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July 8, 2012

Revised Common Lectionary Readings: 2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10; Psalm 48; 2 Corinthians 12:2-10; Mark 6:1-13

Today’s texts all speak to the issue of power. In 2 Samuel 5, David is anointed king of Israel. This text and Psalm 48 speak of Jerusalem as a stronghold. It is tempting to see this merely in human terms, as a well-fortified city with strong military capabilities.

But both texts make clear that it is God who is the source of strength: “David became greater and greater, for the LORD, the God of hosts, was with him” (2 Samuel 5:10). “Within [the citadels of Jerusalem] God has shown himself a sure defense” (Psalm 148:3).

Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, military might pales in comparison to faith in God. Think, for example, of David going up against the mighty Goliath (1 Samuel 17).

In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul says that he has learned to be content with “weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). Paul says he appealed repeatedly to God to take his “thorn in the flesh” away, but has learned to trust that God’s “grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Human power—whether political, economic or military—is alluring. The thought, “if only I had the ability to….” is tempting, indeed.

But getting caught up in human power leads us to rely on ourselves and to think that we really don’t need God. It is when those power structures come tumbling down (as they inevitably do) that we find ourselves going back to God in confession and repentance.

In today’s Gospel passage, people in Jesus’ home synagogue in Nazareth are offended by his words. They wonder where he gets such power and wisdom. Jesus is “amazed at their unbelief” and “could do no deed of power there” (Mark 6:5-6).

It is not that Jesus is unable to act. As is the case elsewhere in Mark, Jesus chooses to respond to those who demonstrate faith in his power.

Little wonder, then, that we so often fail to see God at work, surrounded as we are by a highly technical and professional society that doesn’t see much need for the power of God. Until we are able to proclaim simple faith in the power of God to save and to heal, we will not experience God’s power in all of its wondrous glory.

By Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach, Director, MCC U.S. Washington Office