Pastors have a frequent question when they begin to discover mimetic theory. “That’s great. But how does it preach?”
Reverends Tom and Laura Truby shows that mimetic theory is a powerful tool that enables pastors to preach the Gospel in a way that is meaningful and refreshing to the modern world. Each Wednesday, Teaching Nonviolent Atonement will highlight Tom and Laura’s sermons as an example of preaching the Gospel through mimetic theory.
In this sermon, Tom and Laura use the phrase “cast out” in two ways – one way is to be cast out by the crowd as we follow Jesus, the other way is to cast others out. It is easy to see the relevance of these two ways of casting out in our modern world. Can the way of casting others out be transformed? Tom and Laura suggest it can, if we put out trust in the God who leads us to be “a witness of peace even to those who reject you.” I hope you enjoy this sermon as much as I did.
Year B, Pentecost 6, Proper 9 (July 3-9)
July 5th, 2015
By Thomas L. and Laura C. Truby
Jesus is Cast Out and the Disciples Cast Out
What is there about hometowns that make them important? Let’s name some of our hometowns. (Pause for response) Sometimes when we want to get to know our friends better we look up their hometown on Google Maps with them and they show us about. “That’s where the school was, it’s gone now.” “The bank was right here and we used to eat ice cream cones on its steps.”
His disciples follow him to his home town. They want to see where Jesus grew up. And of course, they will be seen by the curious people back home who are fascinated by every dimension of returning Jesus’ life. How does their life compare with his? Did he make it big because he made better decisions than they? Would they want what he has? Stories have filtered back about where he has been and what he has been doing. Now he is among them.
“On the Sabbath, he began to teach in the synagogue.” Teaching the people of your own hometown is tricky business. Having been part of forming Jesus, they expect to hear some of their ideas, assumptions and way of looking at things coming back at them from him. His speech will be a confirmation of their world view. While he was in the temple to teach, they didn’t really expect to learn anything they didn’t already know.
We see the first sign of trouble when the text says, “Many who heard him were surprised.” He appears to be operating outside the parameters of the village’s world-view. He is saying things that do not compute. I picture a cartoon bubble forming over their heads with a question mark in it.
They ask “Where did this man get all this?” and we hear behind it, “not from us.” They have begun to distance themselves by referring to him as “this man.” We are seeing the beginning of the scapegoating process in a community. Suddenly he is not an “us” but a “them.” A huge and dangerous shift is happening. He is being set apart, a distance established. He is being put “over there” where they can be against him. Where will it end?
They ask “What is this wisdom he has been given.” Should the word “wisdom” be emphasized and said with sarcasm or do they mean it? Is the intended audience fellow Nazarenes who catch the wink and pass it on or is this a legitimate conversation on wisdom?
A crowd is gathering and they seem to be struggling with their relationship to Jesus. It is a very personal struggle fueled by envy and rivalry amongst themselves and with Jesus; this young man they knew as a child. They can neither claim him nor let him go. He has gotten under their skin. They say, on the one hand “What about the powerful acts accomplished through him?” But on the other hand “Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t he Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?”
Our text says “They were repulsed by him and fell into sin.” It isn’t that they disagreed with him. No, it is much stronger and more personal than that. They are repulsed. They feel disgust and want to throw-up. While he had once been part of them now he is like spoiled food they have swallowed and want now to get out of their bodies as quickly as they can. (Pixar’s movie, “Inside Out” lists disgust as one of five core emotions. The character for disgust is green. Is this why children sometimes gag when forced to eat peas or spinach?)
St. Mark says they fell into sin. What was the sin they fell into? Was it the sin of casting out the other? Luke has an even more graphic way of conveying their sin. He says the hometown crowd tried to throw Jesus off a cliff. Is sin casting-out?
Jesus responds by saying “Prophets are honored everywhere except in their own hometowns, among their relatives, and in their own household.” Prophets are those who bring a message from outside the box, from another way of viewing life, from a place beyond the hometown and familiar. How many stories have we seen and heard of people claiming their sexual identity and their hometowns casting them out? Fortunately, this is changing.
The text says “He was unable to do any miracles there, except that he placed his hands on a few sick people and healed them.” I have always assumed he couldn’t heal because the people lacked faith as though healing depended on their faith. Now I realize he couldn’t heal because nobody came. Oh, a few defied the village ostracism and he healed them, but mostly they didn’t come. Word had gotten out that Jesus was off-limits.
“Jesus was appalled by their disbelief.” I wonder if “appalled” is the best word here. It lacks a sense of the tragic. Look at how many people weren’t healed because the village had decided Jesus was repulsive. It’s tragic!
“Then Jesus traveled through the surrounding villages teaching.” His hometown was not open to him so he shook the dust off his feet and went to other villages.
The scene shifts. Jesus calls the twelve disciples and sends them out in pairs authorized to cast-out unclean spirits. What are unclean spirits anyway? Are unclean spirits other people’s negative voices locked in our heads telling us we are bad, subpar, defective or unlovable? Maybe Jesus gave his disciples the capacity to break people free of these unclean voices by connecting them with a source of love outside their usual world?
A pure spirit speaks from a place of innocence, wonder and love, like a blessed and healthy five-year-old. I/Laura approached a five year old child sitting in a lemonade stand near the church garage sale, drawn by her small sign that said Advice – 5 cents. Suspecting she would be coming from a place of innocence, I decided to ask a real question: “How could I learn to trust more? What did I need to do to be able to trust? Her response was immediate: “You just have to believe in people,” she said. “But I don’t know too much about it,” she added with a little shrug of her shoulders. But I replied—“No, that is very good, just what I needed to hear. Thank you!” Her name was Mary.
An unclean spirit has been contaminated. Something has happened to introduce doubt, distrust, negativity and defensiveness.
Pure spirits walk in trust. They know their Abba will take care of them. Is this why Jesus instructs his disciples as he does? If they are to cast out unclean spirits they must be living in trust and so he sets up conditions to insure they do.
“He instructed them to take nothing for the journey except a walking stick—no bread, no bags, and no money in their belts. He told them to wear sandals but not to put on two shirts.” A walking stick would help them keep their balance as they followed the rocky trails and sandals would protect their feet. But nothing beyond that, nothing extra! While on their mission two by two they would live trusting in people and in God so that they could cast out unclean spirits—those spirits that come when trust is broken.
“He said, ‘Whatever house you enter, remain there until you leave that place.’” When you enter a house trust you are where you need to be. Invest, commit, dig-in and don’t look around as though where you are isn’t good enough. That would only introduce unclean spirits to your host, the opposite of casting them out.
“And then if they don’t welcome you or listen to you, as you leave, shake the dust off your feet as a witness against them.” What could do them less harm then shaking off dust? It does them no harm at all! No grudge, no vengeance, no retribution; you let it go like dust off your feet. Your “witness against them” is non-violent and does no harm to either you or them. It is a witness of peace even toward those who reject you. In this way your spirit remains pure and non-toxic so that you can continue to participate in casting out unclean spirits in communities that are full of them.
“So they went out and proclaimed that people should change their hearts and lives. They cast out many demons, and they anointed many sick people with olive oil and healed them.” It wasn’t just the casting out and the anointing that did it. They also proclaimed that people should change their hearts and lives. Is that still true?