Unwelcome prophets

Watching for the Morning of July 5, 2015

Year B

The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost:
Proper 9 / Lectionary 14

File:Nicolás Francés - The Twelve Apostles - Google Art Project.jpg

Nicolás Francés – The Twelve Apostles

Following the healing of the woman with the twelve year infirmity and the raising of Jairus’ twelve year old daughter, Jesus goes to his ‘hometown’. But Mark doesn’t say he went to Nazareth; the word Mark uses is something more like ‘fatherland’. This is not just about Jesus’ rejection at Nazareth; it hints at his rejection by the twelve tribes of Israel he has come to heal.

Prophets are not welcome in their hometown. We hear his townspeople respond with a kind of “Who does he think he is?” attack on a member of the community who acts outside his station. It is the same attack made by the leadership of the nation.

Prophets have not been well received in Israel – despite their huge influence on the shape of the Biblical tradition. Jeremiah was imprisoned, his message callously thrown into the fire by the king, page by page as it was read to him. Amos was accused of treason and told to go home and ply his trade in Judah when God sent him to warn the northern kingdom of Israel. But Amos was not one of the professional prophets – the talking heads who assured the king of God’s favor.

Sunday we hear of Ezekiel’s call to deliver God’s message – though he is sent to a house of rebels who will not hear. Though the psalm will claim that the people are attentive to God, like a servant watching the master’s hand, both the reading from Ezekiel and the Gospel text will suggest otherwise. We are a stubborn people wanting to hear what we want to hear rather than what God has to say. And so God’s power to heal is not welcomed in Nazareth – and too often lost to us.

But God is not deterred. Jesus sends his twelve – twelve to represent the whole community of believers – to announce God’s dawning reign and dispense God’s gifts of healing and life. And where they go, the realm of Satan is driven back.

Outside the theme – yet obliquely connected – is Paul’s struggle to defend his ministry and his acknowledgment of a “thorn in the flesh.” Whatever it might be, it reminds him that the power is in God not himself. He is not a victorious crusader; he is one of the wounded who knows the wondrous grace God.

The Prayer July 5, 2015

O God, whose will it is to gather all people into your eternal embrace,
make us ever mindful of your call,
and ever fruitful in our task,
to bear witness to your reign of grace and life;
through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Texts for July 5, 2015

First Reading: Ezekiel 1:28b – 2:5 (appointed 2:1-5)
“I am sending you to the people of Israel, to a nation of rebels who have rebelled against me.” – Having received his overwhelming vision of God, the prophet is summoned to speak God’s message to the rebellious people of God.

Psalmody: Psalm 123
“As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God.”
– A pilgrim song, the poet imagines the people as an attentive servant awaiting the master’s kindness.

Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 (appointed 12:2-10)
“To keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh.”
– Paul must defend his ministry by “boasting” of his gifts, yet fully aware that all is by God’s grace.

Gospel: Mark 6:1-13
“He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.” – Rejected at Nazareth, Jesus continues and expands his mission, sending out his followers as heralds of God’s kingdom.

 

Image: Nicolás Francés [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

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