Once upon a time there was a village in the French countryside, whose people believed in tranquility. If you lived in this village you understood what is expected of you. You knew your place in the scheme of things. In this village if you saw something you weren’t supposed to see, you learned to look the other way. If by chance your hopes have been disappointed, you learned never to ask for more. So through good times and bad, famine and feast the villagers held fast to their traditions…. Until one winter day….. (narrator, Chocolat)This is how one of my favorite movies, Chocolat, begins. This movie is the story about tradition, acceptance and courage. A woman blows into town on the wind. She arrives as the priest in worship is saying “The season of Lent is upon us. This is of course a time of abstinence … But also hopefully a time of reflection. Above all let this be a time of penitence.” This is a village that seems to have lost hope and a zest for life. You can see a people who have been kept in line with their tradition. We meet a woman whose life has led her to expect and receive the worst that people have to offer, we meet a child whose life is so controlled that he doesn’t have a chance to play, we meet a mayor who is so tightly wound that he tries to control everyone and everything in the village. When Vianne comes into this town, a village full of whites, grays and black, the people begins to see color and experience healing. Vianne opens a chocolate shop during lent. When she meets a person, her first thought is to find the type of chocolate that will satisfy their craving. But while she is giving them chocolate, she is truly trying to figure out what they need to help them be whole. She then begins to set in motion the people and places that will bring them healing.
I wonder if that is what it felt like when Jesus entered the towns of Galilee.
That evening, after the sun was down, they brought sick and evil-afflicted people to him, the whole city lined up at his door! He cured their sick bodies and tormented spirits (Mark 1:32-34).
Jesus came home and, as usual, a crowd gathered - so many making demands on him that there wasn't even time to eat (3:20).Lent is a time when we often give something up in penitence: chocolate, coffee, fish, thoughtless remarks, exceeding the speed limit, facebook, or cell phones, in order that we may remember Jesus' time of reflection in the wilderness. But what if this Lent, you spent the season getting excited about Jesus coming to town. What if you spent this Lent meeting people and trying to discover who they are and helping them to find the healing they need? What if you started sharing your experience of God with everyone you encountered and started drawing a crowd by speaking of the incredible healing and hope that you have found through the ministry taking place at First Cingregational UCC, Lake Geneva? Can you imagine the excitement that would spread? Can you imagine the people you might touch and heal? These are just three references but if you were to word search crowd in the gospels you would find 106 references. The world was alive and excited by Jesus coming to town. They knew that the darkness of their lives would be changed by his presence. They couldn’t wait to see Jesus, to touch Jesus, to hear Jesus. When you read Mark, it’s as if for the first time they are seeing in color and they want to be changed by it.
Wherever Jesus went, village or town or country crossroads, they brought their sick to the marketplace and begged him to let them touch the edge of his coat - that's all. And whoever touched him became well (Mark 6:56).