He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, "Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him. Then Jesus said to them, "Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house." And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief. Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, "Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them." So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them. -Mark 6:1-13
Jesus sends the disciples out. But they’re amateurs. Peter has not yet said, “You are the Messiah.” They have not yet experienced the Lord’s supper, or the crucifixion, or witnessed the resurrection. They have not yet been anointed by the Holy Spirit.
In today's reading from 2 Corinthians, Paul learns in prayer that God's power is made perfect in his weakness: but he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
A life of prayer, too, begins in weakness and ignorance; you never suspect the anguish, sense of loss, the profound changes of heart and mind, the dark nights of the soul, the confusions of power and powerlessness of the soul’s unfolding journey. Like so many of life’s endeavors, if you knew what we were in for, you'd never begin.
Today’s theme presents an argument for daring to find the courage to set forth on the unknown path (meditation one). Somewhere along the way you might awaken to the immensity of your endeavor (meditation two). Finally, you must summon a deeper kind of courage to continue (meditation three). The Last Word finds you unexpectedly … soaring. “On the edge”as ever, Suzanne
Meditation One (introit)
courage to begin
All serious daring starts from within.
-Harriet Beecher Stowe 1811-1896
It is very dangerous to go into eternity with possibilities which one has oneself prevented from becoming realities. A possibility is a hint from God. One must follow it. In every man there is latent the highest possibility, one must follow it. If God does not wish it then let him prevent it, but one must not hinder oneself. Trusting to God I have dared, but I was not successful; in that is to be found peace, calm and confidence in God. I have not dared: that is a woeful thought, a torment in eternity.
-Soren Kierkegaard, Journals
W.W. Denslow, The Cowardly Lion
“Then, if you don’t mind, I’ll go with you,” said the Lion, “for my life is simply unbearable without a bit of courage.”
“You will be very welcome,” answered Dorothy, “for you will help to keep away the other wild beasts. It seems to me they must be more cowardly than you are if they allow you to scare them so easily.”
“They really are,” said the Lion: “but that doesn’t make me any braver, and as long as I know myself to be a coward I shall be unhappy.”
-L. Frank Baum, The Wizard of Oz
One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice-- though the whole house began to tremble and you felt the old tug at your ankles. "Mend my life!" each voice cried. But you didn't stop. You knew what you had to do, though the wind pried with its stiff fingers at the very foundations, though their melancholy was terrible. It was already late enough, and a wild night, and the road full of fallen branches and stones. But little by little, as you left their voices behind, the stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds, and there was a new voice which you slowly recognized as your own, that kept you company as you strode deeper and deeper into the world, determined to do the only thing you could do-- determined to save the only life you could save.
-Mary Oliver (copied here without permission)
I've said before that every craftsman searches for what's not there to practice his craft. A builder looks for the rotten hole where the roof caved in. A water-carrier picks the empty pot. A carpenter stops at the house with no door.
He said to me: O mortal, stand up on your feet, and I will speak with you. And when he spoke to me, a spirit entered into me and set me on my feet; and I heard him speaking to me. He said to me, Mortal, I am sending you to the people of Israel, to a nation of rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have transgressed against me to this very day. The descendants are impudent and stubborn. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, "Thus says the Lord GOD." Whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house), they shall know that there has been a prophet among them.
Appearince on Lake Tiberias, Duccio, 1308
Meditation Two (insight)
awakening to the task
On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, making up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offence, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return.
from Teaching a Stone to Talk
Meditation Three (integration) courage to continue
Christians will not be asked how they began but rather how they finished.St. Paul began badly but finished well.Judas’s beginning was praiseworthy but his end was despicable. Many start the climb but few reach the summit. -St. Jerome c.347-420
Whatever you do you need courage.Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong.There are always difficultiesarising that tempt you into believing your critics are right.To map our a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories but it takes brave men and women to win them. -Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803-1882
The Last Word
Come to the edge, he said. They said, We are afraid. Come to the edge, he said. They came. He pushed them… And they flew. -Peter McWilliams 1949-2000
He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics.
I love being settled. I love familiar sounds, scents, sensations, birdsong, the cycles of seeds and sprouting; stem, bud, blossom and seed pod withering and dying. As a gardener I want to know what happily blooms in one corner and not another. I like to know from which direction thunderstorms come and where the sun sets in winter. I love the instinctive knowing of the progression of seasons so that every year I sink into a deepening sense of place.
I love knowing I have several pairs of very warm wool socks for winter. I love knowing I have some light cotton flowing dresses for summer. I love knowing I'll eat sun-ripened strawberries in June, warm tomatoes right off the vine in July, and figs in August.
I love sitting in familiar, cozy chairs, worn to my shape. I love beloved childhood books that still come alive as they did when I was nine or ten years old, books that belonged to my mother when she was a little girl, with her tear stains and then mine, bindings crackling, pages that almost dissolve like ash. I love the ordering of my bookcase, so that I can intuitively find a quote I want or need from some wise person whose name I can't remember - paperback, little, burgundy colored, I read it in Advent, it's on the right hand shelf in the middle, here it is, ah, yes, ...Johannes Metz.
I love to be able to find things in my cabinets. A rare tea, an Asian spice I use a few times a year, a favorite but fragile cup.
My first book ends with the sentence, “Every time I have ever moved I have had to learn to pray all over again.” And my second book begins with the sentence, “Every time I have ever moved I have had to learn to pray all over again.”
I moved a lot because of marriage, the military, and then ministry. Each time I moved I felt disrupted, disoriented. I remember, though, that every move brought me new, dear, life-long friends, important sensations, a bit of much-needed cultural shock and widening of perspective. I'm grateful. But I do love being settled.
I don't like the thought of being sent out again. Especially as the disciples were sent - without anything extra for comfort; no bread, no bag, no money, not even an extra tunic for warmth. I can't imagine being utterly dependent again upon the hospitality of strangers or subject to their hostility.
I don't like being dislocated.
I also know that's what you get as a lover of God. I tell myself I won't be “sent out” again. But I also know that age is no excuse. And I know better. Wherever I end up, however, I need to find a way to serve. I can also support people sent to “the ends of the earth” or even into local but difficult situations.
I love living in Woodstock. I love our house Bogby. It is a luxury to be settled. Even if life is stable, it is unlikely that we'll be able to face old age in this house. But even if I never have to move again, if I am to love God, my inner life will welcome disruption, going to barren deserts and strange mountains and dark caves - even if I stay here surrounded by gardens and the steady progression of seasons and my old books.
If I love God, I will have to learn to pray all over again. And again.
Ezekiel, Unknown Illustrator of Petrus Comestor's Bible Historiale, 1372