Lord Jesus Christ,
You call us to come
To be with you,
And to learn trust, faith.
By your Spirit help me
To see you,
To hear your voice in the midst of trouble.
Help me to follow you in all of life,
To walk in the joy and freedom of the resurrection,
Indwelt and led by your Pentecost Spirit.
Sixth Sunday after Pentecost: Week 8 (in ordinary time)
This week the lectionary guide takes us first to Nazareth, where we are invited to attend the Sabbath gathering in the local synagogue. Jesus is known here – from childhood – and he stands to read the scripture (see Luke 4:16-19) and then sits down to teach. We become aware of various reactions of those who are also gathered there: they are astounded at his wisdom and awed by his deeds of power.
But the rush of surprise and awe is soon replaced by doubt. After all, isn’t he the carpenter who used to work here, along with his father Joseph – also a carpenter? And isn’t he the son of Mary, and his brothers James, Joses, Judas and Simon, along with his sisters: don’t they still live here? He’s nothing special after all. And suddenly the congregation turns against Jesus, judging him to be some religious upstart. Jesus responds by telling them how difficult it is for persons in one’s hometown to embrace one of its own as a prophet chosen and called by God.
What is then striking is how their refusal affects what Jesus is then able to do. He “could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them.” Jesus in response is amazed at their unbelief. (Mark 6: 5,6)
As we sit within the turbulence of unbelief and rejection in the synagogue, in what way might we be aware of our responses to Jesus today. How does our lack of acceptance and belief limit what Jesus can do in us, among us, and through us? We are only just emerging from a long sojourn within modernism and its belief system which rules out the dimension and need of the spiritual in favor of a human “can do” mentality and mode of living and doing. Modernism believes that knowledge, research, science and technology can and will solve the world’s problems and ills. As one heart surgeon stated, “I am more powerful than God, because I can bring people back to life after their heart has stopped. I don’t see God doing that kind of thing.” This kind of belief system pushes anything spiritual off to the side, and treats as suspect or crazy anyone who dares to speak of having a spiritual experience, or of experiencing the presence of God in some way.
However, like an artesian spring, the presence of God and the work of the Spirit cannot be buried and forgotten. At creation God breathed his breath and spirit into us and in this way we became human beings. We are spiritual at the core of who we are.
It is this ground reality which helps us leave the synagogue and to listen in as we accompany Jesus and his followers among some other villages. It is this simple acceptance of God’s presence and the coming of God’s kingdom among us that undergird the conversation Jesus now has with these early followers. This deep trust in God’s presence, provision, and power over evil enables them to both hear Jesus’ instructions, to receive the authority he gives them, and to go out among the villages carrying only a walking staff: no bread, no luggage, no money (or credit cards), and no change of clothing. That takes trust!
We gather from their experience (vv.12,13) that the people in the various villages were receptive – for these followers of Jesus, empowered by being with him and by their simple obedience to his instructions, announced the good news that persons could turn from their way of life and find God in the turning, cast out many demons, and anointed many who were sick with oil for healing. And so we are present to the healing embodied in the good news of the kingdom: a healing of relationship with God, a healing from the domination and forces of evil, and healing from illness in the name of Jesus.
This last phrase may trouble us for a multitude of reasons. But maybe this is because we just don’t believe God is able to do that in our day and age.
Prayer before reading:
Lord Jesus Christ,
You come to us
In the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Help me to be aware of how you come,
To be hospitable to your help,
And to your leading in the way of Jesus.
Season of Pentecost: Week 9
- 6/25 Monday: Mark 6:1-6
- 6/26 Tuesday: Mark 6:7-13
- 6/27 Wednesday: Psalm 48
- 6/28 Thursday: 2 Samuel 5:1-5,9-10
- 6/29 Friday: 2 Corinthians 12:2-10
- 6/30 Saturday: Mark 6:1-6
- 7/1 Sunday: Mark 6:7-13