Sunday, July 4, 2021

6th Pentecost, 21-B: We believe...

Lectionary: 2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10; Psalm 48; 2 Corinthians 12:2-10; Mark 6:1-13 

En el nombre del Dios, que es Trinidad an unidad. Amen.

As Christians, we call ourselves believers, but what do we mean by that? The simple answer is that we believe that God is Trinity in Unity and that Jesus, who is the second person of the Trinity, is the Savior. But again, what does that mean?

Jesus is God Incarnate, the one through whom all things were made. Taking on flesh and living in a body like ours, Jesus was born, ate, slept, walked, laughed, loved, suffered, and died just like we do.

After the death of his body, Jesus was resurrected, enabling us to see what resurrection looks like. Then he breathed his divine Spirit on us. Now the Spirit of God occupies our bodies. The Spirit of God occupies our bodies…

Do we truly believe and experience that as we live our daily lives? Do we talk about those experiences? Mostly not, at least not the experiences that fall outside acceptable parameters.

My first experience of God was as a mother holding me in her lap, whispering love and comfort to me as terrible things were happening to my body by a gang of neighborhood boys. God held me in a warm embrace outside of my body and told me she was my Mother, and promised me I would be OK.

When I shared this experience, I was scolded for calling God “Mother.” It was made abundantly clear to me that calling God “Mother” fell outside of acceptable parameters. If I had experienced a mother, they said, it must have been Mary, Jesus’ mother. I was informed that I misunderstood my experience, which was understandable for a 4-year-old, they said.

But God continued to come to me as Mother and I learned not to talk about it. Even as a little child, I knew “they” were wrong, that God is my Mother, and that she was choosing to stay in continual relationship with me. I believed it then and I believe it now.

God, my Mother, is alive and active, gentle, loving, fiercely protective, and powerful. God, my Mother, connects me to people, to creation, and to the company of heaven in real, actual, and healing ways. I have grown in this manifest love all my life because I believe God is with me. I know it in the very cells of my body, the core of my heart, and the depth of my mind.

David believed too. He knew God would protect him from Goliath and prepare him to be King of Israel. And as king, “David became greater and greater for the Lord, God of hosts, was with him.”

Paul believed and spoke of his encounter with God as if it happened to someone else. Whether that was out of a newfound humility or because he knew it fell outside of acceptable parameters, I don’t know.

Paul spoke of being snatched away - in his body or out of it, he didn’t know, but God knew – to a place where God and the heavenly beings were – paradise. The third heaven he called it - three being a symbolic number signifying perfection, completion, and the action of God.

In that place, he heard things that cannot be spoken about in human terms. There are simply no words that can convey the fullness, power, and truth of what he experienced.

Paul couldn’t boast of this experience. Having been in the presence of God and the heavenly host, he realized the truth of his smallness and dependence on God’s love and care. He also recognized the truth that God can and will fill our weakness with divine power for the healing and reconciliation of the world.

The power of God’s spirit flowing through us can lead us to the temptation of thinking we’re just that great. We’re such a good and faithful believer that powerful happen because of us. Thinking like that will lead us to sin – to relying on ourselves (in all our success) rather than on God, trusting our own judgment rather than continually discerning and responding to God’s will.

So, Paul also shares that he has a thorn in his side, something that pricks his ego - or maybe his body, or his spirit – we don’t know since he never said. This thorn, whatever it is, reminds Paul that it is God’s power, God’s love, God’s success happening, not his own.

On the plus side, the thorn also reminds Paul that God is always with him, so whatever insults or hardships, persecutions or calamities he experiences, he knows God in Christ is there; and having experienced the power of God’s eternal, loving presence in paradise (whether in his body or out of it - he doesn’t know, but God does), Paul knows with a deep knowing that his weakness is where Christ dwells, therefore, he is strong. Paul believed and became greater and greater because God was with him.

Believing isn’t just about accepting the veracity of certain information or events. It isn’t even hoping that what we’ve heard is true. Belief is deeply knowing and experiencing the presence of God in Christ in the very cells of our bodies, the core of our hearts, and the depths of our minds.

Our gospel story today demonstrates the contrast between belief and unbelief. When Jesus went to his hometown, he met unbelief. Even though the people had seen his miraculous works of healing and heard his astounding teachings, they couldn’t get past what they thought they knew about him – he was Mary’s son. We know his brothers and sisters. Who does he think he is? “And they took offense at him.”

Recognizing their unbelief, Jesus named it and walked on. Mark says he could do no deed of power there except a few healings.

What do you think of that statement? Is God hampered by our unbelief?

Yes and no. God can do anything God wants, obviously, but God always acts out of love for us. That love gives us free will, the freedom to accept or reject God’s love and grace.

That statement is about moral power. Out of love for us, God won’t force anything on us – not even healing and wholeness, so Jesus had to just walk on, amazed that they would make such a choice.

The next story is a story of belief. Jesus sends his disciples out two by two - two being a number that symbolizes divine/human complementarity. It is also symbolic of witness. God acting through them would be witnessed by them.

Jesus orders the disciples to take nothing with them: no money, no food, and no extra clothes. They must wear sandals, a symbol of poverty, and carry a staff – harkening to Moses who healed the people from snake bites by holding up his staff.

Well, to be accurate, God healed them. Moses simply did as God asked and witnessed the power of divine love in action. And that’s the point Jesus is making.

Their purpose is to preach, teach, and be the vessel of God’s divine love in action. If they meet belief, Jesus says, they are to stay where they find it. If they meet unbelief as Jesus did in Galilee, they are to walk on.

Mark tells us that the teams of two went out and healed those suffering from diseases of all kinds: mental, physical, and spiritual. To be accurate, the disciples didn’t heal anyone. God was with them and because they believed, the power of divine love healed through them.

God always works beyond the acceptable parameters of any age. Why does that surprise us? It’s God, after all.

If we believe, if we know and experience the presence of God in Christ in the very cells of our bodies, the core our hearts, and the depths of our minds, God will work through us too. By the grace of the Holy Spirit, we will be united to one another with pure affection and those who are suffering from diseases of all kinds - personal, societal, and global - will be healed.

Let us pray… Holy God, we believe that your Spirit dwells in us. That scares us a little because you are too much for us to understand. Make us, we pray, vessels of your divine love. Help us to own the gifts you have given us and guide us on how to use them for your glory, the welfare of your people, and the healing of the world. We believe and we commit to sharing our belief, our Good News, as you lead us to do, in the name of Jesus, who is the Christ. Amen.

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