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Sunday, June 23, 2024

This week, we’re talking about how Jesus has given us agency to manifest the kingdom of God. 
We’re still in the segment of the Gospel of Mark where Jesus talks about those who do the will of God are his family and that the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed.  Our reading comes right after the mustard seed. 

Agency comes from the early 17th century, meaning the capacity and ability to act. Take action in big or small ways. A mindset of agency looks at a problem and says, I can solve that by myself or with other people. Agency mindsets give us a can-do spirit. 

Lacking an agency mindset, we believe that the hand we have been dealt with is the hand we have in life, and there’s not much we can do about it. 

Lacking an agency mindset solely places the blame for our problems on other people. We don’t take responsibility for our actions. It wasn’t my fault. You made me do it. 

Lacking an agency mindset  why should I clean the spilled milk, why should 

We can have the belief that we have agency and also lack the confidence that we do. This may happen when a problem seems impossibly difficult and too complex for us to solve. We give up. Thinking it’s easier to give up than it is to continue on. 

As a kid, I played video games. I would stop playing a game when I reached a part that was too difficult, and I wasn’t able to move on to the next stage of the game.  

In the last few years, I have resumed playing video games. 
One of the first games I bought was Jedi: Fallen Order. There was one spot that I could not move beyond. I tried, and I tried, and I couldn’t figure out how to move through. It took me months. I would try for a half hour. Then a few days later, another half hour. A month later, another half hour. And then, one day, I got it. I had configured my fingers to jump, slide, hop, and skip in just the order I needed them to be. 

Lacking an agency mindset sounds like You can’t do that. We can’t solve violence. We can’t solve poverty. We can’t solve climate change. We can’t solve wage theft.

My family and I went fishing on my vacation. One day, as we were returning to camp, we had intense waves and rain. Thankfully, I planned ahead and wore a poncho. My dad, my grandma, and my aunt—well, they got drenched. 

I imagine the scene of Jesus and his disciples: wind swirling around them, waves as high as 6 feet, heavy rain pouring down, creating a terrifying storm. 

We can imagine the disciples in the boat before they woke Jesus up. We’re going to sink! Drown! Go down, their collective despair growing and heightening. The storm was so treacherous that these experienced Galilean fishermen were terrified.  They may have been extra terrified because at the time, people believed some storms could be created by an evil force. 

They wake Jesus up. They say, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are perishing?” 

Often, Jesus’ response is translated as Peace be still. But that is an understatement, as our translation has him saying, “Be Silent! Be Still! Or as one of  my professors in seminary translated: “Shut Up.” 

(snap finger) Then the wind ceased, and then there was a great calm. 

Jesus says to the disciples.  Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith? 

The passage is often read as the disciples lacking faith in Jesus’ authority and power. But that misses their question, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re drowning?” Undergirding this question is their belief that he does have the power to do something, but they ask him why he hasn’t. They have faith that he does have the power. 

Perhaps Jesus was testing them, seeing if they had been listening to him. 

At the beginning of this Kingdom section, in Mark 3:13, Jesus calls his twelve disciples, whom he will call apostles, those whom he will send out to preach, and gives them the authority and power to cast out evil spirits.

Jesus might be implying that I gave you the authority to cast out demons, evil. Here was such a time, and you failed. You did not have faith in your own ability and power. 
Mark is writing to followers of Jesus who have become discouraged that the kingdom of God is not here yet. Mark tells his readers not to be like the disciples but to have faith in their ability to bring the Kingdom of God forward. 

We do not need to believe demons and evil spirits are behind storms. But certainly, the storm is a metaphor for evil forces like oppression, exploitation. 
We have been given faith that tells us that we have agency, the capacity. 

One of our commitments is to have faith in our abilities to help advance the Kingdom of God, to know that alongside Jesus, we can move mountains. 

One of the questions we ask new members 
“Do you promise, by the grace of God, to be Christ’s disciple, to follow in the way of our Savior and Teacher, to resist oppression and evil, to show love and justice, and to witness to the work and word of Jesus Christ? 

Faith is not a passive belief but an active belief, trusting that we have the capacity to do as Jesus did. Faith is believing Jesus has empowered us. 
When we hold onto this faith, we regain our courage, we regain our hope, we regain that we have the power. 

You have the power to stop evil. 
You have the power to stand up for justice.
You have the power to follow Christ. 
You have the power to shape the world into a place of peace. 
You have the power to inspire hope. 
You have the power to bring forth the kingdom of God.

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