Faith back home and abroad
This weekend we explored the scriptures through conversation and discussion. Breaking the text in half, two groups dove into each part of this text from Mark 6:1-13. The following is closing reflections on the two halves of the text.
He left that place and came to his home town, 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 Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offence at him.
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.’ 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.
He left that place. The place where the hemorrhaging woman took her healing and Jesus blessed her for it. The place where the dead girl came back to life and Jesus kept it a secret. The place where we talked about “faithing” that after the question of faith – who then is this??? – comes the action of faith – help me, Jesus! As though perhaps this One may be the one to ask that to.
And we saw how that action, that longing sometimes looks like words – my little daughter is dying!, and sometimes it is just reaching out and hoping.
But now he’s in his hometown, among his home people. This is mom and dad’s world. This is brothers and sisters and long memory: mischief and mudpies, first steps, forged friendships, lost teeth and puberty, for the love of God. So here’s Jesus with his peeps – the place and people that made him - in the nurture, not nature way – and he’s there with his disciples. His followers are seeing him mollycoddled, disregarded and ribbed. (Mom, please! You’re embarrassing me in front of my disciples)!
We all know that the people who heard your voice change are going to have a hard time taking you seriously if you’re important and official now- especially when the claim is that you’re from God and everyone knows you come from right down the street.
But even more than amused, when he comes speaking with authority and they see the deeds of power that he does - they take offense.
Just who does he think he is? What is he trying to pull?
And he could do no deed of power among them – except lay his hands on a few people and cure them. (which sound like deeds of power to me- and felt like it to the sick people who got cured). But it wouldn’t have mattered what he did. He could do no deeds of power among them. They knew who he was, and he was one of them. Those people were probably getting better anyway. Their illness must have just run its course. It was all in their heads.
As far as they were concerned- it simply couldn’t be. Period. He was limited by their unbelief.
Does faith allow God to do more in our lives? Very possibly.
Does faith allow us to see the things God is already doing in our lives? Absolutely.
Does even stopping long enough to look past what we think we already know, and ask the question of faith – wait, then, who IS this? open us up to encounter God and be encountered- most definitely.
Because without faith- without that question bubbling within us, the encounter can’t really happen. We won’t be open to it, or recognize it even if it does.
Does it take our faith for God to work in the world?
For God to meet us, do we have to be willing to be met?
For us to see God, do we have to be willing for God to look different than we might expect? Faith is not a closed conclusion. It is an open awareness. It is a willingness to be encountered by God.
Can God do deeds of power among us?
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.
When we look at the second pericope – unified chunk – of our scripture, we see the disciples now being sent out, and ironically, doing deeds of great power. Doing more, it seems, than Jesus himself could do in his hometown.
And, they are receiving hospitality from total strangers. In fact, the disciples don’t come bearing great power to dispense to others. They come in a very powerless form –needing a place to rest, needing coats for the cold, somewhere to use the bathroom, basic food and sustenance, when you get right down to it. Help me, stranger.
Jesus sends them out needing fellow human beings. And not just for what they provide, or as a ready audience for their message – this is not a commercial exchange, and people are never merely consumers and providers, individuals, numbers. They are forced to rely on other people’s compassion and openness. They must allow themselves –and their need- to be seen and allow others to step up to meet it. What an interesting way to kick off living the ministry of God. You cannot do this alone. You are not strong, invincible, independent.
And they need to stay with folks- to form relationships, not just bounce around getting what they can from people. So not only do they need fellow human beings, they also need to join fellow human beings. And while they are there, God works through their connection – and people receive healing, wholeness and care in multiple ways.
This is faithing again. As in, you’ve asked the question and continue to do so – you feel comfortable constantly reasking – who is the Jesus who meets me right now? Who calls me out? Who sends me to others?
But instead of “Help me Jesus!” the question leads you to continue meeting God, and in their case, trusting that through love and generosity of strangers, God will provide. Trusting that through the story you have to share, God will connect with others.
And the faith encounters you’ve had- where you must see God and be seen, lead you to see others and let them see you – sweaty, dusty, hungry, cranky you- and to be seen yet again by God in the strangers care of you. It’s a lot easier to give than receive, and receiving keeps us human. It keeps us connected. It keeps us encountering and reencountering God in our lives. This is what Jesus wants for the disciples.
Who is this Jesus?
The one who comes into this earth as vulnerable and needy as it gets, is raised in the loving care of these that God loves, and who likewise sends the message of God’s love and hope out through people, who must come vulnerable to share their lives with those who can care for them.
There is great mutuality in this faith thing. We need each other, God and people. This is a relationship, it wouldn’t do at all for one party to be absent, or be fine without the other. We belong to God, and in Jesus, God belongs to humanity as well.
This is how God arranged it. So we may know the interdependence of life.
Faithing presses us into this relationship.
Faith helps us belong to the love of God as we live out our belonging on earth.
What does faithing look like for you right now?
How are you being called to press into belonging?