June 2015 — The Holy Spirit at work
The gospel of Mark quickly gets into the action and impact of Jesus Christ. Before the passages we are looking at during June and July, Jesus already has been proclaimed God’s beloved Son (1:11), withstood temptation by the Devil (1:12), and taught and healed many. As we pay careful attention to chapters 3-6, the detailed portrait of Jesus being presented should cause us all to
ask: how do we rightly respond to His words, deeds and power?
7 June, Mark 3:20-35
It is a blessing to be a part of the Church – the Body of Christ. We are the disciples of Jesus and we bear witness to him through our worship, witness and service. However, we kid ourselves if we think this is an easy thing to be or do. Jesus was not an easy person to be around.
In this small section of the fast-paced action in Mark, Jesus is being mobbed by people. He is getting called ‘Satan’ by the religious leaders and he is talking about the dissolution of traditional family connections and loyalties as part of his vision of the Kingdom of God. What would it have been like to be one of his disciples? To deal with all this commotion?
This passage raises some interesting issues that we might seek to wrestle with. How radical are we willing to be as we follow Jesus? How much are we willing to let our discipleship take us away from the norms of society and family life?
As a Church, do we believe that the Holy Spirit is at work among us? How careful do we need to be as we judge the calling of others? Or the challenge that others might raise for us, when they believe Jesus is calling us to something we might believe to be what God has set down? Where do we find the line between orthodoxy and the call in Christ to new things through the Spirit?
14 June, Mark 4:26-34
Jesus is again attracting large crowds and teaching them. In Chapter 4 we have a series of parables to do with seeds, and one to do with lamps. In the middle of all this thinking and parabling about the Kingdom of God, Jesus gives us a warning: “Consider carefully what you hear… With the measure you use, it will be measured to you — and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.”
As a Church facing the challenges of post-Christendom, we can be a little fearful of the future. We can get caught up in worrying about the institution that we are a part of and how our Congregational part of this might change, and even disappear. However, Christ challenges and encourages us.
The seed of the gospel hasn’t changed. How can Christians work to rediscover what it is we are called to grow and focus on growing that, rather than how the garden might look? How might ‘the soil’ of our faith need some faith fertiliser to re-enrich it so that the seeds of faith might grow?
21 June, Mark 4:35-41
One of the traditional symbols for the Church is that of the boat. The UCA emblem suggests that kind of symbolism. In this passage in Mark, Jesus is in a boat with the disciples. They are going through some choppy and troubling weather and Jesus calms it and them. But we are left with the last words of the passage in our minds, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ and ‘Who then is this?’
As the Church, what do we fear? What might be the source of our fear? Who do we say Jesus is? What do we really know and believe about him?
28 June, Mark 5:21-43
Here we have the healing stories of Jairus’ daughter and the woman who touched Jesus in a crowd. I take inspiration from Jairus who humbled himself to connect with the radical, unsanctioned rabbi, as well as from the woman who broke all the social and religious conventions of her time — in faith, and in her need to get well.
However, I confess, having lost my own father and buried a little girl whom I taught, I want to believe these stories. But I struggle and wrestle with them and what they seem to offer. You may be of greater faith than me. I am like the man in the story we will encounter in Chapter 9. I pray to God, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’ (Mark 9:24)
What conventions might we need to cross or break in order to connect with the Christ? When has your faith called you beyond your comfort zone and stretched you beyond the limits of social, cultural and religious conventions?
These reflections for June and July were prepared by Rev. Jon Humphries, chaplain at Ravenswood School for Girls.
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