Sunday, February 4, 2018
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church – Loudonville, NY
What do you do when you have an important decision to make? Who do you turn to for the answers? And how do you know if it’s God’s will you are following or your own? These are some of the questions that were brought up by the confirmation students during our last confirmation class as we continue to discuss the Lord’s Prayer. These are important questions for all of us to ask ourselves. And we can look to the Scriptures for guidance.
Mark’s gospel, which is the church’s focus for this year, is unique in that is has a central driving focus – the crucifixion. From the very beginning of Mark’s gospel there is an immediacy, a holy urgency, that continually drives his story. He begins with the baptism of Jesus, and continues a fast paced detailed account of what happened by the continual use of the words and or immediately. Jesus and the disciples are going from one thing to the next, continually on the move. Jesus has a lot of work to do, and not a lot of time to get it done. He is on a mission from God and there is no time to waste.
This fast pace begins right away. It begins with the heavens being torn apart at Jesus’ baptism, God’s voice proclaims Jesus as “My beloved Son,” the Spirit drives Jesus into the wilderness where he is tempted by Satan, angels minister to him, John is arrested, Jesus begins preaching and teaching, he calls disciples, he casts out demons, he heals people….and this is only chapter one! Do you see what I mean? There’s a lot going on right from the very beginning. If you sit down and read the gospel of Mark in one sitting it is a super-fast paced, action packed adventure. And we’re just reading about it. Imagine what it was like for Jesus!
Just imagine for a moment about the energy it must have taken for Jesus to confront the unclean spirit in the temple last week. He didn’t respond with violence or destruction, but with healing. That requires a lot of focused energy. Immediately after they left the synagogue, they go to Simon and Andrew’s house most likely looking for a little time to relax. But Simon’s mother-in-law was sick – so no rest for the weary Jesus. He took her hand and raised her up. Then the fever left her and she began ministering to them. You can’t do God’s work without first being raised up, without first being given new life, and that is what we all receive when we experience the hand of God through Jesus. He raises us up to where he is. He gives us our purpose in life. He gives meaning to everything we do. When Jesus raises us up, we too are part of God’s mission of bringing about the kingdom of God here on earth as it is in heaven.
And we need that healing touch from Jesus because it’s so easy to forget that we are part of God’s mission. It’s tempting to want to follow our own desires instead of God’s will. Even in our gospel account today we see many examples of that. Once Jesus healed Simon’s mother-in-law they bring all the sick and possessed in the city to him. And Jesus tells the demons not to speak because they knew who Jesus was. How were they going to reveal that information? Were they going to spin it for their own purpose so that Jesus was known simply as a miracle worker? Jesus didn’t come just to perform miracles. He came to proclaim the kingdom of God. He came to tell us about God’s mercy, compassion, and love. He came to set us free and raise us up. The demons or evil spirits just wanted Jesus to be known as one who could give people what they wanted, but Jesus didn’t come to give people what they want; he came to give people what they need. And often what we need isn’t necessarily what we want.
So getting back to our confirmation questions, “How do we know what it is we really need, and what we are called to do?” Jesus showed us the way. He went away to pray, to connect with God, and hear what it was he was to do next. Jesus constantly prayed to keep his will aligned with God’s will, and to make sure he was following God’s plan. Yet, so often while he was praying the disciples were well, freaking out. Look at today’s story. Simon and his companions were hunting for Jesus. They were frantically trying to find him because everyone was searching for him. They all needed something from Jesus. They all had things that they wanted Jesus to do for them. And we so often do the same thing today. We have our own ideas of what God should do and how they should be done. We want our own will instead of God’s will.
Jesus told the disciples, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” Everyone – including the disciples – wanted Jesus to stay around, but Jesus had to follow God’s mission. They would have been happier if Jesus stayed with them, and maybe he would have liked to stay in one place for a long time too, but Jesus was faithful to God’s will, and that doesn’t always make everyone happy. Yet, Jesus didn’t come to please everyone; he came to raise us up to new life, to a new way of living, to a new way of being. This is why Jesus came. This is why he suffered, and died, and rose again. Jesus was raised to new life, and through him we are raised up too.
As we continue our journey from the manger to the cross in this Epiphany season, let us take time to pray and commune with God, so that we will hear the Spirit’s voice as to what God is calling us to do and be in this world. Let us pray, Gracious and Loving God as we raise our prayers to you may our words to others build up not tear down. Help us to extend hands of healing to others just like Jesus- hands that raise up others. And may our lives be a witness of how you Almighty God have raised us up, and continue to raise us up through Jesus Christ who lives in us through the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.