Letter to parishioners, 2 July 2021

Friday, 2 July 2021

Dear Friends in Christ,

This Sunday we will hear of the moment when Jesus was rejected by those who had known him from childhood. We read of him returning to his home town of Nazareth, amazing many and then being dismissed as nothing more than the carpenter. Because of the unbelief with which he was confronted we are told he could do no deed of power there.

How often are we in that ‘home crowd’? How often are we amongst those who take offence at the demands Jesus makes on our lives? How often do we find ourselves longing for Jesus’ power to work in our lives whilst erecting the strongest of barriers around ourselves?

The first part of our gospel reading this Sunday is a wake-up call to all who profess a faith in Jesus Christ. It is a challenge to look in the mirror and to examine the person who stares back at us.  It is a challenge to re-consider our willingness to be led by Jesus, rather than constantly telling him that we know better.

Following on from this challenging opening, our gospel reading (Mark 6:1-13) goes on to tell of what can happen if we trust and truly believe in Jesus. Despite the rejection of the people of Nazareth, Jesus sends his disciples out into the wider world. He sends them out to proclaim a message of repentance and to bring healing into the lives of many. We read that the disciples cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them. We are being shown exactly what true belief can bring into our lives.

There is another detail in this Sunday’s gospel reading that should not be overlooked. As Jesus sends his disciples into the world he tells them to travel together (he began to send them out two by two) and so we should travel together in faith assured of Jesus’ companionship and support as we proclaim the Good News to all we meet in our daily lives. Jesus also told them to set aside worldly certainty and security (take nothing for the journey except a staff) and to step out in faith alone. When we travel away from our homes we like to take loads of ‘stuff’ with us – just in case! Jesus says, ‘No!’ to this strategy. Jesus tells us to trust in him alone.

Throughout the Church there are wonderfully kind and loving people, people who willingly love and serve their neighbours. But, so often, those same people love and serve on their own terms. They see the power of Jesus and they hear his divine message, but they like to rationalize it in a way that makes it fit their own vision of the world. Similarly, the Church as an institution runs the risk of living in a way that fails to hear Jesus’ commission to travel lightly, to set aside the obsession for rainy days and to go forward in faith and trust.

The ultimate message of this week’s gospel is one of hope. We are shown what scepticism and self-reliance can do … he could do no deed of power there. But we are also shown the power of true faith … they cast out demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them. The power of Jesus is still alive in this world. It is alive and present in the world of those who hear the message of Jesus and follow him. Let us pray for the strength to do that every moment of every day. And, if we struggle with mustering the humility involved in being a faithful disciple, let us hear this message too … Let us hear  God saying to all of us: ‘I am God, and you are not!’

With every blessing to you all,

Revd Stephen