The Spirit of God on the Loose
February 5, 2012
Text: Mark 1: 29-39
Rev John Benham
This morning I have a new toy (an ipad) for holding my notes and one day I’ll figure out the technology to use the screen as I preach. Yesterday, it was such a pleasure to work with Tom Watson as former minister of Trinity as we officiated at the wedding of a wonderful couple and bride who was raised here at Trinity. Tom was scrolling through the service with his ipad and I was fumbling along with my paper notes. Tom’s graciously offered me some lessons on the ipad!
If I was to ask you this morning what “sustains” you for the journey of life I’m curious to know what you might say? Feel free to shout them out! (family & friends, faith, prayer, God,) I have to tell you that I didn’t realize how much a dog could mean to your life until our twelve year old golden retriever died the other week. She offered our family many wonderful memories and now we dearly miss her presence. She also got me up in the morning and out the door for a walk!
Mark’s story of Jesus’ healing of a woman, departure for a quiet place to pray and sense that he was called to proclaim God’s love offers us a powerful message for the church of today and for our personal journeys. The Spirit of God is on the loose! I think we would agree that “relationships” are central to our lives and where we experience the most joy and sometimes the most pain.
I think this story reveals three gifts for our journey.
ii) Heals people
iii) Sustain people the journey
Jesus Builds people upIt’s been almost four weeks since my ski accident and I can’t tell you how much it’s meant to be surrounded by caring people and positive energy. I’m really enjoying my physiotherapist and I’ll miss him when I’m ready to move one. I’m also humbled by those people I’ve known in my life who live with daily chronic pain or physical limitations in their life and I’ve come to respect how precious it is to walk or run.
The gift of healing is a mysterious thing. We know that everyone is healed physically even after all the prayers, but there is something to be said about emotional healing that builds us up to continue the journey. Three weeks ago I couldn’t even look at a ski hill feeling quite discouraged and as I’ve slowly experience improvements I’ve begun to have hope to ski again (maybe not black diamond!) I’ve been with some very sick people who have profoundly expressed the power of emotional healing.
It’s quite evident that Jesus is great a hit in town in his earliest days of ministry. He’s offering dynamic preaching, with an equally powerful act, expelling the demon from a man in the crowd. Demons for me can be worries or road blocks to wholeness. People are talking about Jesus, spreading the word. They are energized!
Then Jesus slips into a private home, Simon's home, next to the synagogue. Recent archaeological discoveries suggest that Simon's house can be found, "with its northern wall right under the synagogue balcony”. Talk about a manse attached to the church! The mother-in-law (nameless, again, like many women in the Bible and history) is in a bad way. She's very sick, probably not with a cold or the flu but with something more serious and she’s become isolated from others and can’t be the hospitality host of her family so she couldn't take her place in the community.
Jesus HealsJesus doesn’t ask her for some great faith statement or creed. He reaches out to touch her and lifts her up and she becomes whole. The mystery of touch and it can make all the difference in the world. While studying theology my mentor Don had suggested to me that one of the greatest gifts we can give a patient is a gentle touch. A tap on the hand or toe to assure them that they are not alone. I can’t quite explain Therapeutic touch but it makes a difference. I’m a hugging person but I do honour that it’s not for everyone. I think of my military friend who I wouldn’t dare hug or he might put me in a headlock but I know that his firm handshake is as much an expression of love as any hug.
What a great metaphor for the church. Christ touches our lives we become whole and in the story the wonderful woman is back serving God. Jesus could have started a mega healing centre and stayed in one place but he longed to teach his followers how to heal each other by trusting in God.
May we also remember that Jesus will get himself in trouble for healing on the wrong day! It was the Sabbath and the religious/church police keep the rules. Jesus keeps the well being of people at the heart of his journey. All congregations long for more young people, but that means respecting their needs too. It might be drums or an electric sound or relaxed style of worship. Jesus longs for wholeness for all ages!
Jesus sustains people for JourneyMy mother lived and breathed the church. She was a “minister” in the best sense of that word to care for people. She loved leading the Jr. Choir, and leading the Sunday School for 20 plus year. Mary Lou was one of the pillars of ministry. But some days she would get discouraged. She would get upset about some decisions. She would vent on me about her ministers (awkward since of them were my friends), but she also loved them dearly.
I would say “Mom, you’re over churched, (code word for burn out!) time to take a break”. We can all loose perspective when we become too immersed in anything. Before she died I had the wonderful gift of asking her to share with me some of her happiest moments in life. I was surprised that she didn’t name her “church lady” days because later in life she found more balance. She found some of her most meaningful years after the kids left home!! We were spoiled with stay home mom. Mary Lou found work in a court house and loved watching people battle it out in small claims court as she held the Bible up when they came before the judge. Watching her church friends battle it out was most entertaining! Maybe the church didn’t look so bad after all but she found more balance for her journey! It’s tough when your gas tank is empty and that’s when we need our connection to God more than ever,
After Jesus heals he gets out of town to pray. He does it over and over again to be with God! When Simon finds him in prayer a part from others he’s in disbelief that Jesus doesn’t want to stay in town to keep up the miracles. To be fair to Simon, he’s given up his life of fishing to join Jesus but the one he loves confronts him with boundaries. Its tough saying “no” to the people we love, but Jesus knows why we need to do it. We need to deepen our relationship with God and our selves or we’ll be unable to care for others. Mark’s Gospel will reveal that Jesus will have an ongoing tension with his dearest disciples. I know we dislike tension but it’s a part of relationship and discerning priorities and creating healthy boundaries. It would seem that while Jesus prays his disciples worry!
Two weeks today you’ll be hearing about some dreams from your church Council. We need to pray about these dreams. We hope you will share your own dreams and together we’ll research them and create future action plans. Yes, dreams often include “change”. A creative congregation in downtown Calgary is growing with a simple motto. “Change nothing and nothing ever changes”. I’m not suggesting we through the baby out with the bath water for we do have rich traditions that are a blessing of comfort, but let’s remember that God’s Spirit is on the loose and not static. Gaylyn and I really feel a sense of energy and joy flows so naturally from this congregation!
So, here’s my prayer and maybe my homework for you this week.
- Jesus was great at building people up. Find someone you can affirm with words, or a card or flowers or whatever way you wish!
- Try something new. I’m not suggesting you bungee jump, or even try sushi, but try something new for you this week.
- This is the hardest one for me. Take time to be apart like Jesus did. I recall a friend in Burlington who began every morning watching the sunrise. With coffee in hand he found that quiet time alone sustaining for his life.