PEOPLE OF THE RV // Sara Wolbrecht // June 28, 2015 // Mark 3:7-19
Sometimes it is good when we find ourselves in a different place, maybe not as familiar, not as comfortable because it is too hot or too cold or a little musty (because it’s a basement that was built in the 1980s and never really used). It all the ways that it can come at us - it is good when we find ourselves in a different place.
When in your life have you found yourself in a different place? And to make that more specific for now, when have you moved? How often have you moved? Packed up boxes and your clothes and your things and physically moved from one place to another? The first time I moved I was 18 years old, moving from the house I grew up in 10 minutes from here where my parents still live in Redmond. I moved to Tacoma to attend PLU. Little did I know that in the next 10 years I would move 17 times. Sometimes just 20 yards away to another dorm, and then as far as Berkeley, California. And I know we have folks in the Salt House community who grew up in military families – and they also have moved a lot.
For me, every move was hard – not only the packing, sorting, lifting, loading, unloading of moving, but I have distinct memories of my last moments in each of those places. Stopping, tearing up, Saying goodbye to that place. Remembering all the life that happened there.
How about you? When have you moved? What has that been like? Are you as sentimental as I am as you say goodbye to a place? Turn to someone and reflect for two minutes about your experiences of moving…
Anyone have lots of moves? Never moved? We’ll come back to this in a minute, but hold that awareness about moving with you.
In our passage from Mark today Jesus appoints his 12 apostles. We’ve read how he invited James, John, Simon, Andrew, and Levi to come and follow him, and many others have become followers, learners, disciples of Jesus and have been witnessing all the healing, teaching that has happened so far. But here, from that rather large group, the 12 are set apart. First, though, is another scene where we’ll hear of how Jesus’ popularity and influence is spreading wildly. People are on the move from far off cities to find Jesus, hoping to be healed. Then, this scene of Jesus setting apart the 12 apostles.
Mark 3:7-19 (The Message) Jesus went off with his disciples to the sea to get away. But a huge crowd from Galilee trailed after them—also from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, across the Jordan, and around Tyre and Sidon—swarms of people who had heard the reports and had come to see for themselves. He told his disciples to get a boat ready so he wouldn’t be trampled by the crowd. He had healed many people, and now everyone who had something wrong was pushing and shoving to get near and touch him.
Evil spirits, when they recognized him, fell down and cried out, “You are the Son of God!” But Jesus would have none of it. He shut them up, forbidding them to identify him in public.
He climbed a mountain and invited those he wanted with him. They climbed together. He settled on twelve, and designated them apostles. The plan was that they would be with him, and he would send them out to proclaim the Word and give them authority to banish demons. These are the Twelve: Simon (Jesus later named him Peter, meaning “Rock”), James, son of Zebedee, John, brother of James (Jesus nicknamed the Zebedee brothers Boanerges, meaning “Sons of Thunder”), Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James, son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Canaanite, Judas Iscariot (who betrayed him).
If you’re going to receive a nickname from Jesus, I think Sons of Thunder is a pretty good one – well done James and John. We’ll focus on this latter part of the reading – the setting apart of the apostles. To set that up, let’s consider the significance of the number 12. Ok, not just significant because of the Seahawks, but YES because of the Hawks. To look at what Jesus is doing here, for those who were there that day and those that heard in the following days that Jesus had set aside twelve people to form a group of apostles – to hear that it was 12, their eyes would grow wide. Because what Jesus does right here by choosing 12, is among his most revolutionary gestures.
To put it in perspective, question: do you know how many seats are in the U.S. Senate (100)? How about the number of counties in Washington State (39)? Yeah, I don’t know either. But every Jew knew there were 12 tribes in Israel – or at least that there had been. These twelve tribes corresponded more or less to the twelve sons of the patriarch Jacob, whose stories are told in the book of Genesis. Also, to twelve geographic areas where those tribes lived. Ten of the tribes had been defeated by the Assyrians seven centuries earlier, but the prophets of the Old Testament, those who spoke of God, spoke of a coming restoration, and that is what the Jews longed for (and we’ve talked about). They believed the time would come when God would turn everything around and make a great nation once again.
So for Jesus to call twelve guys and give them a special status and special commission, nobody who heard of it could miss what he was doing –again, here, Jesus demonstrates that THIS is the time. That’s all going on in this text, ok?
