RCL – July 8, 2012 – Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10 with Psalm 48 or
Ezekiel 2:1-5 with Psalm 123
2 Corinthians 12:2-10
Mark 6: 1-13
As I write this blog entry, there are random fireworks sounding throughout the neighborhood competing with the thunder rolling in. The sudden bursts of noise from the fireworks, I could live without. However, I love the sound of thunder as it echoes with power beyond my understanding. My thoughts about these two random, loud sounds parallel many of my thoughts about this weeks news stories.
On the one hand there are the ongoing stories of violence in Syria, Afghanistan, Germany, Iraq, Sudan, and a few dozen other places across the globe – near and far. On the other hand, there are the more amazing stories like the discovery of the Higgs Boson particle, the very real potential and possibilities for bionics to heal and (or?) enhance the human body, the moringa tree that provides food year-round in Nigeria’s drought conditions, and several other stories that speak of resilience and ingenuity. The first group of stories of violence is irritating and unnecessary. The second group points toward something greater and stronger that lies within human reach, even if it is reached for with less frequency.
I think this is what the scriptures for this week are pointing at – true power. They all, in some way, denounce the easy, flashy kind of power and, instead, point toward something so much stronger and durable. The passage from 2 Samuel tells of David’s long rule over Israel. We know he was not a perfect man, but he was a great man because the Lord God of Hosts was with him. What would David’s rule have been like if his passions and foibles were not mitigated by his deep and honest faith in God? His power would have been the brief flash bang of fireworks not the awesome force of thunder.
Psalm 48 is a reminder, a hymn to God’s strength. Even the strongest in the world tremble before God. How much do we attend to God’s presence in this world? We get caught up in our desires, our abilities, and we forget from whence they came. The so-called “God particle” is an amazing discovery, but will it really explain how creation happened? It’s a particle that creates mass (to put it very simply), but the particle had to come from somewhere. Who could imagine such a thing, if not the One who created all that is? We would do well to remember that we may tell the next generation that this is God,
our God forever and ever. God will be our guide forever.
In a like fashion, the words of the Ezekiel reading could have been written for us today. We have guns and wars. Politicians and lobbyists. What need have we for a prophet? But really, how long do these displays of power really last? Is there a warlord whose name is known around the world? Is there a politician who is remembered for any length after his or her term has ended of time? Human power is so short-lived.
He said to me: O mortal, stand up on your feet, and I will speak with you. And when he spoke to me, a spirit entered into me and set me on my feet; and I heard him speaking to me. He said to me, Mortal, I am sending you to the people of Israel, to a nation of rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have transgressed against me to this very day. The descendants are impudent and stubborn. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, “Thus says the Lord God.” Whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house), they shall know that there has been a prophet among them.
Maybe it is time to listen for something different.
Psalm 123 reinforces our need for something more. It asks for mercy for those who are weaker, for those who are overlooked by those who are at ease. Perhaps God’s mercy will enable those who are complacent or accepting of misused power. No matter how many headlines I read or news stories I hear that are filled with murder, destruction, and death, I still believe that human beings are capable of better. Perhaps God’s mercy will lead us in a new direction if we but ask. Surely, this is better than expecting mercy from those in power throughout the world?
The 2 Corinthians passage adds some depth to the seeking of God’s mercy. No doubt we forget where our gifts come from or in whose image we are made when we are acting out of our strengths. But when something happens and we are reminded of our weaknesses, where do we turn? Those who would find true strength turn to God, asking for mercy. Those who are enamored with their own power seek to cover their weaknesses and seek more power, position, or control. I’m not a big believer in Satan creating our weaknesses exactly, but there is something decided unhealthy in pretending we don’t have any. True power does not come from perfection, but from relying on grace and forgiveness in those times when we fail to be the people God created us to be.
The truth of power is evident in the Gospel reading for this week. Nothing is said specifically, really. The people in Jesus’ hometown couldn’t see him as anything more than the carpenter they had known. As a result, 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. Me, too. How could they not see who he was when he was curing people right in front of them? We are so often blinded by our own expectations of power and possibility.
After this, Jesus sends out his disciples to preach repentance. But told them to take nothing extra with them. Can you imagine what elections would look like today if politicians couldn’t take anything with them as they went on the campaign trail?
I guess what all this boils down to for me is that true power does not come from anything the world has to offer. It comes from a willingness to walk around with empty hands, relying on God’s grace to provide what is needed. Those UN negotiations might go a little smoother if people came to the table in this fashion. And surely the news would be filled with many more stories that are awe-inspiring rather than those that are despair inducing. If ever there was a time that needed true and lasting power to change the “impudent and the stubborn,” it is now.
Maybe the journey won’t feel as long or arduous if we stop carrying around so much, although “taking nothing” is a pretty scary thought. It’s a powerful one, though. Don’t you agree?