“Have you got rhythm?” Tuesday Meditation. 06/16/2020. Alan Neale.
Trinity Church, Newport, RI
Mark 6 – 6 Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. 7 Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits.
8 These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. 9 Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. 10 Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. 11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”
12 They went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.
Today’s passage from Mark describes well the functional, healthy rhythm of service in particular but also, I think, of life in general.
First, there is the rhythm of being called to Jesus and then sent out by Jesus.
Second, there is the rhythm of freedom from distractions and possessions and yet the enjoyment of accommodations only made possible because… other people have possessions!
Third, there is the rhythm of stability balanced by mobility.
The first rhythm – called to Jesus and sent out by Jesus. The word used by Mark for call suggests an invitation to enjoy personal engagement and also assumes there has been some alienation in the past; it’s used by Paul when he describes the alienated Gentiles whom God calls to Himself. This is surely good news for each of us… at the heart of the Christian faith, the Christian journey, is not the apprehension of doctrinal statements but rather the personal experience of daily/momentary encounters with God in Christ. And even when we feel alienated from God (a devilish but seductive lie) Jesus still calls us to himself. Here we learn the process of engaging with those from whom we feel alienated and estranged; we constantly and gently open ourselves to the other and never surrender the hope that, one day, alienation will end and reconciliation will begin.
So Jesus calls but then he also sends… here the Greek word is closely linked with our word “apostle”. In sending the disciples out he not only empowers and commissions them but he also has a particular task in mind. One commentator writes “The word suggests sent on a defined mission by a superior”. When Jesus sends us to any task he commissions, empowers us and, by the Spirit, he actually accompanies us!
The second rhythm concerns freedom from “possession anxiety” and yet the readiness to enjoy the benefits of the possessions of others. “No bread, no bag, no money” is part of the commission because Jesus wants the disciples not only to trust him, have faith in him, depend on him but also… and sometimes, this is so much harder, to trust, to have faith, to depend on others. We are not to despise the possessions of others and nor are we to secretly demean those who have possessions. As Jesus once said to Peter when he asked about John, so he says to us when we assess and judge others, “And what is that to you”?
The third rhythm calls us to maintain the balance between stability and mobility. It just so happens that Wendy and I are at a point in our lives when we felt we were now settled, no more moving. It’s been a challenge over the past months to accept the inevitability of change. You all know so many truisms about change: “I don’t like things the way they are and I don’t like change” and “the only constant is change”. I’ve had to reflect about my reasons for resisting change… maybe anxiety about a new place with new challenges, maybe just a little tiredness exacerbated by the unknown, maybe regret that this is even necessary. But what this passage reminds me is that I (and you) are created to maintain a rhythm between stability and mobility; this not apply only to geographical flexibility but also to a rhythm in our souls, our minds – it applies to our readiness to take stock, reflect and grow. Of course during the enforced isolation this wretched pandemic has imposed we have had ample opportunity to reflect… but then (to misquote the Preacher in Ecclesiastes… “Too much reflection is wearisome to the soul”.
We know from even a preliminary reading of the Gospels that the twelve disciples (whom Jesus called to himself) were a strange and weird mixture of different temperaments, different political views, and different religious backgrounds and yet called nearer to Jesus so they drew nearer to each other. Just as the spokes on a bicycle wheel are far apart by the tire yet as they come close to the hub so they become close to each other. It is the church’s love for Jesus, dedication to Jesus, worship of Jesus that enables even those so very different to coexist and respect each other and lives in harmony. A church made up of likeminded souls might be an easier place to be but it is no church exhibiting the reconciling and respectful love of God.
As with Jesus, so with the disciples… before ever they engaged in the demonstrable acts of a loving and powerful God, they first spoke to the people… and with this message “REPENT”… turn around, begin the process and open up to God.
It’s been wisely said, “It’s never too late to start your day again… to repent”. Why not start again now?