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  • The Rev. Dr. Brian Rajcok

Rejection and Mission

Mark 6:1-13

There’s 1997 movie called Gattaca that’s set in the not so distant future of our world where people have started using genetic engineering to build their children before they’re born.  To give them the best genes possible, to make them the strongest, smartest, and most successful they can be.  The main character is named Vincent and his parents were people who decided to have a baby the old fashioned way and leave their son’s genes up to chance.  When he’s born the doctors tell his parents he’ll have a high likelihood of certain ailments and won’t be as strong or as smart or as successful as he could’ve been.  His parents regret their decision and decide to use genetic engineering on their second child.  And the movie is the story of the adult Vincent struggling in a world that discriminates against people like him.  Vincent wants to be an astronaut but is told he doesn’t have the genes for it.  He’s rejected again and again and finally decides to purchase the genetic identity of a former Olympic athlete who had a car accident that left him paralyzed.  The movie is about how Vincent navigates this system that has discrimination down to a science.  After much hard work, overcoming rejection and defying all odds, Vincent accomplishes his dream to go on a mission in space.  As the movie ends, his rocket ship takes off on a mission to explore Saturn’s moons.

I share this movie because it’s the story of someone who overcomes rejection and the judgment of others, trusts his sense of call, and eventually succeeds on his mission.   


All three scripture readings we heard this morning deal with someone having a mission, facing rejection, and then succeeding in that mission with the help of God.  Ezekiel was exiled to Babylon and had a vision of God calling him to be a prophet.  In the reading from Second Corinthians, we hear about Paul’s experience of a heavenly vision of which he cannot speak.  Many scholars consider this to be Paul’s personal account of his conversion experience or perhaps another vision he had later on that solidified his call and mission as an apostle.   


In the Gospel reading we heard this morning, Jesus goes to his hometown and faces rejection.  People who knew him for years.  People who knew his family.  Maybe some people who watched him grow up.  They heard what he had to say and they took offense at him.  They basically said “Who does this guy think he is?  We remember him!  He’s nobody special!”  Mark even mentions that Jesus was not able to do any deeds of power there, except he did heal a few sick people.  So either Jesus was discouraged by their rejection in a way that made him unable to do miracles—or their rejection of him, their lack of faith, prevented them from receiving the miracles Jesus had to offer.  I tend to think it had more to do with their own hard-heartedness especially since Mark mentions how Jesus was amazed by their lack of faith.  But still, I imagine Jesus must have been discouraged and disappointed at their rejection of him.  He was both divine and human after all.  And the discouragement of rejection is probably not something he was immune from.       


The important thing though is how Jesus handles such rejection.  He may have felt disappointed but he was not disheartened.  He may have been discouraged but he didn’t give up.  In the very next paragraph, the next thing Jesus does is send out the twelve disciples to expand his Gospel mission.  Jesus lets that moment of rejection inspire him to take this Gospel message to even greater heights.  It motivates him to grow this Gospel movement and send out others to proclaim, to preach, and to heal as well.  Jesus doesn’t let this moment of rejection stop him.  No, he makes it a critical turning point—the rejection that leads to the first sending out of the twelve.  Jesus doesn’t let rejection and discouragement stunt God’s mission for him.  Jesus lets that rejection inspire even greater work to be done.  Work that doesn’t just involve him, but that involves the disciples as well.      


This text invites us to ask ourselves: How often does rejection create a roadblock in our lives?  Do we let rejection get in the way of doing what we’re called to do?  Do we let discouragement prevent us from living out God’s will for our lives?  Do we let our own sin or failure convince us that we must not be cut out for the life of discipleship?  Do we let our own fears or insecurity tell us we’re not worthy of the ministry God calls us to? 


Our mission as the Body of Christ is to manifest Christ in the world.  To continue his mission.  To be participants in the ministry of reconciliation.  To be God’s hands and feet.  To stay rooted on the tree that is Christ and bear good fruit in the world.  Not because we have to in order to earn God’s grace and love.  But because we’ve been so touched by God’s grace and love that we overflow with a desire to share it with the world. 


Maybe in the past we’ve felt like we can’t fulfill God’s mission in our lives.  Maybe we’ve tried and been discouraged when others turned us away.  Maybe we’ve been convinced by our own self-judgements that we’re not the right person to help.  Maybe we feel like we’re not good enough to be disciples.  Or maybe we feel like we’re too burned out to get involved with anything or not well-versed enough in Christianity to be of any use.  And it’s very possible that we may not even know what specific thing God is calling us to.  Of course we all have a general idea that we’re called to live a Christian life, but what does that actually mean and look like concretely? 


If you’ve ever been rejected or discouraged or felt unworthy of being a disciple, let me assure you that God is calling you to something wonderful.  You are a beloved child of God and God has great plans for you.  Whatever it is, God is calling you to something wonderful and good and worthwhile.  You can discover what that is in moments of prayer and inviting the Holy Spirit to guide your discernment and reveal God’s will to you.  And once you have an idea, then praying for God’s guidance in doing whatever that idea is.  Maybe God will call you to deepen your prayer life.  Or to be more mindful of how you treat others.  To give up old habits or develop healthy new ones.  And maybe God will call you to a specific action of service for those in need.  Volunteering somewhere or advocating for peace and justice by taking up a specific issue to change.  Or maybe you’ll feel called to get involved in a new ministry at St. Matthew: like the ones you’ll find when you fill out our Time & Talents survey!  Whatever it is, God has something in mind for you.  Pray about it, discern it, and pray for the inspiration to fulfill it.  Just like the twelve who trusted the Spirit to guide them, you will do amazing things in Christ’s name. 

All of us, as individuals and as a congregation, are called to love and serve the world in our own unique way.  To overcome the obstacles, move beyond rejection, and live into the life God is calling us.  We all experience hardships and failure, rejection and discouragement.  But we know that Jesus faced those things too.  And the disciples encountered much of the same in their life and ministry.  Here Jesus sets an example for us of how to move beyond rejection, overcome obstacles, and expand God’s mission in the face of it.  So no matter what we may face, we know that Jesus stands with us when we’re discouraged or rejected.  We know that he faced ultimate rejection on the cross and even that did not stop him.  He rose again and continues to call disciples and empower us to change the world and manifest the Kingdom.  Jesus Christ continues to call us to move beyond rejection and discouragement to a life of discipleship, a life of manifesting God’s will and living out the Good News, a life of continuing his mission and being disciples today.


In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Pastor Brian | July 7th, 2024 | Seventh Day after Pentecost

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