Vulnerable Mission

Vulnerable Mission

Sixth Sunday after Trinity

Readings: Ezekiel 2. 1-5; Psalm 123; 2 Corinthians 12. 2-10; Mark 6. 1-13 (view all)

I’ve always been fiercely independent — my parents tell me that growing up my catchphrase was always ‘I can do it myself!’ In fact, there’s one famous story from when I must have been around five or six years old, and my parents had decided to redecorate my bedroom in our brand new house.

So we went to the shops together and they let me help choose some paint. But of course when we got to the house, I had to carry the paint up the stairs myself. I managed to drag the paint most of the way up, but then dropped the tin and it spilled everywhere — all down the brand new carpet.

Increasingly though, I’m realising that answering Jesus’ call to mission, rather than bullish independence, requires us to dare to be vulnerable. How can this morning’s readings help us to understand Christ’s example of vulnerable mission? 

Halfway through this morning’s gospel reading, we find Mark’s account of Jesus sending his disciples out into the neighbouring towns and villages.  The most striking thing about this great call to mission, are his instructions:

Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town.

Often when we begin to think about mission in the church, straight away we worry about resources: ‘If only we had the money to put on a big event!’, ‘If only we had the skills needed to do something like that!’ 

Jesus’ method of choice for mission, though, doesn’t involve anything like that – he sends his disciples as they are, and wants us as we are, not for what we can bring with us – our skills and resources, or lack of them. For Jesus, sharing the good news and growing God’s kingdom is about ordinary people being willing to be vulnerable and step out in faith to give and receive hospitality from others. 

But stepping out like this also means making ourself vulnerable to rejection from others. 

In our Old Testament reading, God prepares Ezekiel for this kind of rejection, when he tells him that there will be some who will reject his message — but ‘whether they listen or fail to listen… they will know that a prophet has been among them.’

Jesus tells his disciples something very similar in our gospel reading, using that famous picture of shaking the dust of their feet. God’s call to mission challenges us to be emotionally open and vulnerable, to place Christ’s reputation above our own, and to risk rejection from others. 

And we do all this, trusting that God is able to use us, even you, even me with all my weaknesses, to do more than we could even possibly imagine. As Paul writes in this morning’s epistle,

So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so 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.

This morning, will we answer Christ’s call to open ourselves up to those around us, giving and receiving hospitality and generosity? Will we step out in faith, risking our own vulnerability in order to enable God’s spirit to work in us and through us? 

How can we, here in St Edeyrn’s, and across our ministry area, take chances to grow God’s kingdom for the good of our neighbours? 

In the first sermon I preached when I arrived in the ministry area, I quoted Pope Francis’ challenging words from the beginning of his papacy:

I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.
Pope Francis

Jesus calls us to step out in faith, making ourselves vulnerable in order to join in with his mission. I pray that if we open ourselves up to those around us, making ourselves vulnerable, perhaps we might be surprised at what God is able to do through us.

Merciful God,
you have prepared for those who love you
such good things as pass our understanding:
pour into our hearts such love toward you
that we, loving you in and above all things,
may obtain your promises,
which exceed all that we can desire;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.