So twelve guys – and what does Jesus set them apart to do? The text says: “Jesus settled on twelve, and designated them apostles. The plan was that they would be with him, and he would send them out to proclaim the Word and give them authority to banish demons.” Mark 3:14.
He designates them “apostles.” Any guesses about what the word “apostle” means? Whether sincere or fun guesses?
The word apostle means “one who is sent.” And that’s what it says there, that Jesus will send them out to proclaim the Word and have authority to cast out demons.
In a few weeks, we’ll get into the details of this mission they are sent on. But for today, I want us to land in just what it means that the apostles are commissioned to be sent. Jesus’ intent is that they will be people who move 17 times in ten years. Actually more than that. They will be people who are displaced. And we see this displacement throughout the gospels and into the book of Acts and you read it in Paul’s letters. Jesus’ people are people who are on the move – moving from town to town, going to where people are, to where God sends them. Sent. Displaced.
And I use the word displaced intentionally. Displaced means to be put out of the usual or proper place. Without a home. This sent-ness of Jesus and his followers.
For us, as we in turn choose to say yes to the Jesus-patterned life, we will find ourselves displaced, too. There will be seasons in our lives, maybe a few months, a year, a few years – when we face incredible transition, change – which may include the physical moving. We will be displaced people. We’ll pack up and move and say goodbyes. There will also be times when we find ourselves displaced in other ways – where we may not have moved, but we look around and hardly recognize ourselves or our surroundings.
If you’ve had a significant relationship end – whether a partner, a friend, a family member – you know how disorienting that is, because those are the people we DO LIFE with. And other sorts of things will leave us feeling displaced – when we’re unemployed – so much identity is wrapped up in what we do – who are we when we’re not working? Getting married, having a baby. Facing health issues, when our body is sick or aching or not getting better or carrying too much weight. Or in those seasons when we feel alone and long for community. We are and we will be displaced people. Put out of the usual place. Finding ourselves in unfamiliar territory.
You may have moved often in your life or not – but I wonder – when have you felt displaced? When have been the seasons that have been most disorienting? When you felt far from home regardless of whether or not you were? And I wonder is now one of those times?
Looking back at my twenties, I had A LOT of those times. Ending relationships, starting new ones, saying goodbye to friends who moved, establishing new ones, deciding that God was calling me to become a pastor – and trying to talk God out of it, moving to CA to seminary, getting married. When have been some or even just one displaced time for you? I want us to try naming that to each other, and take two minutes again to check in with someone near you – and as always, you can always pass on answering.
Is anyone in a displaced time now (for whatever reason, whether it feels like a more positive or negative kind of thing), and you’re willing to just name that. Yeah.
We name together, that we are a displaced people. And to be honest about how not only does life throw things at us that displace us – right? But we name that the life of Jesus is one that will push us out, send us out into the world physically and emotionally. We too are apostles, sent ones.
But – the great story of God is one where God is always with God’s people. That’s what we see in scripture. Like for Moses, God led Moses and the Israelites from the slavery of Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land. They were a displaced people! But God led them – with a pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night. And as they went they would stop, put up their tents. They’d sleep. Then take down their tents and walk on.
It has been said that the Israelites were People of the Tent, as they lived through these nomadic, transitional years, they could never put down permanent roots in a place, but were displaced. People of the tent. I like that language.
This is us, too. We are sent. We are invited to this on-the-move life. But I’d like to update the language and the image to say: we’re actually People of the RV. Yes indeed. And I say RV for two reasons.
One, it’s just hipster fantastic to have an RV these days, an old, musty recreational vehicle. So yes, the RV. And second, and more sincerely, I like the RV imagery for our understanding of our displacement, because it captures the fuller picture of what Jesus invites the apostles into.
Though we’re on the move, there is always room for others, and we’re never alone.
The key to this is in our text. Jesus’ intention is not only to send the apostles, but also that (And I love this!) …they would be with him… “…The plan was that they would be with him, and he would send them out…” Jesus chose them to be with him. Jesus chooses us, and all people, to be with him. Do you hear this? This is an invitation to a life with God. A life that yes, will be uprooted at times – uncomfortable, unfamiliar. But at all times it is a life lived with God. Always room in the RV – and God is always taking up one of those seats inside.
