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Mark 6:1-13

The High Ground

The first sermon I ever preached was in my home church. I spent many long hours preparing it and only a few very short minutes delivering it. My first sermon, though pathetic, was greeted with enthusiasm and kind encouragement by my home congregation. They were generous with their praise to encourage me to keep moving forward in my call to ministry. I delivered my first sermon with a home court advantage. I was surrounded by people who loved me and cared deeply for me. My first sermon was not confrontational in any way. It did not demand much from my hearers. Why would I want to draw conviction down upon people who were so supportive and loving?

Jesus first ministry works at home in Mark 2 went well. “When he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them.” (Mark 2:1-2 NRSV) He received a warm greeting. The crowds gathered. The paralytic was healed. The word was spoken. All were amazed and glorified God. This was ministry done from the high ground.

As pastors we are trained to do ministry from the high ground. We work hard to develop environments that will lead to success, growth, and acceptance. We work hard to silence our naysayers and elevate our praise singers. We surround ourselves with agreeable and willing disciples who will follow our lead. We make sure our high ground environments are resourced and well-funded. We make sure that our success, popularity, and places can be sustained over the long haul. We invite crowds to gather in person or virtually, filling the places where we are in control. Good leadership has become synonymous with consolidating power and influence. From our ministry high ground, we choose our target audience, the latest media, the best curriculum, our favorite texts, the most relevant topics, the voices we give credence to and the voices we diminish. Often if we lose control of too many of these things for too long; if we lose the high ground, people begin to question whether we are really called to ministry at all.

In our gospel text from Mark 6, Jesus teaches on the sabbath in his hometown synagogue. He had been traveling, healing, teaching and casting out demons