“BEING THE PROPHET” Pentecost 6 (Ord 14) 2021 Year B Mark 6:1-13
A traveling circus was staying on the outskirts of a village. One evening, shortly before show time, a fire broke out in one of the tents. The manager sent the clown, who was already dressed up for his act, into the nearby village for help. There was a danger that the fire would spread across the fields of dry stubble and burn the village itself.
The clown ran into the village. He shouted out that they should come out as quickly as possible to help to quench the fire. But the people would not take him seriously.
They thought it was a clever piece of advertising on the part of the management. He tried his best to make them understand that there really was a fire. But the harder he tried the more they laughed at him. The fire swept across the fields, reached the village and burned it to the ground.
In this story, the main reason why the villagers didn’t listen to the man was that they looked upon him as a clown. This made it virtually impossible for them to examine the truth of what he was saying to them.
Something similar happened to Jesus when he returned to his native village of Nazareth.
The people refused to listen to him. They thought they knew everything about him. They may have seen him as “jumped up” or going beyond his status!
After all isn’t he just the son of the local carpenter? Who does he think he is? So in Nazareth the message never had a chance because they rejected the messenger.
In fact, they were offended! So what was the truth that they found so threatening that they wanted to kill him?
It is significant that every gospel; Matthew, Mark, Luke and John have all recorded the quote of Jesus that “a prophet is not welcome in his own home”.
The people of Nazareth would have been very much aware of their own Jewish history. They would have been very familiar with the story of Queen Jezebel and King Ahab and their rejection and murder of the prophets od Israel.
They knew that the role of the prophet was to call the people of God back to the right path. And they probably did not like to think that they were on the wrong path!
Even though the word of the prophets was often a critical one, nevertheless it was a word spoken out of love.
And God does the same for us.
He does not want to leave us stumbling in the darkness of error or wrong-doing.
God still sends us messengers, and most of the time those messengers are near to us, familiar and known to us.
But we too reject the modern day prophets, especially when their message may not be one that we want to hear.
The truth can hurt. The truth can offend!
‘You are too occupied with other things. You have no quality time with your family. You’re far too materialistic … You drink too much … You are angry, critical, cynical always looking for the worst in others. You have been seduced by secularism and now you are blind to the needs of others.
I get most put out when my wife tells me home truths and the tendency is to become offended, to deny the accusation, to reject the prophet, to block the conversation.
The reality is, that none of us have any particular appetite for the truth especially as it may apply to us.
It’s easier to deny the truth and to label the prophets and our accusers as clowns, as fools as troublemakers even as the fire of destruction is sweeping towards us.
As Christians, as followers of Jesus, we should pray for the courage to listen to the truth even though it may be painful and come as a blow to our pride.
It was Jesus said; “The truth will set you free”. (John 8:32)
A true friend is someone who tells us the truth about ourselves out of love for us, sometimes knowing that it is going to hurt, sometimes at the risk of losing a friendship
I have known of leaders in the Church who have unintentionally set people up for failure by not being truthful with them about their unsuitability for a vocation.
The truth is that not everyone is capable of being an airline pilot or a Prime Minister or a deacon or a priest, a fireman or and acrobat. Age, mental capacity and disability are factors which cannot, should not, be ignored or overlooked.
While we may pray for the courage to listen to the truth we should also pray for the courage to speak the truth to others.
We may well do this at the risk of rejection, of being labeled a fool, a clown, a rebel, a dissenter, a troublemaker.
To set a person on the right road is a great thing.
But there is a “right way” of doing this.
You could probably find a ‘well-meaning righteous person” in every family and community who thinks that their duty is to set everyone else on the path of “righteousness”.
Being the “prophet” should be, must be, and has to be done with true love and true concern for the other person.
The secret is to be totally honest, totally kind and totally compassionate, all at the same time.
I have a good friend who is doing intentional ministry in the Uniting Church – he has been sent into a parish which has been torn apart by one difficult individual. The toxic parishioner is in his eighties and has a history of being difficult and divisive.
The problem is that for years, he has gotten away with incredibly bad behaviour because no one has been truthful enough to challenge him about his destructive behaviour or confrontational enough to kindly ask him to leave!
The secret for dealing with difficult individuals is to be every bit like Jesus and to accept that prophets will not always be welcome in their own town.
The secret is knowing that love sometimes involves a cross. AMEN