Thought for the Week 4th July 2021
Reading Mark 6: 1-13
This week’s lectionary reading has two very distinct parts each of which is a big subject in its own right. Today I’d like to take a look at the second part ‘The mission of the twelve’ (verses 6b -13).
This instruction from Jesus to His disciples to go on a mission journey with no purse, no food no spare clothes…. appears in all three synoptic gospels, Matthew and Luke even say no staff. It’s a passage I’ve often worried about, as someone involved in Scouting, it flies in the face of the motto we espouse ‘Be Prepared’. I also wonder if it could lead to the philosophy of ‘live and let God’ a philosophy which could easily turn into an attitude that, because God is in control, we can abdicate all responsibility! That may seem a little harsh but how often do we hear God getting the blame – and how often do we hear God getting the thanks!
Some may say but surely Steve, as a Christian you must believe God is in control? Well yes, ultimately I do, but in the meantime God has given us the stewardship of this beautiful world, with enough resources for everyone (if some of us weren’t so greedy) and responsibility for each other, not just the ones we love. What He asks in return is that we acknowledge him as God and Creator, follow His codes as laid out by the prophets and Jesus, and finally to acknowledge what He did for us on the cross. We have choices and, on the whole, have responsibility for our own actions and responses.
Back to our reading. Many of you will know that in recent years I’ve become focussed on context and very cautious of passages, worse still sentences, taken from the bible and used out of context. So what’s going on in this passage? What is its context? Bearing in mind we can all gain different insights, I’d like to share a few thoughts.
I hope this doesn’t sound too trite, but I’ve come to think of the disciples during this particular episode as learner drivers, with Jesus the instructor in a dual control car. At this time Jesus is physically present, he may have sent them to other villages, but he’s still around, physically present and able to put His foot on the brake. It’s also only one episode in a period of around three years – Jesus’s ministry on earth. So what does it teach us and what is its relevance in 2021.
If we jump forward in Luke’s account of Jesus’ life, there’s another occasion where Jesus talks about sending his disciples out. It happens during the period where Jesus is preparing his followers for what will happen at Calvary…
35 And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no purse or bag or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” 36 He said to them, “But now, let him who has a purse take it, and likewise a bag. And let him who has no sword sell his mantle and buy one… (Luke 22 35-36)
The instructor was no longer going to be with them, there would be no dual control. They, and we, must be ready and prepared. Yes it’s true, we have a highway code to refer to – the bible – and yes we have prayer and the guidance of the Holy Spirit which Jesus said would come. But in both these cases it requires action on our part for those to become fully effective in our lives.
If, following excellent instruction, we pass our driving test, then decide to ignore what we’ve learnt and start driving through the streets at break-neck speed and crash into a lamp post we can’t blame the instructor.
The teachings about our responsibilities for God’s creation are clear. ‘All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small’ he made them every one – and we need to look after them, and each other. Sometimes that can be hard, for various reasons. But one thing that will help is to remember what Jeffery Hayward talked about last week at our anniversary service, the need to stay connected to the vine which is Jesus. To stretch the analogy, a vine fed from the root which is God, and watered by the Holy Spirit….. who knows what fruit might be harvested?
As we go out into the world this week,
Help us to be inspired by your word,
To feel your presence within us;
Guide us in our thoughts and actions
And make us ready to be the people
You would have us be.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord
I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)