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Cannot Be Done

Mark 6:1-13

The Rev. Jon Roberts

8 July


Calvary Episcopal Church

Indian Rocks Beach, FL

1 He went away from there and came to his own country; and his disciples followed him. 2 And on the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue; and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get all this? What is the wisdom given to him? What mighty works are wrought by his hands! 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense[a] at him. 4 And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.” 5 And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands upon a few sick people and healed them. 6 And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching. 7 And he called to him the twelve, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8 He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; 9 but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. 10 And he said to them, “Where you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. 11 And if any place will not receive you and they refuse to hear you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet for a testimony against them.” 12 So they went out and preached that men should repent. 13 And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them.


Noah’s Ark, Edward Hicks, 1846 Philadelphia Museum of Art

People who say it CAN NOT be done should not be so stubborn and judgmental towards those who are actually doing it. That which cannot be done in the sense of doing the impossible, and that which cannot be done in the sense of doing the forbidden.[1]

There are several accounts in the bible of those with stubborn wills and judgement towards other, none perhaps greater than those who doubted Noah. In this case the people said it cannot be done because of the impossible, but what if we put a modern spin to the story where it crosses the line of doing what is forbidden? This example is being offered because later on today, we are invited to watch the modern day story of Noah in the movie called, “Evan Almighty” starring Steve Carell.

And the Lord spoke to Noah and said, "In one year, I am going to make it rain and cover the whole earth with water until all flesh is destroyed. But I want you to save the righteous people and two of every kind of living thing on earth. Therefore, I am commanding you to build an Ark." In fear and trembling, Noah took the plans and agreed to build the ark. "Remember," said the Lord, "you must complete the Ark and bring everything aboard in one year." Exactly one year later, fierce storm clouds covered the earth and all the seas of the earth went into a tumult. The Lord saw that Noah was sitting in his front yard weeping. "Noah!" He called out. "Where is the Ark?" "Lord, please forgive me," cried Noah. "I did my best, but there were big problems." "First, I had to get a permit for construction, and your plans did not meet the building codes. I had to hire an engineering firm and redraw the plans. Then I got into a fight with OSHA over whether or not the Ark needed a sprinkler system and approved floatation devices. Then, my neighbor objected, claiming I was violating zoning ordinances by building the Ark in my front yard, so I had to get a variance from the city planning commission." "Then, I had problems getting enough wood for the Ark because there was a ban on cutting trees to protect the Spotted Owl. I finally convinced the U.S. Forest Service that I really needed the wood to save the owls. However, the Fish and Wildlife Service won't let me take the 2 owls. The carpenters formed a union and went on strike. I had to negotiate a settlement with the National Labor Relations Board before anyone would pick up a saw or hammer. Now, I have 16 carpenters on the Ark, but still no owls." "When I started rounding up the other animals, an animal rights group sued me. They objected to me taking only two of each kind aboard. This suit is pending. Meanwhile, the EPA notified me that I could not complete the Ark without filing an environmental impact statement on your proposed flood. They didn't take very kindly to the idea that they had no jurisdiction over the conduct of the Creator of the Universe. Then, the Army Corps of Engineers demanded a map of the proposed flood plain. I sent them a globe." "Right now, I am trying to resolve a complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that I am practicing discrimination by not taking atheists aboard. The IRS has seized my assets, claiming that I'm building the Ark in preparation to flee the country to avoid paying taxes. I just got a notice from the state that I owe them some kind of user tax and failed to register the Ark as a 'recreational water craft.' And finally, the ACLU got the courts to issue an injunction against further construction of the Ark, saying that since God is flooding the earth, it's a religious event and therefore unconstitutional. I really don't think I can finish the Ark for another five or six years." Noah waited. The sky began to clear, the sun began to shine, and the seas began to calm. A rainbow arched across the sky. Noah looked up hopefully, "You mean you're not going to destroy the earth, Lord?" "No," He said sadly. "I don't have to. The government already has."

