There is a story about a large church in a large city that once was about to close its doors. The building was a beautiful structure with stained glass windows and beautiful fine wooden pews. It once had hundreds of worshipers but had shrunk to the place where only about 50 people came to the worship service held each Sunday. Then, a new pastor was called to serve the church. The first Sunday he preached there he told the congregation that he could tell them the entire message of the Bible in six words. The words were "I am God, and you're not."
The pastor began to encourage the congregation to study the Bible and little by little they began to grow again. The congregation added people often to its rolls and soon there were active with bible study, mission projects, and service to the neighborhood around them. They accepted people of all races, ethnic groups, and sexual orientations and they all worked and had fellowship together.
The words that the pastor shared with them about the meaning of the bible helped the congregation realize that God is in control of the world and we are co-laborers in the world where God would have us serve those around us. Doing God's Will in the world is the task that we are to be about as we serve God and neighbor.
This Sunday, we will be looking at Mark's Gospel where Jesus returns to his hometown of Nazareth and is asked to speak in the synagogue. He preaches and receives a less than warm welcome. Those who heard him could not get past the idea that he was the son of Mary and the brother of others in the town. They questioned his authority because they thought they knew who he was. He was just the hometown boy who set out on the road and came home and now they had little regard for what he may have had to say to them.
Jesus could do few works of power among his former neighbors. It was not until he left Nazareth and traveled into the surrounding countryside that people would listen to what he had to say. He sent his disciples out into the towns of the countryside and gave them authority to teach and preach in his name. People who would listen to them received miracles and better lives. Others had little regard for what the disciples offered and Jesus told them to forget about those who would not hear (literally to shake the dust off their feet at them). We can only make a difference in the lives of those who want to hear what we have to say.
When we hear what is going on in the world around us, we may be tempted to throw our hands up in despair. We feel we have no way of bringing about change in our world. When we remember the words of that pastor in that church though----"I am God and you're not", says God, then we know that God is in control and we are sent out as servants to help bring healing and peace and love to all who will listen.