Tuesday, February 3, 2009

This week's scriptures are Isaiah 40:21-31 and Mark 1:29-39.

The picture painted by Mark in this week's scripture is a busy one. No sooner has Jesus had the encounter with the man with a demon in the synagogue, then he is off to the house of Simon and Andrew. There Jesus heals Simon's mother-in-law who is sick with a fever. Next thing you know, the house is surrounded that evening by those who were ill, possessed, or suffered from diseases. We're told that "the whole town was there, gathered at the door."

Mark is very focused on Jesus' action. This is the Kingdom of God on the move; the Power of God Loose in the World. From the very beginning of the Gospel Mark wants to make the point that Jesus' intention is to break down all the barriers between us and God; to get rid of all the things that impinge upon humankind: illness, disease, 'demons' (who represented both mental illnesses and those diseases, like epilepsy, which people did not understand)....all of these were taken on squarely by the coming of the Kingdom in the person of Jesus.

Our passage from Isaiah makes the point explicitly that the God who is at work here is the one so far above the earth and its inhabitants that they "appear as grasshoppers." And yet.....and yet....this is the same God who promises that "those who look to the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar as on eagles' wings; they will run and not feel faint, march on and not grow weary." This is the same God whom Jesus claims to be ushering in the Kingdom for.

So....here is the Power of God Loose in the World (I really like that phrase; it isn't mine, but I like it anyway) and what does it do? Does it strike down the Romans? Does it attack the political stucture?

Though these things are ultimately affected; Jesus' actions are not broad stroke, sweeping actions. They are intimate, personal inter-actions with ordinary people in the midst of their own pain and struggle.

Jesus'....and hence God's.....care for us is as individual, particular people. God's desire is to touch us intimately at the place of our deepest need, our deepest pain. To God, as represented by Jesus, we're not some lump of humanity. We're Stephen who struggles with "X"; Mary who suffers from "Y"; John who's dealing with "Z."

Historically, 'movements' have quickly lost contact with the specific, real life, particular people they were created to help. And there are those who could make a case (and a reasonable one) that the Church has fallen prey to this same shortcoming.

But if we look at Jesus as the representative of God's power and intention; and if we look at Him, as well, as the example and role model for our work as God's people; we see a clear and unmistakable focus. Jesus is showing us that God's care is not some vague, general concern for humanity (remember Lucy from Peanuts saying, "I love humanity; it's people I can't stand"). Jesus is telling us that God cares about you and me; in all our brokenness, all our pain, all our struggle....individually, particularly, personally.

To me, that is real good news.

Hope to see you Sunday.


Jeremy said...

I'm looking forward to hearing more about this on Sunday - especially interesting was your thought that movements tend to lose touch with real life fairly quickly. That is certainly another way to look at the obsession with rules (personified in Pharisees) that were once helpful but became part of the problem ultimately. Seeing Jesus as seeking to reconnect "the movement" to the principal players - God, humanity, individuals....well, I think it's another useful message.

Thanks Stephen! See you Sunday.

Jeremy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeremy said...

Had to change the upload date - 02-13-09.

Great sermon, Stephen. Wow. This is one of the many reasons I like you and enjoy learning from you - you can deliver a powerful hard hitting sermon without beating anyone with it.