The Power of Unbelief – 7-2-24

You can listen to this reflection here. Sunday’s gospel reading is here

Have you ever had a wifi signal so weak you couldn’t get anything done? A trickle of connectivity but not enough juice to actually power anything? This comes to mind when I read about the effect his townspeople’s skepticism had on Jesus’ ability to wield the power of God in his usual way: Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.
All he could do was cure “a few sick people.” It is hard to imagine that anything could impede the power of God to effect what it will, especially when invoked by one whose faith lacks nothing. But Jesus attributed the “connectivity problem” to the unbelief he encountered in that place where they thought they knew him so well. Crowds further away accepted him fully as he was; his homies could not believe that the Y’shua they’d grown up with was the Messiah. Their lack of faith held him back.

This should not surprise us. We think of Jesus as the power behind miracles – yet repeatedly he commends the faith of the people whom he heals, saying, “Your faith has made you well.” Jesus responded to the faith he encountered – and I guess he still does. This puts a lot of pressure on us, doesn’t it, to think that God responds to the faith of those praying.

It can be a quick jump from there to the notion that when someone who is sick or hurting doesn’t experience healing it is because they lack faith – and unfortunately, that is the message some people in the healing ministry convey. Wrong. The faith to which God responds needs to be in the community that is praying for someone to be healed. God does not punish people for lack of faith – it just appears that God’s power is impeded when there is a lot of disbelief in a system. That’s why communities in which healing is regularly invited and expected tend to see a lot more of it than those who think it’s rare and don’t exercise their faith in prayer.

Does that put a lot of responsibility on us as people of faith? You bet it does! It means our faith matters more than maybe we wish it did. It means we do all we can to strengthen the faith of those around us. We make space for questions, sure, but we don’t encourage disbelief. The stronger the faith that resides in the community, the more invitation there is for Jesus to do his works of power.

As St. Augustine famously said, “Without God we cannot; without us, He will not.” Quoting that, our soon-to-be retired Presiding Bishop Michael Curry adds, “Together with God we can and we will.” Without us, God will not. The Omnipotent can, of course, but has chosen to give us that much power to participate in God’s work. Let’s turn the service on and let the connectivity and power flow!

© Kate Heichler, 2024. To receive Water Daily by email each morning, subscribe hereHere are the bible readings for next Sunday. Water Daily is also a podcast – subscribe to it here on Apple, Spotify or your favorite podcast platform.

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