The message today is not to criticize the authority of government that can be stereotyped sometimes as stubborn and full of red tape. We all know these are men and women trained and sworn to follow the guidelines to which they have been given. They do their job with good intent and determination. The message is not about promoting a culture of “firsts” either. The first to become free society and open democracy. The first to walk on the moon. The first to do this, or the first to do that. It is however a message about going back to basics. Sometimes that means we need to take the minimalist and the purest approach. When life gets to complicated we say things like, “We cannot do that” or even more dire, ‘We never did it that way before.” This is true not only for a government, it is true for a society. It is true for a community and it is true for a church. Lots of red tape and bureaucracy await the character of Noah in today’s film, but did you know that all of the texts in our lectionary today have the same? We hear the story of Ezekiel, the prophet, who was discouraged by the amount of red tape and stubborn will that didn’t allow God to reenter and be in the hearts of the people.[2] The people had fallen and missed the message. He wasn’t prophesizing a culture of firsts, but a return to basics so peace and joy would be found again. The Psalmist expresses the same when he says, “I am tired of contempt,” and the fighting and the things that God has truly commanded us to do. [3]

There is no greater story beyond that of the ark, than the one we hear in the New Testament about a person who was told he cannot do something for two reasons: because it was impossible and because it was forbidden. It was Jesus who went back to his own hometown. “Come on,” if you’re going to find a crowd that’s going to be in your court and in your favor to help you in every way possible, don’t you think it should start at home? Jesus of Nazareth goes to his hometown and can’t find anything but contempt. All the people are saying, “What is this all about? You’re teaching on the Sabbath. Isn’t he knowledgeable of our customs?” Of course he is. “Isn’t he the son of Mary and Joseph?”[4] Of course he is. “He should know better. And now he’s trying to lay hands on people with illness and problems, and pray for them…on the Sabbath? It’s impossible for a carpenter’s son to teach anything, really. He is not a real rabbi. There is no degree. He doesn’t deserve the credit. We haven’t seen anyone come through here in a long time to be able to heal anyone. We know why. They have to go through the proper channels.” The only channel they didn’t go through is going back to the beginning, directly through God, and recover what was lost. When that happens there is nothing that is impossible and the Son of God knew that all too well. It says in scripture there were not too many who would be healed. What does that mean? If God is all mighty, why couldn’t his Son heal more? It is not impossible to Him, so why didn’t more people get healed by Jesus on that day? It goes back to the Psalm. He says, “I’ve had enough contempt with those who turn me away.” Those who are insolent and those who are derided by their pride, are the ones saying, “He cannot.” They are holding on to their riches and do not trust God with their lives anymore. As Christians, Jesus tells us we can go out and teach people about God, we can heal those who are sick with our prayers.

Dearly beloved you have to have the patience of Noah because it takes time. The miraculous is not always delivered in one day. Noah did not build that ark in one day and neither did Christ build this church to solve all the problems of the world in a row boat. The architectural design was drawn up and authorized by the one who created the universe out of love and truth. For Him, nothing is impossible. What ark is God calling you to build? Who has He entrusted in your care? Who in your hometown has borders and walls, and unable to see the bigger picture? Are they being stubborn and judgmental? Don’t be discouraged or lose faith when you’re back in your own hometown when people do not fully believe in what you’re saying. God leaves you into the land of impossibilities against the rocks of the forbidden where there are people who trust in a boat that will not float. When people get close to you tell them what really cannot be done. You cannot, not love God with all your heart. You cannot, not love your neighbor as yourself. That’s where the law and the prophets hang. When people, even in your own home town say there is something you cannot do, simply ask God, “What is it that you’ll have me do?”

Turning what cannot be done into a new beginning of hope and belief, often is hardest around the familiar. It is hard to let go and to trust God. If you are helping people learn how to break through what is believed to be impossible or forbidden, showing them the love and mercy that comes from Jesus in your words and actions, guess what…. you are changing the “can nots” into a new creation.
Take heart. You are actually doing it!

[1] Amelia Earhart, paraphrased by The Rev. Jon Roberts
[2] Ezekiel 2:1-5
[3] Psalm 123
[4] Mark 6:1-13

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