Year B Proper 11 Mark 6
Hurry Hinders Ministry
Mark 6:30-34,53-56

An ethics professor at Princeton Seminary asked for volunteers for an extra assignment. About half the class met him at the library to receive their assignments. The professor divided the students into three groups of five each. He gave the first group envelopes telling them to proceed immediately across campus to Stewart Hall. He told them that they had 15 minutes and if they didn't arrive on time, it would affect their grade. A minute or two later, he handed out envelopes to five others. They were also to go over to Stewart Hall, but they had 45 minutes. The third group had three hours to get to Stewart Hall. The students weren't aware of it, but the professor had arranged for three drama students to meet them along the way. Close to the beginning of their walk, one of the drama students had his hands on his head and was moaning aloud as if in great pain. About half way to Stewart Hall, on the steps of the chapel, the seminary students passed a man who was lying face down as if unconscious. Finally, on the steps of Stewart Hall, the third drama student was acting out a seizure. In the first group of students, those who had only 15 minutes to get across campus, no one stopped to help. In the second group, two students stopped to help. In the last group, the one that had three hours for their assignment, all of the students stopped to help at least one person. The professor had clearly shown these seminarians that hurry hinders ministry.

The disciples have been out on their own preaching, driving out demons, and anointing and healing the sick. When they return they gather around Jesus and report in. They had done good work and they must have been excited about the new authority they held in the name of Jesus. Jesus must have been excited to see his apostles too; he wanted to hear about their experiences, so he invites them to come aside. "Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while," Jesus said.

What is Jesus trying to get across to his disciples? He is trying to tell them and tell you and me that:

  1. We need to take time to be present to one another
  2. Saving time is not making time
  3. Let God give you time

Bad Form and Bad Jesus
Ephesians 2:11-22

Jesus is ALWAYS Third Class . . .

The rankings of first, second and third class date from the days of the stage coach. You couldn't tell the difference between the three inside the stage coach. Every person was seated without distinction.

But when the stage came to the hill, the distinctions emerged. The second-class passengers had to get out and walk. The first class passengers remained in the coach. The third-class passengers had to get out and push.

Jesus is ALWAYS third class . . . and when people who claim the name of Jesus stay in the coach and let others do the pushing, it's swearing time.

Have you noticed how swearing and cursing no longer seem to be a big deal? Every one seems to have their own personal swear words, and our everyday language is so over-ripe and brown-spotted with expletives that no one takes offense anymore.

Of course, some of this is not new. My grandfather, a sawyer who worked alongside loggers most of his life, would never think of swearing. Yet almost every other word out of his mouth was "Oh Pshaw!" When I was a teenager at summer camp, my Southern Baptist born and bred counselor was as strict as could be about swearing. Yet about every other word out of his mouth was "What the fat!"

What I do think is new is that people now carry curses around with them like a charm, and we think these charms only turn to harm when they're hurled our way by friends and family. In fact, foul language has become so accepted, so commonplace, that it is losing its power to shock, to insult, to communicate disdain. The more we curse, the less our curses mean.

Maybe it's time for Christians to learn how to really curse and swear. After all, who says a curse or swear-word needs to be vulgar, or take the name of the Lord in vain?

In the not too distant past minding one's manners could become a full-time job. Language was decidedly less explicit, yet the ability to crush an enemy with a single phrase was honed to a fine point. For example, one of the sharpest cuts a Victorian gentleman could jab at another was to accuse him of being in "bad form." To be in "bad form" inferred one had bad-breeding, bad-upbringing, bad-judgment, bad-instincts, "bad-ness" all the way to the bone. "Bad form" meant doing something that was unquestionably gauche, undeniably unkind, exceptionally unwarranted. In fact, the difference between bad and good form was so important to people of a hundred years ago that Kent Puckett has recently written a literary study entitled Bad Form: Social Mistakes and the Nineteenth Century Novel [Oxford University Press, 2009].

What our ancestors deemed "bad form" might find its equivalence today in accusation of "inauthentic." Being less than you were called to be. Choosing to fall short of the mark. Lapses in judgment. Slips of the halo. There is no shortage of "bad form" today. Just read this week's newspaper: there were "bad form" political leaders, "bad form" CEO's, "bad form" investment bankers, "bad form" pro athletes, "bad form" teachers, "bad form" parents.

This morning I want to suggest a language for talking about "bad form" Christians... presents Leonard Sweet