I’m Dancin’ the Dust off my Shoes
July 5, 2009
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. On the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, "Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joseph and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him. Then Jesus said to them, "Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house." And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief. Then he went about among the villages teaching.
He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, "Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them." So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning! Friends, our topic and our title for today is “I’m Dancin’ the Dust off my Shoes.” Jesus has a very special word for you and for me today. It’s a word to help us deal with discouragement. If you’re feeling discouraged about some things, if you’re feeling disappointed about things, if those thoughts are getting in your way, Jesus Christ has a special word to help us out.
We’re thinking these weeks about our mission to help people become deeply devoted disciples of Jesus Christ. One of the things I want to explore with you is “Why should we?” Why should we be deeply devoted disciples of Jesus Christ? Oh, there are many, many reasons, but today I want to talk with you about being His deeply devoted disciple because this magnificent One, this extraordinary Spirit, Jesus Christ, understands you. He understands what you’re going through. He understands what I’m going through. And He wants to help us out.
That’s one reason why we ought to be His deeply devoted disciples. He understands us; He loves us; He’s been through what we go through; and He wants to help us through. And so, this morning I want to talk with you about Jesus’s way of dealing with disappointment and discouragement. Now, the title of our sermon this morning is “I’m Dancin’ the Dust off my Shoes.” Let’s see how Jesus helps us with this.
First, let’s set the stage and see what happened in the gospel. This reading tells us that Jesus was having a really tough time. It says that He left the place He was and came to His home town. Uh oh – He came home again. And His disciples followed Him. What does that mean? It means that He didn’t just come home for a nice visit to see all the folks that were back there. He didn’t come just to see His old workshop where He and Joseph worked. He didn’t come back just to see the house of His childhood. He came back as a rabbi. That He had the disciples with Him was the identifying mark that He was coming back to teach and to help these people. He knew that He had the message of God. He knew that He was God’s anointed, and He wanted to help His friends and family back in Nazareth.
And of course, they would accept Him with open arms and be so glad to see Him…right? Well, I wish it were so. Let’s find out what happened.
“On the Sabbath He began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard Him were astounded.” Now there’s a curious word. And they said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands?” Listen to the gospel: “Is this not the carpenter?”
The Greek word actually used here is tekton. It means handyman. It means Mr. Fix-It. It means the fellow who will repair your squeaky door and paint your kitchen and fix your sink as well. They were trying to be demeaning toward the Lord.
“Is this not the carpenter? Is he not the son of Mary, brother of James and Joseph and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” How is it that He is being different? How is it that He is reaching for the stars when we’re stuck here in Nazareth? Who does He think He is!” And they took offense at Him. Can you imagine that? These people in His home town took offense at the Lord Jesus Christ. They were giving Him, as we say, the business.
“Then Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are not without honor except in their home town and among their own kin and in their own house.’”
Now, fasten your seatbelts for the next verse. Can you believe you’re reading this in the Bible? “And He could do no deed of power there.” Can you imagine that? Jesus could do no deed of power in this place. Why? Because there was no faith. One of my favorite preachers, Dr. Eric Butterworth, puts it this way: “God can work miracles in your life if you don’t make it too hard for Him.” This is the illustration of that. He could do no deed of power there except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and cured them.
The mighty and amazing work of God needs some faith. It needs an atmosphere of faith. It needs an atmosphere of trust, trust like that little boy who donated his lunch so that Jesus could feed the many. Is there an atmosphere of trust in our lives? Is there an atmosphere of simple faith? It is with this that God can do amazing things, my friends. Jesus only wished that He could find this in His homeland.
Jesus was amazed at their unbelief – not just saddened, not just disappointed. He was amazed that there could be this much unbelief in His hometown.
The story changes a bit then. It says, “Then He went about other villages teaching, and He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits.” What is an unclean spirit? Perhaps it is a spirit that is negative and demeaning of faith. He sent them out to do good in the villages that they visited.
