National Older Adult Conference of the Church of the Brethren
Lake Junaluska, N.C. — Sept. 7-11, 2009
Sept. 11, 2009
Preacher: Dennis Webb, pastor of Naperville (Ill.) Church of the Brethren
Text: Mark 6:1-6
There’s always a musical rhythm to every good sermon, but in the case of Friday’s closing worship at the 2009 NOAC Dennis Webb literally wove words and music together into a seamless whole.
Webb, pastor of Naperville (IL) Church of the Brethren, has in recent years tackled the task of learning how to play guitar with the same enthusiasm and relish he has brought to his active pastoral ministry, and he brought some of these gifts to his message.
“Hometown Showdown Downtown Your Town: Nazareth,” a message built around Mark 6:1-6, explored the story of when Jesus was rejected by his hometown folks.
“His own people reacted negatively against him. He had come to Nazareth to offer healing, to offer hope, to offer revival, to offer renewal,” Webb said.
There was no welcome, no red carpet for the hometown boy. “Instead, downtown Nazareth was simmering with a trinity of criticism, cynicism, pessimism…. Jesus was literally amazed at the people’s unbelief.”
Focusing on the healing that Jesus performed despite the atmosphere of doubt, Webb speculated that the few sick people who were not healed because the opposition of the hometown folks to Jesus were the ones who were caught in the middle. Jesus, who had healed many during his ministry both before and after this incident, found himself unable to perform great wonders in Nazareth except that he was able to heal a few sick people.
Still, “Miracles sometimes happen when conditions are not favorable,” Webb said, adding that transformation, revival, blessing, peace of mind, and renewal also can happen during times and in places that seem unfavorable. “Sometimes it is out of despair and desolation that hope comes,” he said.
In the same way, Webb assured the congregation that Jesus is able to act in our lives despite the physical, spiritual, or emotional burdens we bear–even for those who may have come to NOAC bearing hurts or having endured disabilities for decades.
The same is true for the church, the preacher continued. The Church of the Brethren also, despite its difficulties, may be transformed and revived.
“I come to tell NOAC that the Bible is right. Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint,” Webb quoted from Isaiah 40:31. “And the running is not limited to those who are young.”
“Sometimes we know too much about each other’s past, but we know little too about each other’s potential, Webb added. “Nobody knew that these few sick people in downtown Nazareth were going to receive the greatest blessing, because they were discarded.”
Webb invited the congregation to seek God’s will for their lives, even in their own “Nazareth” where they may be too well known or where people may be pessimistic–but where Jesus is present. Jesus did not force people to be healed, Webb said, but acted where the people welcomed him. Jesus did not try to fix Nazareth, but he did reach out to the sick.
“The few sick people did not seem like much to the cynics, but to Jesus they were precious in his sight. Sometimes in downtown Nazareth you have to just wait on the Lord.”
— Frank Ramirez is pastor of Everett (Pa.) Church of the Brethren