Ordinary People — Saturday Sermons from the Sidelines

The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Mark 6:1-13

The Holy Spirit uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things. That’s the main thought for today, so I’ll say it again. The Holy Spirit uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.

Our oldest son, Stephan, is blessed with a beautiful singing voice. He majored in vocal music performance at Wartburg College, sang the lead there in Fiddler on the Roof, and sang professionally with the Minnesota Opera. Stephan always sang, but he didn’t get really serious about it until his senior year in high school.

The musical that year was Les Miserables. Stephan tried out and landed the lead role of Jean Valjean. We were immeasurably proud of his accomplishment. On opening night we sat in the audience waiting for the curtain to rise. Some folks in front of us were discussing the cast. “Who is this Hennigs fellow?” one asked. “He’s never been in anything here before. Nobody knows him. Where did he come from?”

Photo by Valeriia Miller on Pexels.com

Stephan’s mother couldn’t restrain herself. “He came from us,” she said shortly. “Beyond that, what does it matter?” Fortunately, the orchestra launched into the overture, and we were spared any further unpleasantness.

Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” The folks at Nazareth had an interesting complaint. “But he’s so ordinary!” they moaned. We know this kid! His family is standing here. We changed his dirty diapers! We caught him shooting spitballs in synagogue school. How can this be anyone important in the kingdom of God?

Due to this attitude, Jesus was unable to do much of anything in Nazareth. Jesus takes no prisoners. Jesus will not kick your doors in. Jesus will not do violence to you or to anyone else. Violence is one of Satan’s tools. Instead, Jesus will suffer violence from those who expect a miraculous rescue.

The Holy Spirit uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.

It’s an old story, but’s it’s a good one for today. A terrible storm hit. Local officials ordered everyone in the town to evacuate immediately. A faithful Christian man heard the warning and decided to stay. He said, “I will trust God to send a divine miracle to save me.”

Neighbors offered him a ride out of town. The man declined. “I have faith that God will save me.” A man in a canoe paddled by and offered him a spot. The man again said, “No thanks, God will save me.” The floodwaters poured into his living room, and the man retreated to the second floor. A police motorboat came by and they urged him to leave. But the man refused, “Use your time to save someone else! I have faith that God will save me!”

The flood waters rose higher and higher. The man climbed to his rooftop. A helicopter spotted him and dropped a rope ladder. But the man STILL refused, folding his arms tightly to his body. “No thank you! God will save me!”

Shortly after, the floodwaters swept the man away and he drowned. Then the man stood before God and asked, “I put all of my faith in You. Why didn’t You come and save me?” God said, “I sent you a car, a canoe, a boat, and a helicopter. What more were you looking for?”

The Holy Spirit uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.

There was nothing more ordinary in first-century Palestine than Roman crosses. During outbreaks of Jewish unrest, hundreds of them might line the roads of Jerusalem. There is nothing more ordinary than dying. Special effects and virtual reality are for the movies. God works through the most ordinary ways.

But the result is the most extraordinary thing in the universe! Death is defeated. Evil is undone. Satan is dethroned. And all of it through Mary’s little boy who is also God in the flesh.

More than that, God pours out Jesus’ life on the Church. There was nothing special about those disciples. They had neither credentials nor degrees. They had neither status nor power. They had no particular gifts or abilities. They didn’t, that is, until the Holy Spirit chose them to change the world.

The Holy Spirit uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.

That process started right away. “They went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.” Don’t skip past that. They went out, and it worked!

It didn’t work because they came fully equipped for mission and service. In fact, Jesus tells them to strip down to the bare minimum necessary for survival. How can that be?

Paul describes this in our second reading. Paul had some sort of disability. Perhaps he stuttered. Perhaps he was partially blind. Perhaps he had frontal-lobe epilepsy. Scholars have speculated on each of these possibilities. But what really matters is the result. He prayed for this roadblock to be removed. He got a shocking answer.

 “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” When we are baptized into Jesus’ death and resurrection, we have all the equipment we need. We can leave behind all the baggage of perfection and power and prettiness. God’s grace is sufficient for us. Anything else just gets in the way.

The Holy Spirit uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.

What does that mean for Emanuel Lutheran Church? If churches don’t dump some of their baggage, the Holy Spirit will do it for us. That’s why constructive change is coming first from small and struggling churches. Adversity leads us to consider alternative strategies. So we should expect the Holy Spirit to make our lives difficult!

Look at the results. A year ago, we had fourteen young people in our Vacation Bible School. It was a great time, but it couldn’t really be sustained. So we tried something else. We partnered with our friends at Our Savior’s. VBS with thirty-five is a completely different world. It was awesome. And the fringe benefits go far beyond VBS. That joint worship service was inspiring! And our young people have built powerful bridges to their sisters and brothers as they journey to Detroit together.

So the message is plain. We may be the most ordinary congregation on the planet. And that is the best news we can get. After all, the Holy Spirit uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things. And extraordinary is a word to describe our mission and service here and now.

Let’s pray…

Pastor Lowell R. Hennigs

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