Summary: If we believe in the power of Christ to change this world, then not only can we see God's amazing work, we can also fulfill our call as disciples working for Christ's glory.

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As I began to write my sermon this week, I found that I had trouble figuring out where to start because there are so many things I would like to say to you all; so much I want to share as we begin our time together. But as I thought about it, I finally decided that there will be plenty of time to say all those things in the coming years; plenty of time to share with you all that is in my mind and on my heart, and I imagine that in the interim, as we live life together, God will place even more on my heart. So, I am excited to begin our time together. For all sorts of reasons, it is my hope that we will share many years together in ministry; for the sake of this church and all who are a part of it, for the good of this community, for my own personal well-being, but…most of all, so that I have plenty of time to get all this stuff off my chest!

I really am so excited to begin this journey with you this morning, and I really do hope that it is a journey that will last many years. I am excited about the thought of Owen, who just turned four months last week, growing up in this church. I look forward to you all getting to know our 10-year-old, Mary Ellen, and her bright, joyful personality, and my husband, Ken, who passionately serves at East Ridge United Methodist Church. And I am excited to get to know about each of you and to share in your walk as disciples.

So, for starters, you can all take a breath and relax because I did not choose this guiding scripture passage from Mark this morning to infer that somehow I am like Jesus and you are like the hometown Nazarenes rejecting whatever message I may bring. These words from Mark are the gospel reading in this week’s lectionary, but this Scripture is also appropriate for this time of transition we are all experiencing right now. And what I want us to find in this passage this morning is a word about faith.

You know, when Jesus was going around preaching and teaching, the message he was sharing was radical. People were watching and waiting for a prophet and a Messiah, so for someone to claim to be the Messiah was a big deal in and of itself. But Jesus’ message was especially unique because it was not the message the people were expecting. They thought the Messiah would be a conquering hero who would smite their enemies. It was never expected that the Messiah would come saying he must die at the hands of his enemies. So I imagine that Nazareth wasn’t the only place where Jesus and his message were rejected. That’s part of the reason that Jesus gave his disciples these instructions about preaching and teaching, and “shaking the dust from [their] feet” when the message was rejected. But here’s the thing, even knowing that his message was unpopular, Jesus preached it anyway. Even with the knowledge that his disciples would not be well-received in every place, he sent them out to preach and teach anyway. The call to repent and enter God’s kingdom was vital, Jesus knew it, and he knew that message must be shared, even if it offended.

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