The Church of England lectionary gives Mark 6.14-29 as today’s Gospel – whilst the Roman Catholic lectionary gives Mark6.7-13
The Christian poet T.S. Eliot prayed “teach us to care and not to care”. There is much wisdom in this prayer. We need to care deeply about our faith, and our service of God – but also to remember that in the end, things depend on God not on us. Christian ministry – something shared by all the baptised – is always offered in response to the divine initiative. Our calling is to respond faithfully and passionately. It is God who gives the increase.
In Mark 6.7-13, Jesus invites his disciples to place their lives in God’s hands – to take risks, and leave the consequences to their heavenly Father. It’s difficult to get this balance right – we’re not meant to be careless and irresponsible, but at times we must step out in faith, and not let life’s baggage weigh us down.
Mark 6.14-29 tells the story of a saint who knew how to ‘care and not to care’. No-one could doubt that John the Baptist has a passion for the Kingdom of God. It is the driving force in his life – leading him to a powerful preaching ministry in the desert, and a fearless speaking of truth to the powers of his day. But John also knows that his work is not the central thing. He is willing to step back as well as forward: whether he is centre stage or out of sight is determined, neither by vanity nor his timidity, but by what will point to Jesus Christ. As John lies in prison, and then faces his death, he has done what he can – and left the rest to God. Little can he have known how, 2000 years on, his words would still be pointing people to Christ.
Last week’s General Synod discussed the church’s response to last year’s riots. Pray for all who, out of the media glare, continue to minister in areas affected by the disturbances – and who seek to address its root causes. Pray for the staff and partners of the Church Urban Fund and the Contextual Theology Centre as they seek to support this work.