Rev'd Philip Heak
One of the most anticipated events in terms of easing of Covid restrictions was hairdressers and barbers re-opening. It is so lovely to be able to go and get haircut.
As my hair grew longer during lockdown, I thought I looked quite cool…
But eventually I cut it…
And then I looked like this….
But recently I returned to the barbers and while there, we were talking about Covid Hair. The barber said he hadn’t seen too many bad bad covid hairs. Then he joked about the story of Sisyphus. “Who?” I said. “Sisyphus”, he laughed, “have you never heard of him”, “No”, I said, so he told me the story.
Here it is.
Sisyphus was a cruel Greek king who was punished to push a large boulder up a steep hill, only to find it rolling back on nearing the top.
Ever since, he has been known for pushing the rock tirelessly till eternity.
I couldn’t help but draw parallels between the myth of Sisyphus and our Gospel reading this morning.
In Mark 6, we find Jesus returning to his hometown, but his family members and local community leaders could not see the value present in this Nazareth boy.
Jesus’ relatives and fellow citizens could think of him only as the local carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joseph and Judas and Simon and they take offence at him.
Problem with rolling the ball up hill is that we can’t see what is ahead. – That’s what happened in Nazareth. People are not able to see more about Jesus than their own little world. Jesus is simply the Carpenter’s son.
Mark’s Gospel provides us with a telling comment regarding Jesus’s reaction.
“He was amazed at their lack of faith.”
Sometimes, in our Christian lives we can feel that our faith is just like endlessly pushing a huge boulder up a hill. Just when we think we’ve got to the top of the hill, we go rolling on down again. It’s just like the nursery rhyme
“When they were up they were up. When they were down they were down. When they were only half way up they were Neither up nor down.”
If our faith constantly feels like an endless cycle of pushing that boulder, I don’t think that is a healthy place to be. I don’t think that is where God would want us to be, so how do we navigate that boulder.
I want to concentrate today on just Two words that may be helpful
Expectant and Active.
Expectancy is a vital part of faith.
I remember going to see BB King. The man oozed charisma. He came out played one note on Lucille and the crowd applauded for what seemed like 5 minutes. Amazing. Reflecting on it now – the crowd were excited and expectant – and as part of that we were amazed.
Expectation is part of faith. Part of being able to look ahead and see the bigger picture and the things of God.
If I pray, for instance, without being expectant, how will I see that the prayer has been answered? If I read the Bible without being expectant of hearing God’s word, I’m just pushing that boulder up the hill.
For our faith to have expectancy we have to look beyond the boulder.
Practically speaking – when we pray, listen, expecting that God will speak to us.
When we read our Bible – even if it is a passage we’ve known from childhood or adolescent years – expect to see something new.
As we wake each day, Give thanks for the day that the Lord has made and be expectant.
When we attend public worship, expect to hear a message.
The people of Nazareth lost a great opportunity by not listening more carefully to their neighbour and relative – whom they knew only as Jesus, the carpenter son of Mary. They had no expectancy of anything that they thought they already knew.
That was their boulder and they could not see beyond it. That was their lack of faith.
So, expectation. Be expectant in your faith and you will be amazed at what God is doing for you.
The second word is “Active”.
Faith is not primarily passive. Faith is active. I can have passive faith in a packed parachute on the ground, but it takes an active faith to put on the parachute and jump our of a moving plane.
At some stage, a decision has to be made that Faith is something that we are going to do, not just say. For instance, I know that I should pray more – that is passive. I get up 10 minutes earlier every day to pray – active.
I would like to go to church every week (passive)
I go to church every week (active)
I should give more to charity (passive)
I give €10 a week to charity (active)
Faith is active. It’s an active decision to behave and do things in a certain way.
For the people of Nazareth their faith was passive. They went to the synagogue, prayed as they would normally have, listened to perhaps the reading of the Torah and some of the prophets. I’m sure that they were quite happy with that. But they could not go beyond that.
An active faith would have seen that someone greater than the prophets was in their midst, not just the son of a carpenter, but the Son of God, the Messiah to whom all the scriptures pointed.
But no, there is no active faith and in fact it becomes negative when they take offence at Jesus and we read he could do no miracles there except lay hands on a few sick people and heal them.
So as I said two words that can help navigate the boulder of live. Expectant and Active.
In your faith be expectant – in your faith be active.
Take it one step at time and gradually you will reach the top of the hill. Need to pray, find 5 minutes a day and just start. Need to be more active in reading the bible – same thing. Don’t try it all at once. That ball can be pretty heavy.
One day, one week, one year at a time and you will discover that little by little the extraordinary things in life will become noticeable. Expect to see God at work and you will. Move from a passive faith to an active one.
SO back the barbers – I didn’t tell you why the barber told me that particular story of Sisyphus.
He was talking about hair and the way it grows back. Cut your hair, it grows back, just like the boulder getting to the top of the hill and rolling down again. We may have the best haircut one week, but another few weeks of months and we’ll be back to square one. The solution – another trip to the barbers or hairdressers.
If you feel that your faith is like pushing a huge boulder up an unending hill. The solution – be expectant and be active and trust that God will help you navigate that boulder.