Succentor - The Revd Rachel Young
Ezekiel 2.1-5 2; Cor 12.2-10; Mark 6.1-13
Last week I was visiting some relatives on my day off.
There on the coffee table were two of those small catalogues that you get in between the pages of magazines and newspapers, which are full of things that you never knew you needed…
One of them was exactly that –
full of things I would never need.
But the other was different.
It was full of things I could really use – things that could change my life for the better, if I were to choose to buy them.
It was my choice – was I going to fill my life with un-necessary things or with something I really need?
Two of our Bible readings this morning describe situations in which people were challenged to make a choice.
We hear about people of God – in Ezekiel, the prophet, and in Mark’s gospel, Jesus and his disciples – taking a message to the Jewish people.
In Ezekiel, the nation of Israel had rebelled against God; they had transgressed – gone against God’s guidelines for life; they now had a choice, either to hear or refuse to hear the prophet.
In Mark’s Gospel, those who were familiar with Jesus because they came from his home town also refused to hear him; and he was ‘amazed at their unbelief’.
When he sent out his 12 disciples to spread his message, his instructions were – if they don’t welcome you, if they refuse to hear you, shake the dust off your feet and leave.
At that time, the dust of Gentile lands was considered unclean and was to be shaken off the feet when entering Palestine.
But what was the message?
The message from both the prophet Ezekiel and Jesus was
was “that all should repent.” (Mark 6.12)
- turn back to God, worship only him, be reconciled to God.
Repentance is a change of heart and a change of action;
to repent is to change one’s mind
and to fit one’s actions to this change.
The hearers of Ezekiel and of Jesus and his followers could either hear or refuse to hear…
We hear what happened amongst those who did listen to Jesus’ disciples – “they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.” (v.12-13).
And we heard the testimony of the Apostle Paul in his second letter to the Corinthian church, that although he was physically compromised, he wanted the power of Christ to dwell in him (v.9).
In our own day and age, we live in culture that questions everything, that doesn’t respect authority unless it is earned, and in which everybody’s knowledge is as equally valid as anyone else’s.
In response to this culture in which we find ourselves, Dr. Rowan Williams, who was the Archbishop of Canterbury, has written about what faith can be in this atmosphere of scepticism about intelligence and reason.
Instead of faith being (what he describes as) “a system, a comprehensive answer to all our problems”, he says,
“it appears quite simply in the form of dependable relationship…You learn somehow to be confident in a presence, an ‘other’, who does not change or go away.” (Being Christian, 2016, p.24)
He says that “Faith as dependable relationship is something other than faith in a system of propositions or faith as confidence in my own capacity to master truth; it’s much more a confidence that I can be mastered by truth, that I can be held even when I don’t feel I can hold on. If my relation with the living truth is initiated and sustained by God’s faithfulness, not mine, it is dependable.”
He finishes by saying that “recognizing that requires me to step back from my own confidence in my own resources.” (p.25)
So he suggests that when we choose to hear the message of Jesus, and respond to the call of repentance, the nature of the faith into which we are entering is one of dependable relationship.
I, for one, can testify that this is the nature of the faith that I have, and it is what called me into ordained ministry – the everlasting and dependable presence of a loving and forgiving God.
For those of us who have a long-term relationship already with the dependable presence we call God, Rowan Williams moves to the implications of this for those we meet. He says,
“We need to point quite simply to the God who does not let go, to the Christ who does not run away. And…we ourselves need to be dependable people…We are summoned to embody it and offer it, as Christ’s disciples.” (p.25-6)
The role for Christians is to model the character of Jesus, the character of God. Dependable, honest, reliable, loving, forgiving.
We can all know faith as a dependable relationship with the God that never changes and never moves; the God who forgives us over and over again as we seek to follow his Son, Jesus Christ; we can all know the ‘power of Christ dwelling in me’ as the apostle Paul knew, through the love and presence of the Holy Spirit.
And once we know and enjoy that relationship with God, we can choose to model it for others.
It’s our choice. It’s a real choice.
A choice to make not just once in our lifetime, but every morning.
We can choose to hear or refuse to hear.
It’s up to us.