This Sunday I preached on Mark 1: 29 – 39, which, in the NRSV, reads:
As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them. That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And 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. In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, "Everyone is searching for you." 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." And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.I chose to focus on the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law, and I think that was the sermon I was supposed to preach. Still, I cannot seem to get something out of my head about this pericope. Mark says that Simon and his companions hunted for him (Jesus) when he had gone to pray in the deserted place.
There are a few common themes to Mark’s gospel that are important to note. The two words that appear most in Mark are “and” and “immediately” (kai andeuthos). Mark is a series of run-on sentences, which apparently are fine in Greek. And everything happens immediately. But every so often, Jesus steps away from everyone and everything to pray. When he does, they always find him and bring him back.This leads me to ask a few questions:
- Why do people feel the need to seek for Jesus and not as much now?
- Was the gospel he proclaimed different than the gospel we proclaim?
- Why are we chasing people to come to us, when the people were chasing Jesus?
I do not have answers to these questions, but I still ask. I think there is something in the immediacy of Jesus’ ministry. People needed healing; they needed the Kingdom of God to be real. They needed and they needed now.I do not believe that we are any less in need of healing, but I am not sure we are acting with the same immediacy. The Kingdom of God can wait? The healing you need, you can wait until next week, when I have more time, right? Maybe we as the church need to try something different. Maybe if we present the gospel with the immediacy of the Kingdom of God being at hand instead of come to my church, we have a good pot luck, maybe . . . These are people’s lives we are talking about. But I wonder if we even believe that the Kingdom of God is at hand. We certainly do not always act like it. The Kingdom of God, it is coming someday. But Jesus began his ministry saying the Kingdom of God was at hand. The love, we have to offer through Jesus is right now, immediately.
Again, I do not have the answers, but I think chasing people and begging them to come to our church service is not the same as initiating them into the kingdom of God (for more on this understanding of evangelism, see William Abraham’s The Logic of Evangelism). Maybe if we really got involved, got touchy-feely, and stepped into the reality of the everyday-life of others and the messiness of others, and loved our neighbors in such a way that God’s love would shine forth through us and change their lives . . . Maybe . . .My sermon was about our need for touch. Touch heals, but it is not safe. When you lay hands on another, you are not unaffected. When you hug another, you may get dirty too. When you walk alongside another, you may be ridiculed, mocked, and hated too. When you love others, you may experience a miracle. I am convinced there is no other way to show the love of God except to let God love the unloveable through you. If we were doing this, maybe . . . Just maybe we, the Body of Christ, would be hunted too.