Breath of the Spirit Reflection: The Tenacious Trust of those Who Are Sent
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July 11, 2021: the 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Psalm 85: 9-10, 11-12, 13-14
A reflection by Thomas DeVoyd
In this Sunday’s first reading, Amaziah, a priest in the temple of Bethel, tells Amos to leave Israel and prophecy in Judea. This is after Amaziah had accused him of treason. Amaziah is uncomfortable (to say the least) with Amos’ message because he has accused the people of Israel of disobedience to God’s law. Amos’ prophecy reminds me of social media. When people use social media, they have a free space to say whatever they feel. Others can choose to listen or not. If one wants to be prophetic on social media (or elsewhere) they must trust the message they believe God has given them to share. How can we do that without assuming we have all the answers, and all the while knowing that we, too, often fall short?
At times, people can unfriend someone or ask them to leave because what they are saying is difficult to hear or makes them uncomfortable. It can be the same in the LGBTQ+ community. Many of us have felt that when we try to speak about our own experience of Love, we are dismissed or rejected. And still, if we are honest, we admit that our community has also done that to others who are trying to speak of their own experience. It can be so difficult for us to hear someone else’s truth. Just as it can be so difficult to trust in our own truth. Amos (while being thrown out of the temple) notes that he did not choose to be a prophet. God called Amos to this task. Amos’ prophetic role requires a trust in the truth God has planted within his heart that is deeper than the condemnation of a priest. If that isn’t a parallel to the contemporary experience of many in our LGBTQ+ community, I don’t know what is!
The reading from Ephesians focuses on praising Christ’s spiritual blessings. The beginning of the passage speaks to the gratitude we feel for the gift of God’s grace. “For [God] chose us before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in God’s sight.” It then goes on to say that we will become part of God’s family and inherit God’s Reign when the time comes. This passage reminds me of the experience of some people in our Dignity and LGBTQ+ communities. When someone’s family of origin discards them due to their orientation or gender identity, they must find new people with whom to be family, a chosen family. God has chosen us (and so many others) to be members of the divine family. God chose this path for us, knowing us, and we are charged with finding how to live that path as who we are. Unlike in the Hebrew Scriptures when God’s people believed sin was cleansed through sacrifices, we now trust that Jesus became the sacrifice for all people. This allows everyone to be a part of God’s family. Though some may not realize the gift of this family, I believe it is a true blessing to be a part of it. God wants us – each of us, every one of us – to experience the gift of being family.
The passage continues and states that through the blood of Jesus our sins can be forgiven. Encountering forgiveness in the context of community restores our sense of being a part of this divine family. In Jesus, God pledges to give us what we need. This does not mean that we will always get what we want. This can be difficult to accept. I relate that to how my life has gone. I have always had what I needed but, have not become rich or powerful. I struggle internally to accept that. Paul says that we will know what God wants of us if we can see through the eyes of faith (1:9-10). This reminds us of how important it is to trust God’s plan for us. This plan has both earthly and eternal components. The through line is Christ. Toward the end of the passage (1:11-14) Paul focuses on how God’s will is made known to us. God assigns an inheritance to each of us. Inheritance, for the Jewish communities of the time, had a high level of importance. This would be the land and animals that would help a family’s descendants for generations to come. Without this, the family might not survive. For Paul, this inheritance is being a part of God’s family – in this life and beyond. The passage ends with Paul’s assertion that in Christ, we have heard the “word of truth,” and in our trusting of that word, “we have been sealed into the promise of the Holy Spirit.” At that time, seals were used to protect a document from forgery. Our seal protects us from despair because it allows us to trust that – no matter what – our inheritance is membership in the divine family.
In the gospel passage, Jesus calls the twelve apostles. Interestingly, this is the only time Jesus refers to this group as “apostles,” which means “those who are sent.” Jesus promptly sends them out to preach in pairs. I believe this shows strength, credibility, and accountability. The strength comes from two people who provide protection and companionship for one another. Having two people sharing the Good News also adds credibility to the message. Finally, two people are less likely to lose hope which adds accountability. Those who were sent were given the power to remove unclean spirits from people. Jesus then tells them to bring only the bare necessities: sandals, a staff, and the clothes on their backs. They were to trust that God would provide for all their needs. For me, this requires a tenacious trust – not unlike what Amos needed to prophecy or what Paul needed to preach, or what we need to live as a part of God’s family.
This call to trust is common throughout the Scriptures. Those who were sent are told to stay with the same household when they travelled until they left that area. At the time of this writing, it was customary that the Jewish people took in travelers. If the apostles took lodging in another home, it would be insulting to the household with whom they had previously stayed. Jesus stated if the town refused to hear them or take them in, they were to shake the dust from their feet as a sign of moving on. This passage ends by stating that the apostles healed many who were sick and drove out many demons. It amazes me the tenacious trust that Jesus asks of those who are sent. Today, we do not even talk to strangers. We would be very unlikely to invite them into our homes. Here we see how God’s plan requires trust of those who are sent, but no less trust is required of those who are called to receive the message.
Perhaps many did not listen to the apostles because they did not have any connection to what they were saying, even as in our own day we find it hard to listen to the prophets in our midst. I think these Scriptures challenge us by asking us to view our faith in terms of trust. How much do we trust God’s plan for us? How much do we trust the people around us to hear our truth with generosity and share their truth with integrity? It is difficult to trust in these trying times, but these readings make me more determined than ever to continue my own spiritual journey looking for that tenacious trust that God asks of all who would share the divine inheritance – those sent to share the message and no less those invited to receive it.
Tom DeVoyd is a nurse in long term care and works with resident with Dementia. He is an advocate for his residents and has a Masters’ Degree in Nursing in Adult Psych/ Mental Health. He is also an advocate for the LGBTQI+ community. Tom currently lives in a small town in NH with his partner of years Phil. He enjoys reflecting on the scriptures, and focusing on the world of when the scriptures were written. Get Breath of the Spirit scripture reflections in your inbox every week.