Ezekiel 2:2-5 / 2 Cor 12:7-10 / Mark 6:1-6
Whether we are football fans or not, we should know by now that the World Cup is going on in Russia. By the way, it is already in the quarter-finals and moving on towards the semi-finals. Never mind if you are not interested in all that.
There are many reasons why people watch the game. Some want to watch their favourite teams in action. Some just want to watch the highlights and see the goals. Some just want to look at the players, especially the good-looking ones.
And since the World Cup is held in Russia, some jokes have come out of it, like this one:
Donald Trump met up with Vladimir Putin and asked him, “Hey Putin, who do you think will win the World Cup?” Putin looks at his vodka and replied, “I have not decided yet!” (Well the way Russia is progressing in the World Cup is quite surprising …)
But the World Cup has been dramatic enough so far. Some of the big names didn’t even qualify to go to Russia. And already some the big names have been surprising kicked out of the competition.
One of the lessons that the World Cup is giving us is that on the world stage, the underdogs can stand a chance for glory. It gives a kind of hope to boys playing bare-footed in some dusty street a chance to make it to big time football.
Maybe that is why the game is so popular and gets the most attention on the media. It offers hope to the underdogs against the big names of football.
Yes, the World Cup enjoys extensive media coverage because of its popularity and the hope it offers. But moving away from the international limelight of the game in Russia, let us go the mountainous region of Chiang Rai in northern Thailand.
There, 12 boys from a football team and their coach, who had dreams and a hope of making a name in the game, are trapped in a cave with flood waters rising. Their hope of being rescued is fading fast as the forecast is that more rains will come, and rescue efforts are getting desperate as they race against time and terrain.
Will there be any hope of rescuing the 12 boys and their coach? Or will their dreams and their lives be wiped away by the murky muddy flood waters? We pray for them, we must pray for them, and also for the rescue workers. Their fate lies in the hands of God.
But what a world of difference there is between the hype and the attention in Russia, and the grim desperation in Chiang Rai.
While the feet and reputation of the players that the World Cup are value at millions of dollars, the lives of the 12 boys and their coach also calls out for our attention.
But more often than not, the glamour of the big names and the big money overwhelms the plight of the little and humble. But it is in the little and humble that the voice of God is often heard, and it is a prophetic voice.
In the gospel, we read that Jesus came to His home town and on the Sabbath He went to the synagogue and He began to teach there.
The initial astonishment was turned into rejection as the people of His home town began to dig into His background. It is the common case of “familiarity breeds contempt”.
Even Jesus had to say that “a prophet is only despised in his own country, among his own relations, and in his own house”. He couldn’t even work miracles there because of their lack of faith.
Maybe the people were expecting someone with a big name and a big reputation, and then they will listen to him. But a local carpenter doesn’t meet their expectations, and so they discounted His wisdom and His miracles. And with that the prophetic voice was silenced.
As we think about it, very often it is the hype and the glamour and the spectacular that catches our attention. But it that where the prophetic voice of God is heard? If we want to hear what God is saying to us, we may need to go beyond the hype, the glamour and the spectacular.
There is a story of a small family of three who lived in a house by the river. One day the son told his mother that he wanted to go for a swim in the river, and so his mother watched him from a window in the kitchen.
Suddenly she saw a crocodile form the opposite bank entering into the water and heading for her son. She immediately rushed out and screamed at her son to get out of the water.
When her son realized that a crocodile was heading towards him, he swam desperately for safety. But just as he reached the river bank, the crocodile got his legs in its jaws. But at the same time, the mother reached her son and grabbed him by his arms and tried to pull her son out of the crocodile’s jaws.
The tussle was furious and as the crocodile tried to drag the boy into the water, the mother held on to her son’s arms with all her might.
The commotion alerted the father who came with a gun and shot the crocodile, and only then the crocodile released the boy.
After weeks in the hospital, the boy survived. His legs were extremely scarred by the vicious attack of the crocodile and, on his arms, were deep scratches where his mother’s fingernails dug into his flesh in her effort to hang on to her son.
Newspaper reporters interviewed the boy after the trauma, and asked if he would show them his scars. The boy lifted his pants legs and showed them the deep scars.
And then, with obvious pride, he said to the reporters, “But why just look at my legs? Look at my arms. I have great scars on my arms too. I have them because my mom wouldn’t let go.”
So there we have the prophetic voice of God. It is not in the hype or the glamour or in the spectacular.
Rather it is in the little and the humble that God speaks and tells us what is really important .
So let us look, and let us see, and let us listen, for the Lord our God is always telling us something for our good.