He ordered them not to be over-prepared. I think that’s the indicator of this next section. He said, “Don’t prepare too much. Go out and do. Don’t let the preparing get in the way of the doing. Don’t be so much “ready—aim—fire” as “ready—fire—aim.” Go out and do good things in these villages, He said to them.
And here it comes, verse 11: “If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake the dust off [take off the dust that is on] your feet, as a testimony against them.”
So, Jesus invites us to dance the dust off our feet. What is the dust? The dust is the discouragement. The dust is the disappointment. The dust is the stuff that weighs us down so that we cannot do the things that we know God wants us to do. The dust is the part that keeps us from growing in the faith. The dust is the part that keeps us from doing the magnificent things that God puts in our hearts. The dust is the part that keeps our dreams from coming true. The dust is the part that says ‘maybe I can’t.’ The dust is the part that makes us fear. That’s what the dust is.
I invite you to be silly with me for just a moment, won’t you? Please stand up. I want to teach you a little rhyme.
Stomp, stomp, stomp, stomp.
I’m brushing the dust away.
I am a child of the Most High God.
He’s blessing me today.
Let’s say it again.
Stomp, stomp, stomp, stomp.
I’m brushing the dust away.
I am a child of the Most High God.
He’s blessing me today.
My friends, what I pray for you today is that whatever the dust is for you, that this would be the day that God brushes that away from you, that this would be the day when you would take all that stuff that has held you down, all the dust that has kept you from realizing the potential that God has in store for you, and brush it away. That’s what Jesus is inviting us to do.
Notice that, when He said, if you get to a village and they reject you, He didn’t say to confront them. He didn’t say to put them down or invoke negative things on them. No, He said to brush the dust off your own shoes. What does that mean? Don’t carry it with you. Don’t carry the negativity with you. Brush it away. And don’t we all have opportunities to make a decision about that?
First, Jesus understood. Jesus knows what we are going through. And that makes Him so beloved to our hearts. Second—and this is a tough one—Jesus understood that sometimes your biggest challenges can come from the people that you want to love the most. Jesus understood that sometimes the biggest challenges to our faith-growth and the realization of the God-given dreams He’s put in our heart come from the people that we want to care about the most. And that’s hard. Jesus wanted to care about Nazareth. He wanted to care about His home town. But they were the ones who were giving Him the most dust, the biggest challenges, the hardest times.
I believe that Jesus is telling us to love them, surround them with blessing, care about them, but don’t carry the dust around. Brush it off and let it go. This goes for people whom you are very close to, people whom you want to be very close to, people whom you don’t know and who insult you and give you trouble, and people on television that you encounter. Did it ever happen to you? You’re watching television, listening to a commentator, and you feel very angry? Brush the dust away. Jesus is giving us permission to do it. Brush the discouragement and the disappointment away. You don’t have to carry it with you. You can rise higher. That’s what Jesus is inviting us to do. Don’t carry the discouragement around.
As an example of that…many of you are aware of my driving habits when it comes to River Road. I am a cautious driver. I go the speed limit, but I am a cautious driver. I do not understand the need to make River Road into River Raceway. You know how many deer are out there! I have two deer dents on my car to prove it. People will ride right on my bumper. And I have been advised that I should teach them a lesson. I should go slower to frustrate them. I should pump the brakes. I’m not going to do it. I signal as if I’m turning, I let them go past, and I bless them as they go by and say, “Please go have your driving adventure somewhere else.”
Don’t let other people’s anxiety and rejection and disappointment hang on you. Brush it away. Dear friends, as you go into the week, remember this: God has wonderful things in store for you. God has blessings in store for you. God has plans in store for you. God wants your faith to grow. God wants you to help other people’s faith grow. And if you run into a roadblock, if you run into a situation that would hold you back, just learn to brush it away. Love the person, but do not carry the negativity with you. And you will find yourself doing good things, living more fully, living more abundantly than ever before.
May it be so for you, through the power and the grace and the strength of our Lord Jesus Christ. God loves you. I do, too. Have a blessed week. Amen.
© 2009 Anthony J. Godlefski