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I'm giving the homily at my church this morning, so I thought I would just publish my text as my blog post today....
(Ezekiel 2:1-5 —  2 Corinthians 12:2-10 — Mark 6:1-13) 

This is only the second sermon that I’ve ever actually preached in front of people. My theme today is Trust, which is particularly apt, because I’m so aware that for me to stand up here in front of you all is an act of trust. I trust you. I trust you to put up with me, even if there is a lot to put up with. And I’m pretty sure that you trust me too, at least a little bit. So, what is this thing called Trust? Now, I’m going to go all academic and talk about the Greek word that is most often translated as “Faith”, or “Belief”: Pistis — which literally means “persuasion”— to ‘be persuaded’, to ‘come to trust.’ One of my favorite Bible translations, The Complete Jewish Bible, consistently uses the word ‘trust’ in preference to the word ‘faith.’ (I think I like it because it works exactly like the Greek word, in that it can be either a noun or a verb. I can say, “I trust you,” but saying, “I faith you” just doesn’t make much sense.) Biblical Hebrew uses 9 different words in this context, and every single one of them can be translated as “TRUST.”

I’m fairly confident that when we use the word “faith” with the meaning of “to believe in; to accept as truth on authority, without complete evidence,” we are missing the boat.

So, what do the readings today have to say about Trust? Before I talk about what the reading from Ezekiel has to do with trust, I want to talk about another word that gets translated in an odd way. That word is “spirit.” In both Hebrew and Greek, the word means “a moving force”; “a wind”; or “breath.” Even in Latin, the original meaning of the word “spiritus” was “breath” or “wind.” That’s where we get words like “respiration” and “expire.” On a side note, the Latin word for a disembodied entity, or ghost, was “larva,” not “spiritus.” So, whenever we read the word “spirit” in the Bible, we really ought to keep the words “breath” and “wind” in mind.

Okay, on to the reading from Ezekiel:

The Hebrew says something like this: “and she arrives as a wind inside me, which is how God speaks to me.” (By the way, the Hebrew word is in the feminine form, so the Holy Spirit is definitely a ‘she’!)

So, when God says, “You! Earthborn! Stand up, I’m talking to you!”, Ezekiel feels this wind, this moving force, deep inside him and it blows him away. Literally. It blows him right up onto his feet— where he finds out that he is being sent to talk to some very stubborn and contrary people, and he’s supposed to tell them what God says. Talk about trust! The passage ends with God telling Ezekiel something like this: “Whether they trust you and listen to you or not, at least you will be showing them what trust looks like!”

Now we come to Paul’s letter to the Corinthians:

Paul comes right out and tells them that he’s afraid that they will think he’s conceited, that he’s trying to claim some special status that gives him the right to tell them what’s what. He even says that he’s been given some kind of ailment for the very purpose of keeping him from getting too big for his britches! He tells them that he’d like to boast, that he has every right to boast, but he isn’t going to, because he wants his actions to speak louder than his words. He also confesses that he kept on complaining to God until Jesus finally told him in no uncertain terms that trust is all he’ll ever need, that God’s power is fulfilled in weakness. Now think about this: how much would you have to trust someone to tell them about something you are ashamed of? Just how much would you have to trust someone before you’d admit that you have a problem with being arrogant, and showing off; to confess that you complained so much about some inconvenience that Jesus had to grab you by the ears and remind you that his kindness is enough, even for you, and that God’s power is only fulfilled in weakness? What shines through in this letter is Paul’s own trust in his companions and fellow disciples. He demonstrates to them what that trust looks like, so that they can follow his example.

That brings me to something else that I wanted to talk about, which is something that I don’t think we as human beings do often enough. Since I was a little girl my response to something or someone who fascinated me; some incredible or beautiful skill; some principle or action that I admired, was to try to be like whoever or whatever it was that had inspired me. I’ve observed something odd over the years, which is that it simply doesn’t occur to most of us very often, to actually try to imitate what inspires us. We just don’t look for examples and then actively try to apply them in our own lives. I’m not talking about hero worship here either. What I’m talking about is how we figure things out; how we decide in what ways we are going to put our values and principles into practice. I taught Karate for many years, and I came to understand that we human beings are definitely able to learn how to do that, even if we’ve made it all the way to independent adulthood without ever even thinking about it. In my own life, that’s something I keep on learning: how to look for inspiring things and people, and when I’ve found them, to practice being like them.

Now we come to the Gospel. To me, it’s all about trust and the lack of it. The story shows us, along with the disciples, exactly how to practice trust. First, it’s shocking to find out that Jesus is helpless against people’s lack of trust. The story says that he couldn’t do any wonderful things, because their skepticism got in the way. The people in his hometown thought they knew stuff! — stuff about Jesus; stuff about wisdom; stuff about families; stuff about who’s more important in the scheme of things. The things they thought they knew got in the way of the trust that they needed to have in order to do their part in making wonders happen. The text says that Jesus “was amazed at their lack of trust.”

But the really cool thing about this story is that it shows us how Jesus fixed the problem. He told his disciples exactly what to do to get trust to happen, and they did what he said. They went out to talk to people, and all they took was the clothes on their backs, the shoes on their feet, and a walking stick. Guess what? It worked!

Don’t think for a minute that this story is supposed to be taken literally. Think of the backpack, the extra clothes, and the wallet as representing things in our lives that we put between us and circumstances, to help us feel safe and in control. Those are the things that get in the way of trust.

Jesus has it set up so that, if we follow his instructions, we’ll just have to figure things out as we go along. We’ll have to pay attention in the present moment. We’ll have to see and hear and smell what’s actually around us.  When we travel (metaphorically) with nothing but a walking stick, the clothes on our back, and the shoes on our feet, then the people we meet will have to see us for who we really are, without any distractions, and we will have to see them in the same way. We simply won’t be able to afford to have assumptions and expectations; instead, we’ll have to step out into the freedom of trust. We’ll have to look for security in uncertainty; power in weakness; discernment in defenselessness.

We’ll have to practice being trustworthy, as well as trusting, because it works both ways.

Remember, Jesus needs to be able to trust us, as much as we need to be able to trust him. If not, nothing wonderful can happen.

Without a backpack, easy on our feet—

when God’s Wind blows, she’ll move us on.

Without any food, when our bellies growl—

there’ll be echoes at every neighbor’s table.

Without a wallet, we’ll be dead broke—

then we’ll have to trust what people give us.

So, we’ll come in and sit down where it’s warm,

and lean our sticks in the corner by the door,

but we’ll never stay long, and after we’ve gone,

It’s likely that Somebody will say,

“Some people– you can smell the Wind in their clothes.”


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