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Stripped of Honour, Ready to Heal

Updated: Jul 6

wild flowers inside old work boots, we are called to put ourselves in the shoes of others

Sermon, by Pastor Joel

Seventh Sunday After Pentecost

July 7, 2024

Ezekiel 2:1-5

Psalm 123

2 Corinthians 12:2-10

Mark 6:1-13

(The context of this sermon is 100%

written by a human)

I recently visited the place I know as home -- the small town in Nova Scotia where I was born, baptized, and married. Where my brother, mother and all my family before me back to the 1700s are buried, and where one day I, too, will be laid to rest. This small town of Lunenburg that I hold so dear is where, as the gospel tells me, “I have no honor.” Going home definitely puts me in my place, for better and for worse, as any of you who come from small towns will understand. There memories are long, and gossip endures, and upon those tides one either falls or rises. Being home forces me to review: who am I now? Where have I been? Am I going in the right direction?

Certainly, this was Jesus’s experience – attempting to preach the gospel in his hometown. He was greeted with skepticism among those who knew him “way back when.” Is this not the little boy who ran around the neighborhood? Is this not the carpenter’s son? Who does he think he is, preaching to us?

Jesus felt no different than many of us do when we’re back among families and friends who knew us back when. As he says in the gospel this morning, “a person is not without honour except in his own home.” We might imagine this was a disappointing lesson for Jesus to learn – for who else would he want more to hear the gospel than those people who raised him, who gave him his first earthly roots? But aside from disappointment, what does this moment in the gospel teach us?

First, of all, what does the word “honour” mean? To be thought highly of, to be rewarded, to be respected. Indeed, this is an important ingredient of success, particularly among those who seek to improve the world and spread the gospel. But perhaps we are also being reminded that it is never a bad idea to go back, or to think back, to the places and families we come from. Those people know us one way, and understanding our past can help us have more understanding of our present. If we are lucky, they are constructive reminders not to get a big head, or to remember the lessons our parents taught us. Some of you, I know, may not feel looking back is particularly constructive – looking back is a reminder of unhelpful criticism and judgment, or being put in a box where you no longer see yourself fitting. I suspect that for most of us, it is a combination, and that great line from the second lesson reminds us that there is learning from both – for power is made perfect in weakness.

We are just beginning to understand, for instance, the enduring role that childhood trauma plays in our lives – and the long-term effects it has on our health and social lives. Maybe it was abuse, or a tragic death, or bullying, or a difficult sibling. But the negative experience of childhood that we carry with us does not easily leave us. Trauma in childhood, especially when it is unresolved, has been linked to illness, to addiction, to mental health problems. It is why many doctors believe that working through those histories, when they have been particularly damaging, is so essential to healing. They are the dark places where we may feel most stripped of honour, and most powerless - where we are weakest.

But in every case, there are lessons to be learned from the past, as any therapist will tell you. We learn good and bad lessons early and develop responses to those patterns. Perhaps our parents pressured us, even though well-meaning, and now we strive for unhealthy perfectionism. Or we felt expected to play a certain role in our family – joker, caregiver, rebel – and when we outgrew or rejected that role, we caused conflict in our family system.

The Apostle Paul reminds us in the second lesson that in understanding and accepting weakness – in coming to terms with the less rosy parts of ourselves – we also find power and strength. What happens when we confront those memories, when we put them in their proper places, when we try to understand why they happened, and what they mean? We find truth, the ultimate power. We can take who we are now and who we were then and see them as different but connected along a path. The power is that we choose this path, we put those memories in their proper places – a guide-post, perhaps, a point in time that informs but does not define the future – and we can go on, not burdened by them, not trapped, but seeing them more as a photo album we carry with us and open once in a while for reflection.

If we make a place where we are loved, where people wish the best for us, it does not matter that we are not “honoured” in the same way as outside our own home. We go home to understand, and to see more clearly who we are – not to others, but to ourselves.

Besides, honour is something bestowed, a value given. But self-worth is what we give ourselves. Our sense of self is far more important, and to truly find that, we must often go home, physically and metaphorically.

That is a difficult practice. For we don’t always like what we see. No wonder Jesus felt frustrated. But wasn’t it also true what they said about him? After all, he was that little boy, he was the carpenter’s son, he was raised by a loving mother who stood by him always. He was the Son of God. But he was also the son of these people. And while they could not listen to him as he had hoped, perhaps that was not the point: better that he listen.

Isn’t that the mistake we make, in going home – either at the end of the day, or to our families on vacation, or to the places where we grew up? We return changed, and we tend to be brash about it, to show it off, to try to make others see it. Or we hide our true selves to make things stay the same. Perhaps, we would do better to watch and listen to the lessons we might learn from ourselves, and the ways we might also support those who love us.

Power comes in those moments of weakness, when we humble ourselves enough to hear the wisdom of the past, and the words of those who care for us most deeply. But our personal narrative is the one we alone write.

Jesus had a strong sense of self. He had the inner power to choose the path that God had set before him. His narrative shows the truth of who and what he was for the sake of others. Jesus set forth from his home town and continued to preach the gospel, and people began to listen. Perhaps that is the reminder: in the end, it is not gaining honour that matters at all – if those who know us least well are the quickest to give it. The power comes from searching for the truth, and humbling ourselves for the sake of the gospel, and the path that God has set before us. Amen

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