Revd. Gaenor's Reflections
The reflections for your week
Sunday 11th July 2021 Trinity 6
Sunday 4th July Kingdom walking
2 Samuel 5:1-5; 9-10
2 Corinthians 12:2-10
Walking is something we have been doing much more of during the pandemic- and for some this has been a revelation to the soul. For others walking and especially walking and pilgrimage is something that is already part of their Christian faith.
And the whole concept of Christian pilgrimage has been brought to our attention again in recent years with various TV documentaries following celebrities coming together on a pilgrimage with a range of belief and unbelief.
In our Gospel reading today we see Jesus continue to walk- this time to his hometown of Nazareth where he had spent his earlier life working as a carpenter.
And the disciples embark on new journeys on foot taking the good news of the coming kingdom to villages and towns in the region.
We could call this passage Kingdom walking- for not only is it about the launching of the disciples into God’s mission field but it talks of reception and rejection, and implies the need both for faith and hope as well as perseverance and encouragement! These are aspects of our faith that we need too-whatever stage of life we are experiencing!
We are all called to be disciples of Jesus and he has given us a job to do-whatever age we are. As we gather together today we pray for new strength, new ideas and a new love for the world into which we are sent…
Jesus’ journey to Nazereth
Jesus shows us his humanity in that he too has difficulties and faces obstacles which frustrate and limit his ministry. The lack of faith of those in Nazareth including difficulties with his own family, and those who cannot look beyond his artisan background, means that he can exercise little power and he has to contend with failure. Prophets are not always honoured by their families as we see in Jeremiah 11:21 and reiterated by Jesus himself.
The twelve disciples have already been appointed and named in Mark 3:14 ff; they have seen and taken in what Jesus has been doing and are now sent out in twos to continue Jesus’ work- not instead of but alongside his active ministry.
They had been told what’s involved and now after a period of observation they are going to do it themselves. They know the risks and they can go into the task realistically…
There is a TV programme based on survival techniques used by the SAS where people are sent to face challenging circumstances with almost nothing to help them except one another. In that situation members of the group very quickly become dependent on each other ad on the environment they are in. Relationships have to be made and they have to work- for the tasks ahead.
The disciples are sent out with very little- not because of aesthetics but because they have to make relationships and trust God.
There are some shining examples mission in pairs-for example the Catholic and Anglican bishops of Liverpool Derek Worlock and David Sheppard who worked in partnership to inspire Christians across the denominations in their then troubled and divided city in the 1980’s. Their book Better Together (1989) was well received and inspired a number of national ecumenical initiatives including Together for the Common Good https://togetherforthecommongood.co.uk
I wonder who has been with you on your journey of faith over the years?
Someone who has walked alongside you and encouraged you?
Perhaps you can stop and give thanks for that person or those people now…
So in their pairs the disciples were sent out on their first mission journeys to proclaim repentance Mk 6:10 ff; they cast out unclean spirits (6:7) and healed people (6:13) and later come back to Jesus to tell him all that they had done (and I wonder how that conversation went?!)
In Mark the word for journey connotes ‘way of discipleship’ and the instruction from Jesus is to travel light (6:8). Indeed the first Christians were known as followers of Way- indicating both Jesus’ statement about being the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6) as well as being faith on the move since as Christians we are not called to be static but mobile in our faith!
Faith is a living thing, dynamic, in need of strengthening and growth. We read Scripture and pray, meet with other believers, and seek by grace to follow our Lord Jesus Christ in this world.
Dark seasons can actually end up strengthening our faith in the long term, though in the short term we may feel like our faith is slipping away.
Faith is as alive as we are. As personal and human as we are. It is not something magical. And yet it is dependent on God. So that faith is kept alive by God through the Holy Spirit and yet must be lived out by us.
Jesus’ instruction to travel light can speak to us today.
How many times do we pack for a holiday (and yes that time will come again!) and end up using only half of what we packed?!
And in life how many times do we insist on carrying the heavy inner burdens that we collect over many years- and not let go and leave them with our loving and compassionate Lord:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30
Jesus does not add to our burdens but willingly takes the ones that make us weary and heavy hearted and invites us to take his yoke, his guidance, his steering, his direction-giving that will bring us rest, peace and hope.
So the principle of travelling light in order to humbly rely on the strength of God is one we can learn too.
Equipment for the kingdom walking
Any seasoned long distance walker will know that the right equipment is essential. However Jesus is insistent that his disciples travel light:
The staff or stick is used for support as they walk and protection in case of attempted robbery but is also a symbol of authority cf Moses in Ex 4:20
Their instruction is also to take no bread, no beggar’s bag, no money- an instruction to trust to both in God and in neighbour for both provision and hospitality.
Mark allows for sandals in contrast to Matthew and Luke .But there is to be no change of clothing.
In Acts 13:51 shaking the dust from your feet is a symbolic judgement against those who reject missionaries. The wisdom to Jesus’ disciples is that rejection will happen just as it happened to Jesus in his hometown of Nazareth, but when this happens to move quickly on and go to places where the message of the Gospel will bear fruit.
So the mission of the disciples was three fold: proclamation of the coming of the kingdom, confronting evil and healing the sick..
Attitude for the journey: humility and dependence upon God
Both our Gospel and Epistle from 2 Corinthians underline the need for a deep sense of humility and dependence upon God and one another to work with God’s power to bring signs of the incoming kingdom.
We like to sense our giftedness and strength but often it is in the stretched limits of our weakness and vulnerability that we are most effective channels of God’s power as disciples.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 2:9-10
St Paul would prefer to be relieved of the things that constrain him (and we don’t know what his ‘thorn in the flesh’ was) but he comes to recognise them as a God-given means of depending on God and not proclaiming himself.
Jesus is limited by the unbelief of those he grew up with and reminds us that there will not be universal acceptance of the message of Jesus-however user friendly we might try to be- or that we have the ability to demonstrate everywhere signs of God at work among us. However he does promise that He will be with us always cf Matthew 28:19-20 and the prophet Isaiah reminds us of the purposes of God with all that we say and do in the name of the Lord:
As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:10-11
Jesus sends his disciples out together in pairs on their journey to preach and to heal .
This reminds us that we need each other to work for the kingdom.
Jesus sends the disciples out travelling lightly and to be dependent on others for food and drink and shelter.
This reminds us to trust God and to let go of burdens that might inhibit our journey of faith.
Jesus is a realist- and tells them to stay where the message is accepted and to move on where it is not. Signs that the message is being accepted show themselves in the confrontation with evil, through repentance and healing and wholeness through lives transformed.
This reminds us that our words and deeds of faith might be received or rejected and so we need to rely on the grace of God to work His purposes out and that the foolishness of God is stronger than the wisdom of people.
So- as we reflect on kingdom walking-how are you being called by God today?
Is there a calling that you have already received but not paid much attention to- until now?
Or is God inviting you to consider a new calling, a new area of life to serve Him- remembering that God does not see our age but our willingness to serve?!
What skills and experience can you offer to the service of God here in our parish?
And how can we work together more for the kingdom of God here in Marnhull?
Please spend some time prayerfully considering this questions and if you would like to explore them further with me please get in touch.
In the meantime…
May we know that how ever young or old we are, we are never too young or too old to be part of God’s kingdom work.
May we know God calling us to come near, to all who are weak, all who are afraid, all who know their need of Him and may we meet God where we are, in our need and in our hope as we give our lives to Him.
May we speak, act and live as people who know the love of God that makes all things whole and may we offer the hand of Christ the Peacemaker to a world the needs to know God’s word of life and hope. Amen.