Based on: Mark 1: 29-39
In ministry with: the people at Knox United Church, Vancouver, B.C.
Introduction: As we anticipate the annual congregational meeting after worship next Sunday, here are 2 questions for your consideration:
- What nuggets of truth do we see in our readings that can aid us with our call to be the church here and now?
- God’s healing power and the proclamation of God’s grace as revealed in Jesus’ are uncontainable. What do you think about that?
Opening Prayer: God, who loves us more than we can ask or imagine, may the thoughts and feelings of our hearts be a prayer of thanksgiving as we reflect on the meaning of your Word for us this day. Amen
I’m really enjoying our stories from Scripture lately. This due to the fact that for four Sundays out of the last six, we’ve been concentrating on stories about call, commissioning, and the living out of God’s love revealed in Jesus, particularly though the gospel according to Mark.
The gospel of Mark, concise, fast paced, and sparse in its language of immediacy was thought to be probably be the first account of Jesus’ life, ministry, death, and resurrection. Viewed as foundational for the gospel stories as they appear in Matthew and Luke, we could also view Mark’s gospel as foundational for our own stories of call and commissioning and for the living out of God’s love as revealed in Jesus right here in this time and in this place.
Here, this morning, our story brings us face to face with yet three more stories about healing and teaching in public and through it all is woven all relentless pace as Jesus’ actions embody God’s providential, comforting, and challenging grace.
In a nutshell, Jesus’ response to God’s call and commission at his baptism in the waters of the river Jordan is being lived out in various locations as he and his first followers travel around the region inviting folks far and wide not only to ‘come and see’ but also to ‘go and tell’.
‘Coming and seeing’, or ‘witnessing’, and ‘going and telling’, or ‘proclamation’ all add up to a growing ministry of evangelism and in this first chapter of Mark’s gospel, evangelism is happening everywhere!
Indoors in synagogues and in private homes, in the doorways of houses in the community, and out of doors, even in the deserted place where Jesus went to be alone with God.
This ‘evangelism’, this ‘witnessing to’ and the ‘proclaiming’ of our faith all in the midst of doing ministry can be energizing but at the same time, it can be also be energy draining or depleting.
This is where our third story from Mark’s gospel this morning provides us a model of how important it is to ground ourselves in relationship with God through prayer. And so it is, Jesus models for his disciples and for us, the need to set himself apart for time with God.
Imagine setting apart time with the God described in our Isaiah passage as the One who “sits above the circle of the earth” and the One who “stretches out the heavens like a curtain”, and the One who “does not faint nor grow weary.”
Then, imagine spending time with the One who “gives power to the faint” and “the One who strengthens the powerless”. Just imagine!
Thinking just for a minute on some of the various lay led ministries here at Knox that I know that set apart type of experience does happen regularly here in our midst. In case you are asking yourself in bewilderment, “it does?” I am here to witness and proclaim to you that it does. This set apart type of experience happens here at Knox in community. How do I know this? I know this because I have been witness to it and to your proclaiming it.
I’m thinking of the sense of comfort folks people I see and have been told by you who attend the Tuesday evening Taize services held in our chapel.
I’m thinking of the sense of solace folks here experience as they participate in the confidential and mutual sharing time at the Prayer and Share group meetings
I’m thinking of the benefits of the Healing Touch ministry I see and hear tell of from you, the participants in this healing ministry.
I’m also thinking of how things go here in our regular Sunday morning services.
Though it may seem ordinary to some of you that we, who gather together weekly seeking healing, wholeness, and restoration found in our individual and our shared experience of the Holy, I am quite often astounded at the depth of Christian witness I see within the service itself. And, I see this happening weekly!
In our praying silently or aloud, in our singing the songs of our faith, in our receiving of the gifts of musical leaders, and in our sharing of thoughts and feelings at theme time, I am aware of and thankful for your deeply faithful responses as you risk being your most authentic, questioning, and probing selves in community.
It is true that we don’t have to wait for Sunday to experience God’s healing and restorative presence; we don’t have to wait for Sunday to pray or lament or to give thanks and praise for all our blessings and challenges. We can do that in a myriad of ways moment by moment, hour by hour, or day by day. Some of us do that out of habit as we say grace before meals, as we recite favourite prayers, as we intentionally light candles, and perhaps, even as we reflect and give thanks for God’s presence by going for a walk in nature.
Others among us choose different ways of moving towards healing and restoration for our shared ministry by seeking out trusting friends or by asking others to pray for and with us. Still others of us keep a daily journal or write poems or letters to God. How do I know this to be so? Because you, the people of Knox United tell me this is so.
Still, I find we are shy about the ‘come and see’/’go and tell’ part. Not just here at Knox but at most United Churches.
What’s hard about it?
One part that is easy is that I can tell you about today is this: The buzz and energy alive and well here in our e-mail exchanges as we anticipate some programming around the Lenten season.
This year we have a couple of special events happening right here in our building.
One is the Prayers of the People workshop and the other is the Lenten study.
Both of these are written up in the News and Notes and available to all. So, don’t miss out on a chance to consider ‘coming and seeing’ so that you can ‘go and tell’ others. Or you could ‘go and tell’ others to ‘come and see’.
There will also be some opportunities to take part in a couple of special Holy Week events here at Knox. Watch for that news next week.
There are many good things happening here at Knox, don’t be shy about sharing that good news with others! Our work as faithful followers in the way of Jesus is to come and see and then to go and tell and invite others to experience God’s unattainable love available to all and then to do the same.
There are also many other good things happening on your behalf beyond the walls of this church and there are folks here inviting you into those experiences.
I am thinking of the folks who attended the recent Epiphany Explorations weekend event in Victoria and how they might imagine sharing them.
I am thinking of the public presentations that are happening in the wider community next week on the conflict between the people of Israel and the Palestine occupied territories.
Several folks from here are inviting you to attend. ‘Come and see’ so that you can ‘Go and tell’ and invite others to join in.
In case you are starting to feel tired at the thought of all these learning opportunities as energy draining as much as energizing, let’s take one more look at what else Jesus is proclaiming in our texts for this morning. Not only does he and Simon’s mother in law models a ministry of preaching, healing, and hospitality, there is also a teaching focused on the importance of renewal through prayer and retreat.
While there’s no way of knowing for sure how Jesus prayed or what happened to him in that intentional time set apart away from the challenges and demands of his growing ministry, scripture tells us he that he was restored and renewed for his on-going mission to spread the good news that the kingdom of God has come near.
Here on this last Sunday in the season of Epiphany, I’m reminded that God calls us to find ways of surrendering ourselves to the things of God-prayer, scripture, and worship in the midst of a perpetually distracting and chaotic world so that we might preach the good news of God’s in-breaking kingdom of healing and wholeness.
Though there is little time for staying put in the midst of all this good news and though the proclamation of God’s vision of shalom for the whole world calls us still further afield, we can, also sit a spell taking time to be holy.
May God grant us the wisdom, the discipline, and the curiosity to learn more about how all of this informs our ministries and our mission as the embodiment of God’s revealing love here in this time and in this place. May it be so, amen.
Choral Duet: Lay Your Hands Gently