As I was preparing to write today's reflection, I was planning to focus my attention on the "sending of the twelve" as described in Mark 6:7-13. This story is one of the quintessential stories about "mission" in the early Christian movement. Jesus has spent time systematically training his disciples and they are now being sent out to spread the message of God's kingdom, to heal, and to cast out demons. They go forth taking "nothing for their journey." They go forth fully relying on God.
There is much that could be said about the "sending of the twelve" as a model for our own missional work in the world. However, this morning as I reflected on this passage again, I was struck by the experience of Jesus in the first half of the reading (Mark 6:1-6). In this section of the reading, Jesus enters his hometown to proclaim the message of God's kingdom, but he is immediately questioned and ultimately rejected. Those who were closest to Jesus, those who knew him as a child and watched him grow up, could now not accept his message and ministry. In fact, they "took offense at him" and Jesus was unable to perform any mighty work in that place.
Mark tells us that Jesus marveled at their "unbelief." The word that is translated as "unbelief" can also mean "stubbornness." So, the residents of Jesus' hometown were simply unwilling to believe and this spiritual stubbornness ultimately led them to reject the One who came to bring them life. Their own preconceptions about Jesus and the nature of his ministry led them to resist God's activity in their lives. They rejected their call to participate in the mission of God's kingdom.
We often like to think of ourselves as being more like the twelve who are sent forth to proclaim God's kingdom in word and deed. But perhaps there times when we are more like the residents of Jesus' hometown. Perhaps there are times when our own spiritual stubbornness inhibits the activity of God in our lives. So, this morning I offer the following quote from preaching professor David Lose for our reflection:
Perhaps it wouldn't be a bad idea to take a few moments in silent prayer to contemplate those places we feel we may be resisting God's activity in our lives. Is there some area - some regret we can't get over, some grudge we can't let go, some hurt that has come to define us, some addiction that imprisons us, some anger that has taken hold of us - that we are having difficulty entrusting to God? Similarly, is there some opportunity we feel God might be inviting us to or some challenge God may be setting for us that we find difficult to embrace or entertain?