[many will be remembering Mary Magdalene, rather than using the Proper 11b readings this weekend, but for Mark 6:30ff . .]
Look at Mark telling us of Jesus popularity! (Mark 6:30-34 & 53-56). People wanted to see him and be with him; he was ready to teach them, and they to listen. There was healing, too. No doubt they talked most readily of losing illnesses and disabilities – but there must have been repaired relationships, and redirected lives, as well.
So why is it that Jesus later loses some of this, and today’s church is not hailed as a great place to enjoy, to learn, and to find wholeness? The gospel will explain how opposition to Jesus developed into a plot to kill him, but I wonder if we fail to take seriously our call to be a blessing? We are given so much, and – yes – chosen by God. What for? Because we are superior to others? Don’t fool yourself – there are many who work harder, deserve more, have greater potential.
We are given faith, to share and be a blessing. We are meant to be built into a living Church – always difficult because if involves personalities – a Church to set about God’s plans for our local community and its people. Welcome is not a Public Relations necessity for “successful” churches – it is part of faith!
When it works, it is lovely – the picture of people gladly welcoming Jesus, and enjoying the healing he brings, is not outdated. It remains difficult, because we so easily want to be “better”, because we find it so hard to be a blessing, and sometimes find it hard to see how to safeguard that from those who might spoil it.
The answer is not theoretical, but a commitment to follow Jesus. I don’t know fully what he wants me to do, but I’ll make a start on what I know. I don’t know how it will all work out, but I will trust that it does, and see hope and joy in that, better than any alternative.