Introduction and Call to Worship
The readings today invite us to ponder our ministry in the service of the Kingdom. More specifically, they offer us reminders of human frailty, and the certainty that God’s love can be shown even when we feel weak or ill-equipped.
First Reading Ezekiel 2:1-5
Ezekiel receives his call to prophesy to the people of Israel. This will be a hard message, and he is warned that the people will not receive it.
Second Reading 2 Corinthians 12:2-10
Paul has grounds for boasting about his spiritual prowess, but instead speaks of his weakness. In his weakness, God’s strength is truly revealed; he can claim no glory for himself.
Gospel Mark 6:1-13
Jesus faces unbelief from people who know his family. He sends out the disciples, suggesting that they too will face a mixed response.
HOMILY “Then Jesus went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority...” (Mark 6:6,7)
What special talents do you possess? Can you juggle? Roll your tongue? I won’t go any further! Over the past year I have been looking to find someone to follow Jane Lowe as our new churchwarden and it has not been an easy task. Jane has been a brilliant administrator, lovingly tending our church buildings and the people with such diligence and joy. Yes, she is a hard act to follow! But then I am not looking for a Jane cardboard cut-out just to carry on things the same way, because I recognise, as we all should, that we each have very different, indeed unique gifts and God calls all of us into his service and sends us into the world to be his faithful people. What we are about here at St Mary’s is only the start, a place of teaching, nurture and family. It is what we then go and do out in the world which is transformative as we share the faith and grow the Church. Yet, we may not wish to believe we are gifted, as many have said, “I don’t have the gifts, time, patience or even the faith to be a churchwarden.” You should try being a priest! Among us are a multitude of hidden gifts and God is calling on us to release these among his Church for the building up of his Kingdom. And we should rejoice in that and be willing to offer ourselves anew in his service.
Knowing his disciples had strengths and weaknesses, Jesus sends them out to be about the work of his Kingdom. The Gospels according to Luke and Matthew also have Jesus sending out the disciples but in Mark’s version our Lord sends the twelve disciples with very little training and after a disastrous time in his hometown – not the best of ways to begin a mission one may think! This ministry is not built on ‘worldly’ perceptions of success and thank goodness for that. We hear how Jesus was teaching in the synagogue and with his disciples present our Lord’s authority is questioned by people who claim to know his family, even though he has demonstrated his God-given gifts in action by healing some people. Yet Jesus seems too much like them – you know: ordinary, human – so how on earth could they believe he was from God. Nonetheless, our Lord has a message to proclaim! He sends out the Twelve to continue the work of building up his Kingdom, the same work that we are called to here at St Mary’s every day of our lives. And what resources do they have for this ministry? Well, not much really! They don’t have the trappings of authority, no Church Development Plan to follow and Jesus makes clear that, just as he was treated with suspicion, they would be likewise – scary stuff! Like us today, what matters is their heart intentions, their desire to serve and their willingness to go, as we are reminded at the end of each Eucharist, “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” and hopefully we reply with conviction, “In the name of Christ, Amen!” Later, Jesus knew the task of spreading the Good News of God’s love, his redeeming work, and the hope of eternal life would rest with these men and women after his death. That work rests with us today, his new disciples for a new age – you and me alike. So, in this light we are called to consider again our own mission to Thorpe and beyond. Instead of being anxious about our individual ability, we might want to consider what it is that we most want to convey about our faith to others. Surely we want to start with the truths that set us free; that God is loving, forgiving and ultimately as creator life-giving! Who wouldn’t want to hear about that? Yes, we may well feel like the disciples, poorly gifted or ill-equipped for mission, but Jesus sends us out into the world with at least as much of his spirit as he sent out his disciples back then.
We share in the calling of the disciples, to make the message of the Good News of Jesus Christ heard in this generation. This is not about converting the converted. For we so often find ourselves embroiled in discussions and debates about tradition, churchmanship and the way things are done. As someone said recently, “The St Mary’s way!” If you know what that is, do tell me! Friends, we need to look beyond all that and simply celebrate our catholic Anglican foundation and allow God to work with and through us to build upon it. The call of Christ to service, mission and ministry is exciting! It is God saying to us, that he has already given us gifts for use in his service and the building up of his Church, that we may meet new people, at various times in their lives, and from various situations, circumstances and backgrounds, and draw them here. Not because we are perfect – we are far from that – but because God is merciful and loving and wants to do something even more wonderful here than we can possibly imagine. This means allowing God’s grace which Paul speaks of in his Epistles, to flow through our encounters, into the lives of others.
Yes, those in the synagogue questioned the authority of Jesus, not really knowing what they were doing or who they were speaking of and there are plenty of people in society today willing to do the same about us. But friends in faith, Jesus teachings – The Gospel – liberate, transform and engage people in relationships with God, in a way that surpasses the old legal structure – an Old Testament faith – pointing instead all towards a God of love and compassion. That is the message we are sent to proclaim. That is the message this beautiful building stands testament to. That is our hope of faith! To communicate this hope with others we must allow Christ to shine through us, our lives, our whole selves – the bits we love and the bits we struggle with, the strengths we have and the weaknesses. How? Well, in our everyday encounters: family, friendships, through those we meet out and about. There is bound to be something going on here that they may be interested in gently hearing about. And by our talking up Church! Yes, talk up St Mary’s Thorpe, because this is a place where we meet our friends – and others could do the same. And this is the place where God is doing a new thing. As we elect our new warden today, ask yourself, what new way could I serve this Church and support our wardens in their work among us. Exciting times and questions for us all. Amen!
Finding a new churchwarden is not an easy task – so many people say they don’t have the time, skills, patience or gifting. But we are not identical and God has a plan for Thorpe!
Jesus sends out the Twelve with very little obvious training, after a challenge to his own authority as a teacher. He sends us today to Thorpe and beyond to build his Kingdom.
When we are tempted to worry that we are unsuited to speaking about God, we should remember that the Twelve were not particularly suited either. We have the spirit to guide us.
Regardless of how we look or feel about mission, it is the Kingdom that is important, not our level of training. Jesus calls each of us to be his disciples today and do a new thing.