Theme - Fear and Failure
Scripture - Luke 9:40 - I begged your disciples to drive it out, but they could not.”
Quote - Thomas Merton - “You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.”
Why is it that the disciples cannot heal the boy? If we go back to the beginning of chapter 9 we see that Jesus has anointed the disciples with power and authority and they go out preaching, teaching, healing and freeing people in the countryside. What has happened? What has changed? That is an important question with perhaps many possible answers. So I offer today one possible answer for us to prayerfully ponder.
I would suggest that the disciples are ineffective because of fear. I say fear because if we read all of chapter 9 we see that just before this incident with the possessed boy and the desperate father is the story of the transfiguration (that we will get to tomorrow). But before that Jesus predicts his crucifixion and death. And I would suggest that the disciples are completely unsettled by this news. This is not the goal that they had envisioned for Jesus's mission or their devotion. And so, they are afraid; that they are wasting their time, that ultimately they will be unsuccessful, that this is all for not.
Fear is powerful. That is why Jesus warns and preaches as an inoculation against fear repeatedly (remember the story of the panicked disciples in the midst of a stormy sea, in which Jesus says, 'do not fear, have faith.') And while it is beneficial to research and discuss the fears of the disciples, it is also important for us to discern and interrogate our own specific fears. What is it about the mission that Jesus has called us to that makes us afraid? Are we afraid that we do not have the resources to do what we are called to do? Are we afraid that we do not have the energy or the expertise? Are we afraid because we do not know exactly how to face the challenge (whatever it may be)? Are we afraid of the cost? (I think the disciples fear the cost, but more on this Friday). Sometimes the suffering we know is preferable to the challenge of the unknown and unfamiliar. And the fear that we there will be a sacrifice or a loss as a result of following Jesus is powerful in its prohibition. Connected to that particular fear is the intimidation of trying and failing. Perhaps these are the most powerful forces we face as Christians; fear of loss and fear of failing.
As challenging as it may be, prayerful consider a time that you as a disciple or we as a church resisted following Jesus because of fear of loss or fear of failure. This is important, not only so that we learn, but also so that we experience God's love and mercy. Is there a call we resist even now? Let's imagine what it would look life if God's love and mercy empowered us to resist fear and move forward in faith.
Prayer - We join you gracious Lord, in your Gethsemane prayer, in which you faced your own fears and doubts, yet relied on the faithfulness of God to encourage and empower you. Seeing the loss and pain, you still carried out your ministry and mission, trusting that God could transform loss and pain, to life and peace. Help us to acknowledge our own fears, especially the fears and doubts that come when following you is risky. Strengthen us with the vision of your resurrection, wounded yet risen, to follow you in service and sacrifice.