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Weekly worship: Sunday 8 July

A reflection for the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

Nyakuong with her children in South Sudan

Nyakuong with her children at home in South Sudan. Tragically, Nyakuong's husband was killed from conflict. Photo: Andreea Campeanu

Old Testament 

2 Samuel 5:1-5 and Psalm 48

The journey to David’s kingship of both Judah and Israel is violent and bloody. Themes of loyalty, honour and deceit permeate the previous passages. It makes Game of Thrones seem timid viewing.

Warfare and strife still permeate divided nations and just as with Michal, David’s wife, women so often get caught up in the conflict. South Sudan is one such nation where Christian Aid partners have been persevering for peace, and where the trauma from sexual violence, as women are used as weapons of war, is deeply lamentable.

There is much reason to read these passages in their historical context, in a time with violence that is difficult to comprehend. And there is much reason to wrestle with these passages to discern what the Spirit of God is still pleading with us to resist.

To hold those in positions of power and leadership to account. To subject that power to the accountable governance, the ultimate power, of God that we read of in Psalm 48. 

Ezekiel 2:1-5

It seems a thankless task set before Ezekiel. To go and speak to the stubborn and impudent people of Israel even if they ‘hear or refuse to hear’.

In the long journey towards justice we are often set the task of raising a prophetic voice against stubborn systems and structures that keep people living in poverty. Our action is often met without change or success, yet we are still called to resist and raise our voices.

In this passage from Ezekiel we have two means of encouragement; first, a prophet goes in the strength and at the guidance of the Spirit of God and second, while there is every likelihood that those being challenged may refuse to hear, there is always the possibility that they may listen and change. Hallelujah!

Christian Aid’s Tax Justice campaign was initially met with some skepticism as to how hard it would be to change the systems and culture of tax dodging. Yet campaigners still wrote the postcards and raised their voices and today we celebrate real progress in the changes needed to ensure tax is paid, providing essential services to communities across the world.

If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.

Lilla Watson, Indigenous Australian activist

New Testament

2 Corinthians 12:2-10

Paul’s words are refreshingly counter-cultural for his time and our own. He declares his weakness. In an age when most of what is shared on social media is of happy faces and moments of celebration, Paul’s openness and vulnerability is refreshingly honest.

He writes so openly in order to challenge the ‘super-missionary’ culture that has sprung up in Corinth. He encourages those first listeners and readers of today that whatever we do, we do in the abundant grace of God despite the deprivations in our character and limitations of our ability.

It is as the Leonard Cohen lyric says: ‘forget your perfect offering, there is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in.’

We are reminded to reevaluate what is meant by strength and weakness. To reconsider how we view those who are thought of as weak and vulnerable in the world’s eyes.

It is in places of material poverty that we find the wealth of community. It is in places of fragile economies that we find an abundance of generosity. May we know the grace of God to discern and live by the upside-down kingdom.

Mark 6:1-13

As with the 2 Corinthians passage, there is a challenging vulnerability found in this passage in Mark.

The rejection of Jesus in his hometown and the anticipated rejection of the disciples is a challenge to those of us who seek to bear the good news in our lives and words today. Perhaps an even greater challenge is the vulnerability of depending on others for what we need.

As we seek to be good news in and for the world, we also demonstrate that we are in need of the goodness and provision of others too. It is a message that we share as partners in the gospel, working in partnership with communities across the world.

As aboriginal activist Lilla Watson’s words reminds us: ‘If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.’

Prayer

Liberating God,
help us to grasp
that there is freedom in vulnerability
that we don’t have to have it all together
that we don’t have to have the perfect words
that we don’t have to get everything right.
Forgive us when we are enslaved to ego.
Thank you for the good news of your liberation.
In your name we pray,
Amen.

Pointers for prayer

9 July is the seventh anniversary of South Sudan’s independence. It’s also the date set for the general elections. Pray for our sisters and brothers in South Sudan, who have endured years of conflict, hunger, and hardship. Pray the election will pass peacefully and for reconciliation between communities.