To be People of the RV. I think of what that means for us as I consider some of the things folks in our community are going through… A good number of y’all are looking for jobs right now – Jesus says, yeah, I have sent you and I am with you. A few of you are moving soon – to start grad school, to start an adventure in a new city, to separate from your spouse, to move out from your parents house. Jesus says, yeah, I have sent you and I am with you. Someone in our community just started a bible study podcast to reach the LGBT community with the love of Jesus - Jesus says, yeah, I have sent you and I am with you. Someone in our community is on a six-month sabbatical, having worked 10 years in their job. Jesus says, yeah, I have sent you and I am with you. Many of you have expressed how this is a lonely time in your life and you are looking for friendship, to belong – Jesus says, yeah, I have sent you and I am with you. Many of you are dating or hoping to date someone - Jesus says, yeah, I have sent you and I am with you.
And today, we name that it is actually good when we find ourselves in a different place. When we get in touch with our discomfort, as we sit in a musty basement in a small way we’re reminded of how we are displaced people – displaced, yet always always always God is with us. And nothing quite draws us back to that reality, that assuredness then when it is put to the test, when we’re in the unfamiliar. Here, displaced, we are most aware that we are people of the RV. People who are yes, with Jesus and yes, people who are sent.
For us as a community At Salt House: this is our reality, too. We know two things: we are sent, displaced to this particular place on the Eastside of Seattle, and second we know we are in it together. We are displaced, together. We’re like one big ol’ RV that has been parked on this particular piece of the world. And the question, the privilege we have is to ask: how are we being sent here? Two weeks ago, if you were here, we had a chance to write down ideas, inspiration, possibilities for how we could engage with each other, how to use our building, and how to be in the neighborhood and world beyond our walls. And to hold those questions with wild possibility, recognizing that the way “church” has been done does not work like it used to. We ask: who will we be, together? How are we sent? Some great feedback and conversations are already happening.
Like, how might we engage with the staff and students of LWHS? Many of us are excited about that possibility. LWHS students walk through our parking lot every day. We’re already exploring how we might serve lunch on Wednesdays as they get out at 12:30pm to anyone who came. And I have friend who has BBQ trailer and he is on board for whatever we decide – and his specialty is tri-tip sandwiches. And how to we support the teachers and staff?
There is conversation about using our land for a community garden. Whether we donate the produce to feed hungry families, or we involve students from the neighborhood schools, or let neighbors garden the land. What a potentially awesome way to bring our neighborhood together.
What about this basement? These unused, musty rooms. A school for the arts? Practice rooms and yoga classes. Or office space for a non-profit. A preschool for low-income families.
We own the house next door, too – it is currently rented to a family. What if all that land became a women’s shelter, a piece of addressing homelessness on the Eastside – the city of Kirkland is looking for land for just that reason. Could it be here?
Our space is already used in a few great ways - two Seventh Day Adventist congregations use our building on Friday night and all day Saturday. We have an AA group and an Al-Anon group that meet here weekly.
As all these conversations continue, we’ll try to let opportunities bubble up for us as a community to engage with our neighborhood and city. And YOU have the chance to run with the things that God stirs in you. Danielle ran with one of these, and has cooked up a great focus for us for the month of July – we at Salt House believe beautiful, sacred things happen when we eat with others – that’s why we eat together twice a month, that’s why we encourage each other to invite others to eat with us to grab coffee, a beer, during the week. But for folks who do not have food – they miss this opportunity to receive what they need on many levels. So for July, we’re having a food drive. Bring in food every Sunday. Put it on your to-do list, set an alarm on your phone – make it happen. And then the food drive will culminate with a Go Opportunity, a Go-Op, in a chance for us to serve together at HopeLink here in Kirkland on evening Tuesday, July 28th. I’ll say more during our announcements, and also look on our website and on FB to get the details. We see places where we can be sent, and we step in, knowing that God is with us. Even and especially when it is unfamiliar and inconvenient.
Today we have seen Jesus, in this radical move set aside twelve men, commissioning them to be a part of the Kingdom of God. In the calling of the twelve, Jesus forms a community of sent ones who belong to each other and belong to God. We too hear that call today. To say yes again, to recognize ourselves as displaced people who are never alone – People of the RV.
In response to all of this, we ask the questions we always ask: God, what are you saying to me/us? And What am I/we going to do about it?
In all of this, what is God stirring in you – whether you are acutely aware of your need to know that God is with you because you are in a season of feeling displaced. Then to hear that word from God. Or maybe you are feeling ready to engage in service beyond yourself – what is on your heart?
We take a few minutes to respond. You can sing along or use this as a time of quiet. As together we pray, O God, we call to you, we yearn for you.