Growing old friends, strong marriages and healthy families doesn't happen by accident. At Marlow First Church, we are committed to helping you feel connected, cared for, hopeful and engaged - all in an environment that is reminiscent of what your heart remembers that church should feel like.
Our regular Sunday morning worship services at First Church are unapologetically liturgical. From the stained-glass windows, to the inspirational singing...from the full chancel choir to the Communion liturgy, when you leave after a worship service at Marlow FUMC, you will leave feeling like you have been to church.
Neither of this week’s gospel stories takes place by the Sea of Galilee. One is in Nazareth. The other is or will be in a variety of other villages dotting the Galilean landscape.
But both of them are still stories of a shoreline and a liminal space where the wild world of God’s kingdom meets the domesticated world of the powers that be.
The first takes place in Nazareth, where it appears the concerns of the kingdoms of this world largely trump those of God’s kingdom. Jesus, who had worked wonders everywhere else, “could do no mighty acts there except, when he laid hands on a few sick people, he healed them” (verse 5). So Jesus left the town of his youth and began going to the villages surrounding it and teaching there (verse 6).
That sets up the second story. In order to multiply his reach to the other towns and villages in the region around Nazareth, Jesus sent out the twelve, two by two, as more or less as publicists to herald the arrival of the kingdom and Jesus, who would be coming to see them soon. The town that seemed almost untouched by the ministry of Jesus thus became the epicenter of an earthquake of God’s truth and power that would shake every village in the region for miles around.
The strategy Jesus taught his disciples then and would still give us now is simple. Enter the new place, demonstrate God’s power, proclaim the arrival of God’s kingdom and repentance, and if there’s no hearing, move on to the next place and try again.
Note that the “next places” were not congregations. Jesus did not tell his disciples to join a “synagogue revival circuit,” wait around until Saturday morning worship and function as the “guest preacher” for the day. He sent them out to show the power of God’s kingdom and to proclaim repentance wherever they went, day in, day out—and mostly outdoors! He gave them specific behavioral instructions, and exactly zero additional doctrinal ones. They were to take sandals for walking, but not much else: No money, no bread, no spare change of clothes, and no way to collect money. Their deeds of power and the form of their lives were to be the chief proclamation that some new power of blessing had arrived. They didn’t need to develop eloquent sermons or series. The only word they needed to offer in the face of such manifestations of God’s kingdom at hand was, “Repent.”
By the end of today’s reading, Jesus was teaching in the villages surrounding Nazareth, and his disciples were fanning out in all directions from there, demonstrating God’s power and calling people to repentance. When Jesus would arrive there, the deeds of power already done would prepare them for the teaching and other deeds of power, he would offer.
That was Jesus’ missional and incarnational strategy. It was a missional strategy because it wasn’t about getting people to “come in” as much as it was about going out himself and sending others out to prepare for when he’d be able to arrive there. It was an incarnational strategy, because it wasn’t primarily about convincing people about doctrine, but rather demonstrating in the flesh the truth that God’s reign had come. That kingdom was changing everything, bringing about deliverance from sickness and the power of evil, and it could transform their lives, too.