With England through to the semi-final stages of the World Cup for the first time in 28 years, there is a great deal of talk about ‘Belief’ at the moment. Captain Harry Kane insists that ‘belief is higher than ever’ and manager Gareth Southgate says “We must always believe in what is possible in life. ‘They’ (the team) have created their own story and made history. This will give belief to generations of players that will follow.” Clearly, belief is a very powerful property and one to be developed where possible, as it yields results.
Jesus was back in his home town for the second time. He didn’t have a very positive experience the first time he went with his disciples and the negative response this time is similar, leading Jesus to state how amazed he was at the ‘unbelief’ of the crowd. We’re told that he could do no miracles except heal a few sick people. Now I’m sure we would be more than happy with that, but clearly Jesus’ aspiration and intention was much greater, so what was preventing those intentions from taking place? Did Jesus lack faith? Of course not, but something was playing itself out here. Last weeks Gospel reminded us of how Jesus raised the daughter of Jairus to life, but first he removed everyone who was a distraction – those who were laughing at him when he said she wasn’t dead - from the room. The only people left with Jesus where those who had belief. With football managers, players and TV pundits all speaking about how powerful belief is in the performance of the team, there seems to be a link with the past.
Part of the rebellion of which God speaks to Ezekiel about in chapter 2, is the lack of belief of the Israelites. They have forgotten all that God has done for them. They have surrounded themselves with a different lifestyle, different beliefs, different expectations and as a result God’s desire to bless them is failing to get through in the manner he desires. What we surround ourselves with is important. It affects our behaviour. So … I wonder what it is that you surround yourself with? What music influences you? What measure of conversation are you surrounded by? Is the atmosphere in which you live positive and open to the influence and work of God? How, might you prepare for a gathering of the church? Do you arrive feeling frustrated or tired? Cross and distracted or expectant and hopeful? Is it usually a rush or are you able to give yourself some time to prepare? Do you listen to the news or do you choose to surround yourself with some worship music or perhaps spend some time in prayer and preparation? The condition in which we arrive for worship has implications for ourselves but, taking the experience of Jesus into account, it also has implications for everyone else as well. When we arrive together as the church of Jesus Christ, expectant that we will hear and receive from God, things change. Where there is faith, great things happen.
The Bible tells us that when we trust our lives to Jesus and in all he has done, we receive a measure of faith as a gift. Jesus is showing us here, however, that this gift, can be short circuited when it is surrounded by unbelief. Faith needs nurturing and to that extent, we all have a personal and a corporate responsibility in ensuring that we grow and do not stay spiritual babies all our life. When we hear God’s word being spoken, his name being praised, opportunities to study his word or to pray together, we would benefit from getting behind it, for as we do so our own faith is lifted and as our own faith is lifted the faith of those around us is lifted in union.
With the Lord’s blessing
Rev Dave Clark
Vicar of the Benefice of Upper Wensleydale