The Call to Discipleship in the Gospel of Mark, Day 832 That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. Mark 1:32-34
The net has been cast, people throughout the town have heard about Jesus in the synagogue and at Peter's house. With the word spreading, people began to bring to Jesus all who were sick or filled with evil. This story is a moment for us to stop and reflect on the dawning kingdom where the sick are healed and the imprisoned are set free. We are meant to experience the power and hope of the kingdom. What does it look like in your life when you speak of the kingdom to your neighbors and friends? Here is one of my stories.
I am in the stands for my son’s soccer game. As I sit with another mom and we wait for our kids to be put in the game, she asks: “Why does the pastor of the church say I have to go to church?” After sitting on the sidelines for weeks watching our sons we’d started talking. It got around to, “What do you do for a living?” The question usually leads to silence or people sharing they are spiritual but not religious. As the pastor I am placed in the religious side of the equation. But in this case, we had been talking for a long time about being single moms. So by the time she asked me the question that had been bothering her for awhile, I already knew she wasn’t thrilled with the new pastor and only occasionally attended worship, but she didn’t want to give up altogether. “So why does he tell me I need to go to church? I don’t get anything out of worship.” I was busy thinking about how close our forward was to offsides and wondering why we only pass the ball to the opposing team. So now my pastor hat had to come on and I had to give my honest answer about why church--where we can be both spiritual and religious. I don’t remember my exact answer that day, but these are thoughts I have for people like this mom.
Jesus began his ministry by asking people to turn around until God is back in their life and then believe that God's is within them. Right off the bat in Mark’s first chapter we learn what it means to be the church. Jesus shows us what it means to live a life where the kingdom of God is right here, close enough to touch.
After Baptism and time spent with God away from it all, then Jesus proclaims his mission statement: ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’ Jesus’ first act is to find companions for the journey. He invites two sets of brothers to follow him and learn how to fish for people. And they did it. They drop everything to follow, to sit at his feet, and learn from his words and actions.
Jesus then goes to the synagogue and teaches. He speaks in a way that leaves people astonished and speechless. And while there, he encounters evil within that group and Jesus heals the troubled soul.
Jesus enters the house of his companions. When he finds illness again, he brings healing to a woman sick with a fever. He touches her, lifts her, and changes her life. She becomes his first disciple: showing his companions what it means to serve, sharing the love she had just received. She is the second among many to receive the kingdom as people healed and made whole.
Jesus, needing time alone, sneaks off in the middle of the night, to pray. He knows to stop and recharge himself and listen for God’s guidance, love, peace, and renewal. His companions bring him their own anxiety and other peoples’ need for him. But after the time of prayer Jesus knows that he is to continue on visiting towns and synagogues proclaiming the kingdom of God, casting out evil where he finds it, and bringing wholeness to broken beings.
He then meets a man who says, “If you choose, you can make me well.” And, the words Jesus speaks, are words that I can hear him saying to us: “I do choose.” I choose you in your need and longing, in your dreams and loneliness. I choose you in the good times and the bad. I choose you to be made whole and become a source of wholeness. When people heard about this kind of call to renewal, when they heard about the kingdom and began to see its reality in changed lives, more and more people came to find him.So, this is the kind of thing I share with others like that single mother. This is why I choose church. Church becomes where the hope and love of God come close. Where we have the chance to be healed and take that healing into the world. So that wherever we go during our week people can have the chance to experience what we have encountered. Our God invites us into a relationship, provides us with companions on our journey, allows us to encounter brokenness and provides real hope. That’s why I go to church. That’s why I became a pastor--so every day I can enter and invite people to join me on the journey.
As you settle into prayer today, think of the people you know who you know don't go to church. The people you know from siting on the sidelines watching a soccer game, the people at your gym, people at work, a lost family member. Create a list of four or five people. Prayer for the people on your list. Inviting God to open their hearts to Jesus. Ask God to give your the courage to speak and the nudge to know when the moment is right. Amen.
Bridge Over Troubled Waters by Paul Simon
Bridge Over Troubled Waters by Paul Simon