All too often people have trouble perceiving brilliance in ordinary people and everyday situations. We get in ruts in the way we think about people. “I know that man. He’s just Joseph’s son, an ordinary carpenter.” Or, “He’s only Mary’s son. I know his family.”
Jesus, of course, wasn’t ordinary at all. However, we know little about his life before his baptism. He apparently lived a fairly simple life as a carpenter. His parents undoubtedly recall the Temple incident when Jesus stayed behind to talk with the teachers of the law. (Read Luke 2:41-52.) In that instance we glimpse his depth of understanding and his clear devotion to God. What was he like as a teenager, learning the craft of carpentry? What was he like as a young adult, working with his father? Surely some of his goodness and devotion to God would have been visible to those who looked closely.
People, however, seldom look closely. We find it hard to see the unique gifts in the people around us. Perhaps we’re busy, preoccupied with the next thing to do. Perhaps we’re concerned about our own image, what people think about our competence or how we appear. Perhaps we simply don’t care enough to take the time and effort to look carefully at the personalities and characteristics of the people we know.
Jesus could do few miracles in his hometown because people took offense to him. Their perception of him limited his ability to minister. We sometimes place similar limits on people in our own lives. We overlook their skills and talents, pronouncing them ordinary rather than precious individuals created in the image of a loving and amazing God.
Loving God, help us see your image and your Spirit at work in the people around us. May we pay attention and affirm and value what we see. Amen.
The readings from the Hebrew scriptures this week celebrate the city of Jerusalem. This was the capital of the great King David, who united the ancient Israelites and built up the city. The psalmist praises Jerusalem using the image of Zion. Zion is a name used for earthly Jerusalem, but it is also a gesture toward a future day when God’s people will abide in a heavenly city. In Second Corinthians, Paul explains that even though he is an apostle, he still struggles like everyone else. Wild speculation surrounds the “thorn” that plagued Paul, but his point is that when he is weakest, God is strongest. In Mark we see God’s power working through Jesus, who sent out others to expand God’s healing work.
• Read 2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10. The king of Israel exhibited the qualities of a shepherd. How do those qualities square with your experience with those in power?
• Read Psalm 48. Bring to mind a place where you experience God’s presence. Do you find yourself drawn there? Why?
• Read 2 Corinthians 12:2-10. When have you experienced a weakness becoming a source of power?
• Read Mark 6:1-13. When have you limited God’s power through your disbelief?
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