Here are my thoughts for the 5th Sunday after Pentecost.
One of the outcomes of my doctoral research was that I found out that businesses wanted chemistry graduates to be able to work together. This is because cooperation in the workplace is as essential to the success of a project as the technical and scientific knowledge that individuals bring to the project.
The ability to work together transcends the secular workplace. In today’s Gospel reading (1) Jesus sends out the disciples on their first mission in pairs. There were probably two reasons for doing this. First, by having a working partner, there was mutual support during this brief first missionary effort. Second, having two individuals working together adds to the credibility of the testimony that the disciples gave. It should be noted that this was also in accordance with the Old Testament where the testimony of two or more witnesses was necessary for the testimony of one to be considered.
This concept of teamwork for the completion of the task or the project in question was also stated in the Old Testament reading for today, (2)Here we read of the elders of Israel anointing David as their king; this was the third such anointing for David. He was first anointed by Samuel in anticipation of his rule and the second was in acknowledgement of his rule over Judah. This third anointing acknowledges that his rule will be over the entire nation of Israel.
But there is also the covenant between David and the elders. Covenants, such as what is common in the Bible, are formal agreements between two parties with each assuming some obligation or responsibility. Covenants can be made between two individuals, such as the one between Laban and Jacob following Jacob’s marriage to Rachel or the one between David and Jonathan. Or it can be as it was in today’s reading an agreement between an individual, such as David, and a nation, the people of Israel.
This covenant between David and the nation was to redefine the relationship between the king and the country. Earlier, in 1 Samuel 10: 25, Samuel had noted what the duties and prerogatives of the Israelite king were to be. This was done for the benefit of both the people and the king-designate. This was meant to clearly distinguish the Israelite kingship from that of the surrounding nations and ensure that the king’s rule in Israel was compatible with the continued rule of God over Israel as her Great King. The covenant established by David in today’s reading reaffirms this previous understanding.
It made it clear that the work of the country would be a partnership, with each partner responsible for certain tasks. The accomplishments of the nation could not be done without both partners working together. So when Jesus sent the disciples out into the mission field as partners, he was merely reminding them of the covenant that had been established long before they were there.
Now, Paul writes about the work that he is doing alone. (3) But is he really working alone? As we read this 2nd letter to the Christians, we know that Paul is referring to himself, though he would rather not specifically state so. But as we read his words, we note that he is also referring to the Holy Spirit and acknowledging that without the presence of the Holy Spirit, none of his work would mean anything.
It is the same for us today. We go out into the mission field every time we leave our home or the church. Sometimes we go out in pairs but often times our journey is singular in nature. But, in accepting Christ as our Savior and opening our hearts to the presence of the Holy Spirit as the disciples did some two thousand years ago, we are not alone.
As Paul has noted on other occasions, we all have our own special skills and talents. It is those talents that we are called upon to utilize in the spread of the Gospel. But, as he reminded the Corinthians in this letter for today, it is not our skills and talents that enabled the Gospel to be successfully passed to the nations. We have to understand, as Paul did, that it is our partnership and covenant with God that brings the success we sometimes try to pass off as our own.
The partnership that we have with God today through the opening of our hearts and souls to the presence of the Holy Spirit is a reminder and a continuation of the partnership first established on the plains outside Israel when David became king. It is in the same manner as when Jesus sent the disciples out into the mission field, trusting in God, and working with a partner.
Are you prepared this day to work with God? Will you allow the Holy Spirit to come into your life so that the work you do brings glory to His Kingdom? These are the questions that you take with you today as you prepare to once again go out into the mission world.
Mark 6: 1 – 13
(2) 2 Samuel 5: 1- 5, 9 – 10
(3) 2 Corinthians 12: 2 – 10