Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Focus and Mission

Some readings for Sunday 8 July 2012 (Proper 14-6th Sunday after Pentecost might include : 2 Samuel 5:1-10, Psalm 48, 2 Corinthians  12:2-10, & Mark 6:1-13)

What do you make of the Gospel?

In explaining it to other people, for example,
what is it that we consider to be the core of our belief?
And what influences how we tell our story?
The readings for this morning gives us some interesting insights.
About God controlling our destiny,
about supernatural experience,
about hearing the authoritative voice of God,
and about responding to rejection.
Some good issues.

In the Hebrew Scriptures
we have a strong sense of how our destiny is in God's hand.
So our understanding of what God is doing
comes from how we understand what God has done.
Chiefly this is presented to us through the Scriptures.
The stories given to us there are woven together
to show how God is working his purpose out
as year succeeds to year. (as the song goes)
We read a little piece of that story today,
as David takes up his kingship
and he enters the city of Jerusalem
which becomes the focus of so much of God's promise.
We do need to note that Biblical scholarship shows us
that "destiny" is as much a human construct
as it is a 'biblical truth'.
The stories are selectively edited to show important things like:
the importance of Jerusalem
God's anointing of leaders
and the importance of worship.
At times that editing seems more human than godly
and we need to bear that in mind!

The Supernatural 
Paul speaks of a "person" he knows who had a vision of heaven.
It is very striking because it happened 14 years previously and he is still talking about it.
It seems he is obviously talking about himself.
And it reminds us that many of us
perhaps all of us
have such experiences which are very important
in helping us understand our relationship with God.
But Paul also sagely reminds us
that such experiences can "puff us up"
and he notes that his own bodily weakness
(the thorn in the flesh?)
reminds him that supernatural experience
is to be kept in perspective.
It does not mean that we are specially chosen,
or more that we are some how better than others.
This is an important reminder.

Hearing Jesus 
Two little incidents are given to us this morning (Mark 6:1-13)
Mark often does this, he sets incidents alongside each other to help us critique them
The first story is of Jesus preaching in his home town,
and we read that the congregation is impressed
and hears a man who speaks with authority.
Clearly they have discerned
the Spirit's presence in the utterances of Jesus.
The implicaton is clear,
we should hear Jesus's voice and respond
BUT we immediately read
how this amazement turns into something negative.
This is rather difficult to understand
other than the fact that we know
that a "prophet is without honour in his own home"
A sad but true reality of a complex of emotions.

However, we are invited to move on,
and we read immediately
that Jesus, who has been warmly received,
becomes unable to respond to people's needs
because their own narrowness prevents them from being responsive.
This causes Jesus to move on and leave this rejection behind.

He launches a new approach,
going away from the place where he would most want to have shared his good news
to other towns and villages,
we see him sending out his disciples
who are able to spread his work even further
and from this we see incredible success.

What one earth is God doing? 
In all this we have quite complex reflections on how God acts and how we respond?
There are deep theological truths:
God controls our destiny
The world we inhabit is supernatural as well as natural
Jesus's voice is powerful to change and heal
As disciples we are empowered to act
But we also need to heed the ways we often misuse these encounters with God
Destiny is often a convenient justification for our own human waywardness
The supernatural is not a justification of our personal status or holiness
We often fail to hear the voice of Jesus because of our own closed hearts and minds, and even our familiarity with the message or even his person
Far from being active participants in God's work, we are often passengers or onlookers.
These critiques are complex, and perhaps a little harsh but by and large we are easy on ourselves rather than hard
and so it probably does us good to take a firm measuring stick to our relationship with God
and seek to overcome our weakness, prejudices and biases.

What then can we do?

When in doubt we should always challenge oursleves
to return to our genuine roots
to seek out justice, mercy, love and forgiveness
truth and service
rather than advantage, prestige, power and "success".
To try in our prayer and thoughts and actions to genuinely seek to do what God wants of us
and to critique that
(to ask ourselves whether we are genuine)
to reflect on what we do
to repent of what we have done wrong
and seek to try again.

In this, opening ourselves to God's Spirit,
just a little more
each day
when ever we can.
We find that our own wills and willfulness
are changed
and the life of Christ
so freely given for us
may grow and flourish in us.

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