decide to kick the disciples out of the nest and send them out into the world. I have the sense it emerged out of a profound realization that this new kingdom is ultimately not about his people and his hometown and his place. It is rather about a kingdom that is dawning and in which most of the evidence of its emergence occurs, not inside the body, the disciples, the family, the church, the institution, but rather outside it, out where the Spirit of God is working in the world. It is a kingdom that is enabled by a God who is at work in the world long before we ever get there, and whose cause is best served by us when we enter into the world as guests to receive the hospitality that God offers to us through others.
You see, we tend to think of ourselves, our church, our place as the center of the kingdom of God and we determine that we need to be good hosts who receive people and host them well and make them feel good and introduce them to God.
But God has a different set of expectations for us. God sees us as a traveling people and not as sedentary ones. God never anticipated that we would build a nest and stay in it. God is calling us out into the world to receive the love and grace and hospitality that the world wants to give to us and, in the process, God is calling us to recognize that the center of the kingdom of God in the world exists not at our place but rather out there, at theirs.
It is interesting that, once the disciples ventured out, stuff started happening. They preached repentance and cast out demons and healed the sick. That’s a far cry from what happened for Jesus in his own place. And perhaps a powerful reminder to the rest of us to move beyond the safety of our own “place” and receive the hospitality that the world wants to offer to us.