I mentioned last week that it is important to have a sense of the purpose and intended audience of each of the gospels and Mark doesn’t waste any time diving into just that. Mark is the shortest of the gospels and is straight and to the point. Matthew and Luke expand on Mark with lots of details to get into the nature of Christ. Mark has just one simple point to make and that is that Jesus is the one with the authority to declare the reign of God. That is why Jesus is here and everything in Mark points to that.
Last week Jesus is baptized by John and recruits his first disciples. This week he is out in the world doing his work. And we haven’t even gotten out of the first chapter! Mark isn’t fooling around here.
Jesus is a busy guy. He starts off teaching in the synagogue and is immediately challenged to cast out a demon. This he does and he and his crew go over to Simon and Andrew’s house, along with James and John, probably to grab some lunch. But first he has to heal Simon’s mother-in-law of a fever.
But wait, there’s more!
That evening they’re hanging out like the savior of the world does, and they start bringing him all who were sick or possessed with demons. His response? 34 And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; That’s quite a track record he’s got going on.
Here’s a good place to stop and take a break. Because that’s what Jesus does. He gets up in the morning and rather than running out to start on his work he takes a break. And reminds each of us that even Jesus, Son of Man and savior of all of us, takes a break now and then. I can’t say as I’ve ever healed anyone but I do know that spiritual care of people that are sick and hurting can be exhausting over time. Holy work for certain but not easy. Jesus is well aware of this and takes a prayer break before going out and continuing his work.
This is a particularly good time of the year to have that reminder as many of us finish the holiday season with less than a full tank of gas. Through all the Christmas parties, gift wrapping, time with family and friends, and all the other things we do in December that take so much energy, we forget that taking a break now and again to recharge isn’t just a good idea, it’s a what would Jesus do kind of thing. Remember that.
And then he goes back to work but in this case it is a different kind of work. Instead of healing the sick they are working on sharing their message. 38 He answered, “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.” 39 And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.
It is an interesting transition, don’t you think. Jesus is running all over the place, healing here, healing there. Healing this, healing that. And out to spread message in their synagogues. And then on back to healing again. In doing this work, Jesus establishes his authority. Not just as a good speaker but as the savior that has come to the world for the purpose of saving the world.
It makes me wonder if this is the pattern all communities of faith should be using if they people to hear their message. Go out and serve the community in meaningful ways and THEN share your message. Get the community’s attention by doing something needed and useful and THEN see if they want to hear about Jesus.
Many churches over the years learned to do the opposite. Lots of sociology involved but after World War II churches, as an institution, got lazy. People were coming out of the woodwork to go to church and there were a lot of people doing just that. They just expected people to keep coming and filling up the pews. That worked for a while. Until it didn’t. Churches took their focus off serving the community, kind of doing the opposite of what Jesus and the disciples did, and people quit coming to church. Huh. Do the opposite thing Jesus does and then wonder why things turned out less than what you were hoping for. Imagine that.
When we, as a community of faith, are a making a difference in our community we are establishing our authority to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. You can use the approach, ‘because the Bible says so’ with people but think for a bit how that is going over. I don’t think that is going to convince too many people to listen to our stories of faith. But if we’re putting the time, effort, and money into making a difference in our community, then people might listen.
We talked last week a little bit about doing the things we’re supposed to be doing, that is to say, doing what it is that God is calling us to do. That’s not always easy to sort out, in large part because in large denominations like our ELCA there is a tendency to do what everyone else is doing. There are reasons to do that occasionally, like the way we have a system to train and call pastors. But there are other reasons to take a risk and do things a bit differently.
A good example of that is our style of worship. I think you could say we’re pretty laid back. We follow the ancient worship pattern of Gather, Word, Meal, and Send but we’re pretty casual about the format. That is not a statement that formal high church is wrong. Not at all. It works great where it works. Like Grace Lutheran here in Lincoln. They are magnificent doing what they are called to do and they do it really well. Rhetorical question, how many of you would look forward to going to a formal high church worship service? Many of you enjoy high church and I miss parts of it sometimes. But we do what we’re called to do rather than following what everyone else is doing and by and large, following God’s desires rather than our own seem to be working pretty well.
The key thing for all of us is tor remember to bring Christ’s Love to Life. In doing that, we follow in Jesus’ steps. We may not be able to heal fevers and cast out demons but we can certainly make certain young people have shoes on their feet. We can certainly make sure hungry people have meals. We can certainly make sure that different community organizations have a place to meet. We can certainly do all the things we do to Bring Christ’s Love to Life.