Epiphany 5 – A Day in the Life of Jesus

February 4 2018
READINGS:
Isaiah 40: 21-~ 1 Corinthians 9: 16-23 ~ Mark 1: 29-39

A Day in the Life of Jesus

When then people are in exile in Babylon, Isaiah uses some wonderful imagery to remind the people of the greatness of God – a deity who can roll back the sky like a curtain and look down from such a height that humans appear like grasshoppers. By speaking of a transcendent God who is above and beyond even the most powerful rulers of the day, Isaiah is reminding the people that earthly rulers do not last forever. Eventually they wither and die. Only God is eternal. So, hold on, says Isaiah, this too will pass, and God will lead you home.

Ours is not a God of quick fixes but a God who waits for the right time to act.  And sometimes that can seem like a very long wait. That’s why it’s also important to know that ours is not just a God out there, somewhere, but a God who is also right here with us, in the trenches of everyday life. Which brings us to a gospel that seems to be written for us today.

Through a series of brief, rapidly changing scenes, the writer describes a very busy day in the life of Jesus.  It begins in the synagogue, where Jesus astounds the people with his teaching, authority, and healing power. That was last week’s message.

After synagogue, Jesus and his followers head to Peter and Andrew’s house for lunch.  But before they can eat, Jesus has to heal Peter’s mother-in-law. After they eat, Jesus spends the rest of the day teaching and healing the townspeople who congregate at the house. Then Jesus finally gets some well-earned rest.

Even Jesus needs to sleep. He also needs some quiet time.  Just before dawn, Jesus goes off by himself, to pray. The disciples go looking for him.  Everyone is searching for you, they say. And Jesus says, It’s time to move on – go to the neighbouring towns to proclaim the message of the kingdom – for that is what I came to do.

Philip Yancy writes that we see heaven’s will for earth lived out in Jesus. He healed the sick, comforted the grieving, lifted up the downtrodden. He always stood for life and not death, for hope and not despair, for freedom and not bondage. Every time we pray, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, Yancy says, we are asking for help to be like – live like – Jesus.

There is much that we can learn from today’s gospel about how to live out that prayer, that mission.

First, we are reminded that while Jesus’ ministry of teaching and healing begins in the synagogue, it doesn’t end there. He takes it out into the local community and then into the neighbouring towns.  As we take up the work of Jesus, our ministry must not be confined to Sunday mornings or our church building

If our ministry is authentic, it’s not something we leave behind on the way out.  It’s something we carry with us as part of our very being. Into our homes, our workplaces, our social time – everywhere we go.

The second insight is about self care.  This ministry can be physically, emotionally and spiritually draining. Acknowledging the limitations of his human condition, Jesus turns to the source of all his energy, and he is renewed.  And, as the human Jesus needs to take time out to be refreshed, so do we.  Only God does not grow weary; only God can give us the power and strength we need.

So, if we are to successfully sustain the mission to which we are called, then we need to follow the pattern of spiritual living practised by Jesus. Like him, we need to establish a healthy rhythm of service and Sabbath, to include in our busy schedules regular times of stillness and quiet when we are simply attentive to God’s presence.

And this is important for another reason. When the disciples find Jesus after his prayer time, he informs them that it is time to move on.  And this comes as a bit if a surprise. After the overwhelming success of the previous day, the disciples may have expected Jesus to set up shop so that the people could flock to him in Capernaum. But Jesus knows that he must stay focused on the goal of his mission and that is not to become merely a famous miracle worker. That is just a sign of the presence of the kingdom – not the whole thing.  His real task is to spread the good news of God’s healing realm as broadly as possible and to get others involved in the process. After his early morning chat with God, Jesus knows it’s time to move on.

Spending time in quiet attentiveness to God’s presence is not only renewing, it provides us with an opportunity to reflect on and assess the progress of our own ministry and to ask for directions. It is really important that we check in with God on a regular basis to make sure that we’re on the right track, for while prayer without action is incomplete, action without prayer can be seriously misguided.

Finally, it is important to keep in mind that, like the early disciples, we are not the whole story.  As Oscar Romero wrote –

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.  Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us. 

No statement says all that could be said. No prayer fully expresses our faith.

No confession brings perfection, no pastoral visit brings wholeness. No program accomplishes the church’s mission. No set of goals and objectives includes everything. 

This is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one day will grow.  We water seeds already planted, knowing that the future holds promise.  We lay foundations that will need further development.  We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities. We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.  This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.

It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.  We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master-builder and the worker. We are workers, not master-builders; ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own!

God grant us the will, wisdom and courage to do our part along the way.  Amen.

Pat Martin +