July 8, 2018 Reflection
Mark 6:1-13/ 2 Corinthians 12:2-10
Sent Out in Jesus’ Name
I hope you don’t think I watch TV too much because I’m going to start with another story from a TV show. Call the Midwife is one of the two TV shows I am currently watching. It’s a show about midwifes in a poor neighbourhood in London during the late 50’s and early 60’s, and the many women who give birth helped by these midwives. In an episode I watched two weeks ago, there was young woman named Roseanne who is married to a man who loves her with all his heart and treats her like a queen. She gives birth to a girl, but something is not right with the young mother. While she’s in labour, she resists the nurse’s instruction and the birth itself. After the birth, she leaves that baby outside a shop owned by a nice lady. At this point, we all think maybe she is suffering post-partem depression. But then it turns out that she used to be a prostitute and she doesn’t believe she is good enough for her new life. She leaves a note for her husband, leaves the baby at home, and runs away. She goes to her old friend who is still soliciting for a living while raising her children. Roseanne’s friend doesn’t understand why Roseanne would leave the good luck and come back to that God forsaken place. Rosanne is willing to go back to her old life. She says this old life is all she knows and that she doesn’t want her daughter to turn out like her. Her friend replies, she would die before she lets her daughter out in the street, that she keeps living this wretched life and saves every shilling she earns because she wants her daughter to have a better life. Roseanne’s husband accepted her and loves her the way she is, but she can’t believe that she is good enough for an honorable life as a wife and mother. She says, “How can I show my baby the right path when I never took it myself? I am not fit to raise that child.” When she comes back home to her husband and baby after receiving guidance from her nurse who came and found her, she names her baby Faith. If she were a real person and not a TV character, she would keep struggling with her demons, but we know that we will be guided by faith.
Have you ever thought you were unworthy or not good enough for anything? Or for anyone? When we have those thoughts, we might think it’s because we are not extraordinary and great people. But the truth is that even great people fail sometimes and feel inadequate. Once I quickly mentioned that John Wesley’s American mission was a disaster; he would have felt like a total failure when he came back to England. In the 2 Corinthians text we read today, we discover that even the great Apostle Paul suffered his weaknesses. He mentions some physical ailment he suffered, which God did not cure. Whatever it was, he lived his entire life with that condition. He prayed three times for God to relieve him of it, but he received God’s message that God’s grace is enough for him, and that power is made perfect in weakness. God’s power is best manifested through our weaknesses. It also keeps us humble because we can acknowledge that our accomplishments are actually God working through us.
Let’s go to today’s gospel story. Jesus gets rejected in his hometown, he gives instructions to his disciples before sending them out two by two and tells them to not mind if someone rejects them. The reality is that somebody somewhere will definitely reject them, no matter what they do. The first part about Jesus being rejected in his hometown sets the scene that comes next; the sending out of the disciples. Every Sunday, we read bits and pieces of the gospel, so it is difficult to get the big picture; but if you sit down and read the whole book, you will know that the disciples cannot be trusted to be sent out. They lack faith, they lack understanding, and they don’t get the essence of Jesus’ teachings and seek glory. We might think, “How can Jesus send this miserable bunch out on a mission? Does he not know them?” Of course, he knows them! But he also knows that they are being sent out in his name and with the Spirit of God. God will give them power to do whatever they have to do. They will also be guided by the instructions they received from Jesus. They are the vessels of God. It is by God’s power that they will work. They are told by Jesus to go out and do God’s work without worrying about failures and rejections. All they need to focus on is to faithfully and diligently do God’s work; preach the Good News of Jesus, cast out demons, and heal the sick. They are also told not to bring a lot of things on their mission; this is another way of relying on God’s power and help instead of relying on their own abilities. Obedience. Humility. Faith. That’s what the first disciples were taught before being sent out.
Speaking of the miserable bunch being sent out on a mission by Jesus, 17 years ago when I received God’s call into ministry, I felt the same. I didn’t think Godly thoughts; I thought humanly thoughts. According to the humanly thoughts, there was no way God would want someone like me to become a pastor. I was unhappy. I was a mess. I had low self-esteem. During my journey into ministry for the last 17 years, I learned the same lesson that the first disciples learned in today’s gospel text; God would not send a pathetic mess out there to be a pastor by herself. Indeed, God’s power has been the strongest through my weaknesses and humility. Because of my weaknesses, I can humbly rely on God’s power. I have shared with you that, I find it difficult to come out of my shell and be a people person; because I’m an introvert, and I was affected by my culture that is not kind to people who are different than the norm. I gave you a promise that I would try harder to come closer to you and asked you to gently guide and encourage me. When I make progress in this area, I feel that it is God giving me strength and courage. Sometimes when I forget that it is God working through me and I try to rely on my own abilities, I often fail. Those moments are wakeup calls reminding me that I should let God guide me. It is also encouraging to remind myself that even the great John Wesley or the great Apostle Paul struggled with failures and weaknesses; it helps me to not despair and feel bad about myself.
Therefore, disciples in Kimberley, take courage and heart when you feel like you’re not good enough to do God’s work or serve our church. If you are bad at math like me, the chances are, nobody will ask you to be the church treasurer. Don’t worry. Don’t be afraid of your weaknesses. Remember that, number one, we are all called to serve God’s people and the church, and number two, we shouldn’t be intimidated by our weakness because God will work through us, if we can just trust and allow God into our lives for daily guidance. Both those of you who are already involved in different parts of our ministry and those who are not, let us spend alone and quite time praying about how God might want us to serve. Are you familiar with this trust exercise? You fall backwards trusting that the others will catch you. If you are not trusting, it is difficult to fall backwards in peace. Let us test our faith by asking God to entrust us with whatever service and ministry God wants from us. We don’t need to have super power or ability; we just need to trust God more and let God’s power work through us. Let us pray about our calls, then trust God’s power and guidance and dive into those services in peace as we would fall backwards during the trust exercise. And remember this; never be afraid because we are being sent out in Jesus’ name and with the power of God’s Spirit.
Rev. Sunny Kim