Mark 6: 1-13; II Corinthians 12: 2-10; Ezekial 2: 1-5
Arley K. Fadness

We have just celebrated Independence Day--the Fourth of July. Family gatherings, picnics, barbecues, parades, band concerts and fireworks. I love the Fourth of July. Don’t you? And I love Minnesota. For most things, that is, except one. One thing I do not like is not being able to shoot fireworks legally. Boyhood for me and the Fourth of July in South Dakota meant wonderful, noisy, colorful, splendorous Black Cat firecrackers and Roman Candles and Lady Fingers, and OLE Glory Rockets and Smoke makers and Sparklers. Oh, it was wonderful!

So this morning, a few days after the Fourth and having read the Holy Scriptures for today-from Mark’s Gospel, from II Corinthians, and from the prophet Ezekiel, I’d like to light three firecrackers.

The first one is a Cherry Bomb. So loud and powerful you can feel the vibration in the air, your ears ring, you shake your head and even as a believer in fireworks you wonder if this ear drum splitter shouldn’t be outlawed.

The Cherry Bomb is this: Rejection!

Jesus comes home to His “Lake Woebegone”-his hometown-Nazareth. And one the Sabbath he goes and teaches in the synagogue. And the people listen to his words. And they are astounded. Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands? Why-this is our hometown boy, Jesus. We knew him as the Son of Mary, a snotty nosed, grimy faced kid right here in Nazareth. How dare he speak and do the things he does? And they take offense at him. Even his brothers and sisters are insulted. They all reject him.

Later on, Peter would say of Jesus in Acts 4:11: “This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the cornerstone.” And again in I Peter 2: 4, & 7: “Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals...”

And long, long before, God spoke to the Prophet Ezekiel, “I am sending you to a nation of rebels...impudent...and stubborn...and you shall say to them, ‘thus says the Lord God’ whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they shall know that there has been a prophet among them.”

Unwittingly, at Nazareth, they reject the One God chosen to be the Savior of the world. They reject God as did their ancestors reject the prophets. And then Mark’s Gospel reveals a great tragedy-because of their rejection and unbelief , Jesus could do not deeds of power there. Only a very few.

I’ve had a few Cherry Bombs go off in my life. One rejection that seared it’s way into my psyche like a hot branding iron was handed me by Coach G. His beady, buggy eyes and his caustic tongue could dry up a lowly freshman’s self-esteem in three seconds flat. His stare said, “You’re a failure!” His body language, “I reject you scum.” Admittedly, the team and I had played badly but what I needed was affirmation along with the prod.

I have a file in my file cabinet entitled Rejections. It’s stuff I’ve written, sent off to publishers and then received the “R” letter: “Rejected! We’re sorry you’re submission is unusable.”

You know the power of this Cherry Bomb in your life. One’s mate, one’s spouse, by a simple look, by a gesture, can shoot a rejection arrow your way and suddenly you feel judged and criticized and wounded.

A fellow was telling about his failed marriage proposal. “How did it go!” “Not so good.” “What happened?” “It wouldn’t have been so bad if she had just said no.”
“Well, what did she say?” “Phooey!”

How salespeople can make friends of rejection is truly an art. I would like to interview that County Assessor in my county who just retired. I would like to ask him how he had the grace to separate nastiness from legitimate challenges, the grace to distinguish between business and his person.

Jesus’ hometown neighbors and his kin said blatantly, “Jesus, get out of here!” “Get out of our town. Get out of our lives. We don’t want you.”

Edward Arlington Robinson crafted the word for our time too: The world is a kindergarten in which millions of bewildered infants are trying to spell ‘God’ with the wrong blocks.

On the platform of a railroad station there was a large crate with a big dog inside. He was the saddest dog you can imagine. A lady asked about him. “You would be sad too,” she was told, “if you were in his plight. He’s chewed the tag off the crate and doesn’t know where he’s going.” Ignorance and unbelief can do that.

2) Now a second Firecracker explodes. Like the one in my cousin Jerry’s hand. We were kids. He held the Black Cat Cracker too long and it blew up in his hand and got an ugly, painful red blister.

The Apostle Paul called his Black Cat Cracker a “thorn in the flesh.” When Paul wrote to believers in Corinth he recited how the fireworks were going off around him all the time: weakness, insults, hardships, shipwreck, persecution, calamities.
But it was always that irritating “thorn in the flesh” that seemed to bother him the most. Three times he asked the Lord to remove it. What it was, we don’t know. Bad eyesight. Attacks of Malaria, a recurring fever, a limp.

It is then, Paul heard the gracious words of Christ, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
“Therefore I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”

Whatever thorn is poking your flesh today-know God’s grace is sufficient. An emotional thorn? A physical thorn? A spiritual pain? Through God’s grace Paul’s weakness and your weakness become Christ’s power.

In the last part of this Gospel reading the scene changes. The program switches from ear smashing explosions to a work of art--pyrotechnicians orchestrating rockets and brilliant explosions to Beethoven’s Fifth and John Philip Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever and Eric Clapton and the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

We are told in verse 7 that Jesus left Nazareth, went to the other villages, and then called his chosen disciples and sent them out two by two. They healed, they cured, they cast out demons. Belief was back. Trust restored.

Let me light a final Roman Candle. We reject but God accepts. We are weak. By God’s grace we are strengthened. God transforms our unbelief, our rejections. We find contentment and purpose.

Your scar can become a star. Your hurt- a halo, your weakness-a strength.

I am graced.
I am chosen.
I am empowered even in my weakness.
I am sent.

This message was published in the Wall Street Journal:
You’ve failed many times, although you may not remember.
You fell the first time you tried to walk.
You almost drowned the first time you tried to swim, didn’t you?
Did you hit the ball the first time you swung a bat?
Heavy hitters, the ones who hit the most home runs, also strike out a lot.
R.H. Macy failed seven times before his store in New York caught on.
English novelist John Creasey got 753 rejection slips before he published 564 books.
Babe Ruth struck out 1330 times but he also hit 714 home runs.

Don’t worry, don’t be crushed by failure or rejection or weakness. Christ’s grace is sufficient. Totally.


By Arley K. Fadness
617 Kasan Ave.
Volga, S.D. 57071