05 July 2015

The combination of “sentness” and dependence is a strong biblical theme, and it is clearly expressed in the readings this week. What is challenging is that the sending of God is always to service and comes to us as part of the “Sent Community”. In addition, as we are sent we are called to trust both in God and in those from whom we receive resources and support for our work. This applies, of course, not just to clergy, but to all who seek to follow Christ and live as citizens of God’s Reign.

May we experience God’s sending and God’s provision both as we worship and as we go out to live the mission of Christ in our daily lives.

READINGS:
2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10: The people of Israel join the people of Judah in making David their king, and so David becomes king over the entire nation. Then David establishes his throne in Jerusalem.
OR Ezekiel 2:1-5: God commissions Ezekiel to be a prophet to the Israelites and to proclaim to them that though they are hard-hearted and rebellious, and whether they listen or not, they will know that a prophet has been among them.

Psalm 48: A psalm in praise of Jerusalem’s glory which overwhelms even enemy kings who come against it, since the city is protected by God. God’s praise extends to the ends of the earth.
OR Psalm 123: A prayer for God’s mercy after the mockery and shame that the proud have brought on God’s people, and committing to be attentive to God even as servants are attentive to their masters and mistresses.

2 Corinthians 12:2-10: Paul refuses to boast in anything except his weaknesses, since God has given him a “thorn in his side” to keep him from being conceited, and so he celebrates his weaknesses for it is in them that God’s strength is made perfect.

Mark 6:1-13: Jesus preaches in his home town but the people reject him because they know him, and cannot honour him. Then Jesus sends the twelve out in pairs, with no resources, to preach, and they go, proclaim Jesus’ message, heal, and cast out demons.

REFLECTIONS ON THEME:
Two complementary ideas come together in a very challenging way in this week’s Lectionary readings. Firstly, the “sentness” of God’s people is reflected in David’s appointment as king over all of Israel and Judah (including the establishment of Jerusalem as the city of David and of God as celebrated in Psalm 48), in Ezekiel’s call to be a prophet, in Paul’s ministry, and in both Jesus’ work in his home town and his sending of the twelve to preach and demonstrate God’s Reign. Secondly, this sending always happens in dependence on God. Ezekiel is called and God promises to show that he is a prophet irrespective of whether the people listen to him. David’s journey, which we have been following over the last few weeks, reveals how much he depended on God in his ascension to the throne. Paul recognises that God’s strength is made perfect in his weakness, and so he refuses to boast in anything except his dependence on God. In a similar way Psalm 123 reveals dependence on God for mercy. Finally, Jesus sends his disciples out, as he has been sent, with no real resources, but ready to rely on the hospitality of others for their basic needs, and depending on God for the power to fulfil their ministry. The message of this week, flowing out of last week’s challenge to live under God’s authority, is to embrace the call of God, and go out as servants of Christ in dependence on God’s resources, God’s strength, to sustain us. An important feature of this “sentness” is that it is inherent in the community of God’s Reign. The individuals are sent in so far as they are part of a “sent” community. It’s a basic message, and a common one to hear from the Scriptures, but it is also an important reminder that we live by God’s purposes and God’s resources – which is what ensures that our lives make an impact for God’s Reign.

CONNECTING WITH LIFE:
Global Application:
There is no shortage of work to be done in our world today. The issues of justice are many, they are diverse and they require people of passion, commitment and with a sense of being “called” or “sent”. But, for justice to become a reality in our nations and communities, there must be a sense in which all of the individual initiatives connect and form part of a larger whole. It is not just individuals who are sent, but groups and communities, and as we work together, each with our own particular gifting or focus, we can make significant difference. Two key features in this work flow out of this week’s Lectionary. The first is the impact that we have when we have a sense of “being sent” to do our work. It is this sense that we are participating in something bigger than ourselves that sustains us, directs us and prevents us from making it all about us. The second feature is the question of dependence on God, and on those to whom we are sent. There is nothing shameful about relying on those with resources that we don’t have – be it financial, political, networking, or communications. When we can trust, both in God’s serendipitous work and in the desire of others to support and contribute to meaningful, justice-bringing work, we are able to open ourselves to the strength, resources, and connections that we need to make a difference. The challenge of these two key features, though, is that they both require substantial helpings of humility. We need the humility to participate in “sent communities” instead of insisting on working alone. We need the humility to recognise that the work we do is far bigger than us, and that we are just a part. And we need the humility to trust and receive when God brings people and resources to us that help us to do our work.

Local Application:
It is all too easy, in our communities and families, to receive God’s call to leadership and ministry as some sort of “promotion” to a place of status. It is all too easy to begin to lean on our own wisdom, abilities, and charisma to do the work we are called to do. But, when we fall into these temptations we easily begin to become arrogant and potentially controlling and abusive (at worst) or rigid and closed to team work and the ideas of others (at best). Rather, in order to receive and share God’s life, we need to learn two important lessons of both leadership and servanthood. The first lesson is to accept that any calling comes only as part of a called community. We are always sent as individuals because of our connection with, and our place in, a “sent community”. The second lesson is that we are always sent to serve, which requires both trust in God’s message and mission, and the humility to be vulnerable to those to whom we seek to minister. The resources by which we serve are also not our own, but are gifts we receive from God, and from others who are “called” to resource God’s work. In this way, ministry becomes an act of community-building and of mutual service and faith. And, when we begin to live and serve like this, we truly begin to experience life as God intended it.

RESOURCES FOR WORSHIP:
Prayers:
The Faith We Need
The Measure Of Faith
The God Who Serves
This Hidden Kingdom

Hymn Suggestions:
O Jesus I Have Promised
Trust And Obey
O Master Let Me Walk With Thee
My Faith Looks Up To Thee
Lord, Reign In Me (Link to YouTube video)
Lifesong (Link to YouTube video)
Go Tell Everyone (Link to YouTube video)
You, You Are The God

Liturgy:
A Liturgy for the Foretaste of the Heavenly Banquet

Video Suggestions:
Strength From Weakness
Ezekiel 2

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