Posted by: skokiecentralchurch | February 8, 2015

2015.02.08 “A Day in the Life” – Mark 1: 29 – 39

Central United Methodist Church
A Day in the Life
Pastor David L. Haley
Mark 1: 29 – 39
February 8, 2015
JesusRaisingSimon'sMother-in-Law

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 sunset, 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.” – Mark 1: 29 – 39

Here’s a question for you: If I were to follow you around for a day, what would I learn about you? What would I learn about the fruits your life is bearing, and what would I learn about the roots of your life that sustain you?

Many of us might say, “It depends which day you choose.”  Some days we are bored out of your mind, with not much to show for it. Those of us who lead full lives by being spouses who each work a full time job as well as parents, often feel that there is not enough time in the day to do everything that needs to be done. In addition to the “big stuff” of our lives, such as relation- ships and jobs, there is all the logistics required to support this: food to be bought and prepared and cleaned up after, the garbage to be taken out, clothes to be washed and sorted. As we go from one task to the other, most of the time it’s nothing worth writing home about.

There are other days, of course, when we feel frantic, even overwhelmed, even when it’s a good day and we get what we want accomplished. One of those days where there are people to be seen and meetings to attend and planning to be done and all those things necessary to accomplish whatever our job is in life.  At the end of such days –even if it’s a good day – we may feel overwhelmed and spent and exhausted. How then do we find renewal, for the similar days sure to come?

It’s an interesting premise, isn’t it, to follow someone around for a day? Whenever I hear young people say they’d like to do something, like be a police officer or firefighter or teacher or doctor, I recommend they find someone who actually does those jobs that they might spend a day with. Being a police officer is not all about action; for every call they make they have to spend time writing it up; that’s what those police cars are doing in parking lots, when you see them. If you want to be a firefighter, you’re not going to spend all day fighting fires or working crashes or cardiac arrests, you’re also going to spend a lot of time dealing with drunks and domestics and even cleaning toilets. If you want to be a doctor, you’re going to spend a minimum of six years post-undergraduate, only to discover you’ll see a patient for 5 minutes and then spend 20 minutes writing up the chart and filling out insurance forms.

It might be exciting if we could spend a day with our favorite movie star or action hero or even the President; who wouldn’t want to ride in Air Force One or Marine One or even the beast, the Presidential limousine. And, if we’re imagining, let’s go historical: who in history might we want to spend a day with: Babe Ruth? Winston Churchill? (It’s said that Churchill suffered from insomnia, and walked around at night in the nude drinking Scotch; we might be in for more than we bargained for?) Abraham Lincoln? Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart? Genghis Khan? Alexander the Great?

Here’s one: how about Jesus? In today’s story from the Gospel, that is what we get to do, spend a day with Jesus.  Contrary to popular opinion, it will not be dull, but exciting. When we do, not only do we get to see the fruits of Jesus’ life and ministry, but also the roots, how he connected with God to keep from being completely overwhelmed.

As those who were here last week know (and there weren’t many, given the weather), Jesus’ day is well underway when we join him. It happens to be the Sabbath, and Jesus has already been to the synagogue in Capernaum, where he is living, where in the synagogue he had a head-on confrontation with a man with an unclean spirit, which Jesus cast out (the unclean spirit, not the man.) We assume the man then resumed his usual role of non-descript pew sitter, perhaps even helping take up the offering.

Afterwards, Jesus and his disciples (4 so far) file out of the synagogue, buzzing about what had happened, to head for Simon Peter’s home for further discussion and most importantly, lunch. I’ve been to Capernaum, it’s not far from the ruins of the ancient synagogue to what is thought to be the remains of Simon Peter’s house.  But even though it’s not far, when they got there, they discovered the roast brisket or fried chicken was not ready, in fact not even started, because Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, the chief cook, was in bed with a fever. Perhaps because they were all hungry, Mark says they told Jesus about her “immediately.” Maybe Jesus was hungry too, because he took her by the hand and raised her up, healing her of the fever. And then it says a strange thing: “The fever left her, and she began to serve them.” Was this a utilitarian healing, to get lunch started? Don’t you think Simon Peter could have told her to take it easy, and pitched in, or taken the whole party to “eat out”, seeing as how she’s just off her sickbed?

But perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to judge, because this was part of Jesus’ ministry of restoring lives. Not only did Jesus reflect the desire and nature of God to cast out everything in our lives that makes us less than God intends us to be, Jesus also practiced a restorative ministry. He restored people not only to health but to community. The man in the synagogue with an unclean spirit would surely have been cast out, alienated and exiled. But with his unclean spirit cast out, he could resume his rightful place in the synagogue, and in community.

