Reflections on the Readings for Sunday 8 July 2012
Ezekiel 2:2-5; Psalm 123:1-4; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; Mark 6:1-6
What do you do when you are convinced that you have been called to be or do something but no one seems to be interested? Well, you can recognise that you are in good company. The prophets were generally ignored at best, killed at worst. It must have been so frustrating for Ezekiel to have heard the voice of God, experienced being filled by the spirit, and then to come up against the brick wall of a resistant audience. But his calling wasn’t to be successful, it was to be faithful. Whatever his reception, he was a prophet and he had to faithfully perform his task. If he were to judge himself by results, he might question his vocation. But God’s call, not people’s acclaim, makes a prophet.
I wonder with what high hopes Jesus returned to his home town. These were the people amongst whom he grew up. There must have been many that he particularly wanted to gift with wholeness. But familiarity had bred contempt. They thought they knew him, so they weren’t open to experiencing him in a new way. Their unwillingness to let go of the box they had put him in meant that he couldn’t touch most of them in a life-giving way. Perhaps you know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of that kind of stifling reception. Do you recognise when you do it to someone else?
Paul hadn’t had a great reception from some of the Corinthian Christians. He wasn’t enough of a ‘super-apostle’ for them. But Paul knows that it is often not those times when we’re making a great impression that God is most powerfully at work through us. We don’t know what Paul’s ‘thorn in the flesh’ was – everything from poor eyesight to a difficult mother-in-law has been suggested. But whatever it was, and it might even have been one of his Corinthian opponents, it actually works to make him a more effective conduit of God’s grace. It keeps him humble and struggling, relying upon God.
What are we to do in those times when we meet opposition or indifference? After examining ourselves to make sure that we really are living out our calling and not harbouring delusions of grandeur or behaving like an insufferable prat, we can take to heart God’s message to Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness”. We can, like the worshippers in the psalm, fix our eyes on the Lord as the one we unconditionally obey and seek to please. The psalm invites us to pour out our frustrations and hurts to God, and then to continue to live faithfully before an audience of One.