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  • Writer's pictureFather Nicholas Lang

The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

Jesus is back in town- his hometown. I’ve been saving this story for a special occasion, and I certainly think this wonderful celebration of a milestone wedding anniversary fits the bill. It’s a story about the consequences of not telling the truth at a hometown event.


Alice Grayson was supposed to bake a cake for the Church bake sale but forgot to do it until the last minute. The morning of the sale she found a dusty old Angel food cake mix in the back of her kitchen cabinet. She quickly made the cake while helping her son pack up for Scout camp.


When Alice took the cake from the oven the center had dropped flat, and the cake was horribly disfigured.  There was no time to bake another cake, so she looked around the house for something to build up the center of the cake. Alice found it in the bathroom—a roll of toilet paper. She plunked it in and covered it with icing. 


The finished product looked beautiful, so she rushed it to the church but, before she left, Alice gave her daughter some money and instructions to be at the bake sale the minute it opened, buy that cake and bring it home. When her daughter arrived at the sale, she found that the attractive perfect looking cake had already been sold. Alice was mortified. Her only relief was that her name was not on that cake.


The next day she was invited to a fancy luncheon at the home of a friend of a friend. The hostess was a real elitist snob. The meal was elegant, the company was definitely upper crust and to Alice's horror there in the center of the buffet table sat the cake in question.

 

Alice felt the blood drain from her and was about to rush into the kitchen to fess us to her hostess, but before she could get on her feet, the Mayor's wife said, "What a beautiful cake!" Alice sat back in her chair and breathed a huge sigh of relief when she heard her hostess respond, "Thank you, I baked it myself."


The hostess sure got her just deserts! Not a good day for her. A much better one for Alice!


And poor Jesus, he is not having a good day —in his own hometown. We can imagine that they probably smiled and nudged each other in proud anticipation as he walked to the bema in the synagogue to begin speaking. Mark doesn’t tell us what he said, but it was a message powerful enough for them to be astounded and then offended. Sometimes, the truth hurts, and Jesus is a truth teller.


In truth, much of what Jesus said offended the religious leaders of his own faith tradition—the rabbis and the Pharisees. The truth of the message Jesus preached is also for us and for our time and circumstance and society.


The rub for us, then, is that there will be times when those called to preach the Gospel will offend because what Jesus says in the Gospel is true and we know it; and, there will be times when, because of our baptismal covenant to persist in resisting evil, strive for justice and peace, and respect the dignity of every human being, we may offend others just as Jesus did.

 

Well, with the poor reception his message received Jesus had just about enough. Time to send the show on the road. He called his disciples together and told them to take off. Spread the mighty word! Don’t fret about those who will not listen—they’ll always be around. There are others out there waiting to hear it so don’t waste your time on those who are hard-hearted.

 

In his time, travel was dangerous. When they did travel, people did so armed with clubs and staffs. The common folk worked hard just to eke out enough to pay taxes and try to survive. They had no time for spiritual fulfillment, so the disciples had their work cut out for them. Still people were hungry for a God who is new and present and for the truth about who God is. That was now their job, their mission: spread the mighty word, the truth about God and Jesus.

 

Jesus offended because he was a truth teller. Didn’t he tell us that the truth will set us free? The opposite of truth is lies, falsity, and falsehood. No matter how it is viewed, truth bears the fruit of trust, and many of us spend our entire lives looking for it.

 

Our desire for truth is what gives us that deep, personal longing to answer questions like “what is my purpose,” “who am I,” or “who do I serve?”

 

C.S. Lewis once said, “If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort, you will get neither comfort or truth, only soft soap and wishful thinking.” That’s what Jesus was trying to tell them in his hometown that day.

 

I’m guessing the hostess with the mostest didn’t get the message. I don’t think she’ll be having any luncheons soon. Oh, would I have loved to be there when she cut that cake!

 

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