As a woman in that time and place, Simon’s mother-in-law could not fulfill her role in the family as long as she was sick with fever. But as soon as she is healed and feels better, she could not wait to do her job and fulfill her role, which was to prepare food and practice hospitality.  We don’t learn her name, not to mention what she looked like, but Simon’s mother-in-law reminds me of my grandmother, always cooking for our family.  I swear 90% percent of my memories of my grandmother are in the kitchen; it was something that she – out of her life – gave us. If she had not been able to do that, both her life and our lives would have been diminished.

If we think about it, we understand. Because even now, to be sick in any way not only makes us feel bad physically, it affects us socially. We may not be able to interact with our family, we cannot do our jobs either at home or at work, and – depending upon how bad we are, whether with contagious diseases such as measles or Ebola, we may even be exiled and cut off from community. In our society, the sicker we are, the more isolated we become, put off in the corner of some intensive care, nursing home, psychiatric ward, or specialized institution.

Just ask those who are homeless, or who suffer from mental illness or handicapping or debilitating conditions, if they feel they are all they could be? I’m not sure which is worse, the stigma placed upon us by others, or that which we place upon ourselves, that because of our circumstances or situation – over which we may even have little control – we are prevented from living a full life in society, a second class citizen.

This is why, in his ministry, Jesus desired to restore wholeness in every way, Jesus not only restoring people to health but to their place in society. Should those of us who desire to follow Jesus not only for a day but for a lifetime, do any less? And so we pray and we work not only for healing, but for justice and equality for all people, that they might be restored to their rightful place in community and society.

When word of what happened spread through Galilee, you can imagine what happened next. The text says, “That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door.” Can you imagine the scene when all those suffering some affliction converged upon Simon’s house? Screaming and yelling, pushing, the grass getting trampled and the door torn off the hinges, even people urinating in the alley; it must have looked like a scene out of The Walking Dead. Quite a first day of public ministry!

Finally, the day came to an end. Doesn’t say how, whether Jesus gave a benediction and sent them all home, whether they locked the door and hit in the closet, or whether Simon’s mother-in-law finally just said, “You know, it’s been a long day – especially for me – and I’m not fixing dinner for ALL you people, so why don’t you just run along home now!” And so Jesus, his disciples and friends, all got some relief and some rest.

Accompanying Jesus, we lay in bed, reflecting back over the day. That thing in the synagogue, the episode with Simon’s mother-in-law, all that sea of human need that converged on Simon’s house. What a day! It feels good to stretch out and reflect, and wonder what will tomorrow bring.

But then it feels like we have been asleep very long, when in the dark we feel a gentle nudge, lifting us up, just as Jesus had lifted up Simon’s mother-in-law. “Time to go!” “Go? Go where; it’s pitch black outside!”  “Time to pray,” says Jesus.

Perhaps Jesus leads us down to the seaside, like this place.  Or, up to a mountain overlooking the Sea of Galilee and Capernaum and all the surrounding towns, their lights glowing in the early morning light. Wherever it was, there he retreated to pray, seeking guidance and strength from God his Father.

As it was then, so it still remains; these are the two essential movements of the spiritual life: ministry in community; communion with God in silence. Either without the other is incomplete. Without silence and centering, we are soon overwhelmed and lost; without community and ministry to others, we are only engaging in another form of narcissistic naval gazing. Let me put it this way: if Jesus had to spend time with God in silence it, even in the midst of his busy ministry, why do we think we can get along without it ourselves

I’m not saying it’s easy; in fact, given all we try to cram into our days it’s almost impossible. I already know some of you get up at 4 in the morning; I don’t consider it likely that you’ll now be getting up at 3:30 to spend 30 minutes in meditation. You will have to find your own way and time, whether that is a cup of coffee in the study or on the porch before you leave, or in the car on your morning commute. In the midst of our busy lives, some how we have to find ways to make it work.

I am a pastor, a spiritual leader, yet I too struggle with keeping these two aspects of my spiritual life together also, ministry in community and communion with God in solitude. Yes, I can “hold my breath” when the schedule gets crowded, but not for long: soon I too start feeling depleted and drained. The 16th century German Reformer Martin Luther is famous for saying, “I have so much to do today that I’m going to need to spend three hours in prayer in order to be able to get it all done. As Jesus teaches us in this story, sometimes prayer and retreat is the best use of our time, even in the tyranny of the urgent.  Please know that I’m not saying this to make any of us feel guilty (including me); I’m just describing what I believe to be spiritual reality.

Even Jesus retreat was not to last long. Soon – discovering him missing – Simon Peter and Andrew and James and John came looking for him, like elephants barging through the underbrush.  “Jesus, where have you been? What are you doing here? Praying? Really? Don’t you know that everyone is looking for you?” And Jesus said, “Then 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.”

Those are the words of a man who knows what he is about, quite likely because of the time he has spent with God in prayer. Mark Twain once said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

Jesus knew that; our question is, “Do we?” If someone were to follow us around for just one day, as we have in this day in the life of Jesus, could they see it in the fruits and the roots of our life?  With God’s help, may it be so.  Amen.

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