Reflection for Sunday – July 7, 2024

Readings: Ezekiel 2: 2-5; 2 Corinthians 12: 7-10; Mark 6: 1-6 
Preacher: Mehgan Kellogg

Pride is something that makes me think of Goldilocks.  Too much of it, particularly without humility, can be an exercise in narcissism.  Too little can leave one apathetic, self-doubting, and uninspired.  Yet, if we are aware of Who is in charge, while embracing with pride who God has created us to be, we might come to know a little about how Goldilocks must have felt when things were “just right.”  Of course, I don’t mean to make our lives into a fairytale with this analogy, however it’s a reminder that it’s easy to become unbalanced with regard to pride if we omit God from our lives.

In our readings, we have a Prophet, a future Saint, and the Messiah (who is viewed as an ordinary man from Nazareth). To say that Ezekiel, Paul, and Jesus were ministering amidst challenging communities is an understatement. My guess is their experiences with resistance from those they hoped would be open to their teachings could have led them to react a few different ways. They could have hung their heads low, quit and blamed themselves for their lack of success with their audiences. Alternatively, they could have dug their heels in more, asserting their power, even threatening those in front of them. 

Taking a closer look at our second reading, we see that Paul goes in another direction: He relies on God.  Paul was humbled by affliction, and this was the foundation of his apostolic authority, not an overly inflated pride of self. He boasted that his strength arose out of weakness. That thorn in his side, whatever the cause, led him to be wholeheartedly dependent on God, in Whom Paul put his faith and hope, and in turn found courage to speak the Truth.

This ultimate dependence and trust in God is illuminated in Paul’s beautiful verse: “My grace is sufficient for you…” (2 Cor 12:9) This wisdom of Paul has been a wellspring of comfort for disciples throughout the centuries. It reminds me of the oft-quoted verse from Julian of Norwich: “…all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well,” from her book “Revelations of Divine Love.” 

Both of these insights, or revelations from God, can easily seem like platitudes upon first glance.  I can imagine Paul and Julian both saying, “Really, God? That’s all you’ve got? Don’t you understand the unimaginable suffering that constantly plagues earth?” And yet, both Paul and Julian discover God is in all of the suffering of creation and both come to recognize God invited them to trust in God’s presence at all times and in all places. 

Robert Fruehwirth, in “The Drawing of this Love: Growing in Faith with Julian of Norwich,” reminds us that Julian certainly questioned God upon receiving the “all is well” revelation.  In her wrestling, she realized it isn’t our purpose to figure out how God will make all things well, and in Paul’s case, how the grace is going to be made manifest. Instead, it’s an invitation to “openness, sensitivity and assurance.” It’s a leap of faith in our God and in taking this leap, we can certainly “touch mysteriously on something of God’s joy.”

In our Gospel reading, Mark doesn’t describe Jesus’ feelings regarding those who rejected him in his hometown too thoroughly, only that he was “amazed at their lack of faith.” Regardless of his astonishment, we don’t know if he also felt frustrated or disappointed, maybe even hurt. What we do know is His response: He moved on, at least physically. 

However, even if God isn’t recognized and the situation seemed fruitless, Jesus had still showed up. Those in Nazareth may have been too proud to open their hearts to someone whom they viewed as so ordinary. They were searching for a Messiah who was mighty and powerful, but a different seed was planted by Jesus and that’s what matters. This seed could only grow if they moved beyond their expectations and embraced a new reality. In essence it was an invitation to openness, sensitivity, and assurance, as Julian embodied. Only God knows if their hearts were ever moved someday in the distant future, but something tells me that Jesus’ prayers for them never ceased.

The One who revealed the beautiful wisdom to Paul and Julian provides in ways that are very unexpected. Millennia later, Christ’s promise to be with us has borne fruit all around us. What Divine consolation!  Breathe it in, live it out—God’s grace is sufficient, all shall be well.

Meghan Kellog
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