Sermon Village MCC, 4th February 2018
Mark 1: 29-39
Jesus Heals Many at Simon’s House
29 As soon as they[a] left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31 He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
32 That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34 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.
A Preaching Tour in Galilee
35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37 When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” 38 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.” 39 And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.
I’m in two minds about Mark the gospel writer. On the one hand, it’s short and to the point, and you don’t need a PhD to understand the half of what he’s saying. Unlike, say, John!
On the other hand, Mark’s just so…excitable. Mark’s Jesus is a man of action. Luke, Matthew, they remember the storytelling, they remember sitting by the lake or on the hillside; they remember Jesus’ deep knowledge of scripture, all the sayings that he came out with. John, in particular, had a massive focus on the things that Jesus said. Mark’s more interested in what he did. Not for him long, long sermons that take three or four chapters to recount. He’s on to the next miracle!
And he loves his dramatic exaggeration as well. He’s like a proper Welsh storyteller. Everything is all or nothing. Everything happens ‘at once’, ‘straight away’, ‘suddenly’. It happens with ‘everyone’, ‘the whole town’, ‘all of Judaea’. There’s no half-measures, with Mark. Everything is full-on, all the time, and you’d think that Jesus did the journey from Galilee to Jerusalem at a dead run.
You know, I think that ten years or so ago, I’d have loved that. And I still enjoy the storytelling and the drama and the hyperbole, you know, good Welsh storytelling. There’s no point in describing something if you’re going to make it sound boring. But Mark’s on-the-double picture of Jesus’ ministry – which went everywhere, did everything, was spoken about by everyone – it’s exhausting!
I’m more at home these days with Matthew. Take the weight off, have a chat, share some loaves and fishes, have another chat.. And yet, it’s Mark, not Matthew, who remembers this moment, when Jesus went off, by himself – not leaping up in the morning to see the next lot of hungry miracle-seekers, but by himself, to have a break, chat to his Parent – chill out.
Jesus was a very active Messiah. He went a lot of places, did a lot of things, he saw a lot of people. But active isn’t busy. Jesus isn’t busy. Because ‘busy’ is the kind of action that never looks up from rushing about, to ask, ‘am I actually rushing about the right thing here?’ ‘is this actually the best thing for me to be doing right now?’ It never asks ‘do I really need to be busy about this?’
And ‘busy’ gets interrupted, not by stillness and calm, but by collapse and total crash. Stopping not to re-centre ourselves on God, but because frankly we’ve got no energy to keep going. Some of us collapse more often than not. We all have different levels of energy, some of us can manage a bit of busy before collapsing, some of us can manage quite a lot of busy but we’re still going to crash at some point. It’s the same cycle.
Jesus knows how to do everything. And how to do nothing. Jesus knows how to fall asleep in a boat in a storm. And he’s totally calm about it. He wakes up, they’re all panicking, and he says ‘it’s alright. Calm down.’ And the waves… chill out.
He knows when to act and he knows when to pray. Not just answering the needs and demands of those clamouring the nearest and the loudest. He can step back, he can re-centre, and know the right place, and the right people.
Because even Jesus couldn’t please all of the people, all of the time. You’ve only got to take a cursory glance across the gospels to see that he spent quite a lot of time very much not pleasing all of the people, all of the time. Because he knew who he needed to be answering, and who he quite frankly did not need to be answering. And who he needed to say yes to, and who he needed to say no to.
My own experience has been a pretty extreme one with busy-and-crash, and saying yes and saying no. I got to a point some time ago, where I had – I can think of at least 8 people off the top of my head – all saying to me: ‘you need to look after yourself, you’re overdoing it’ and at the same time ‘but, I need’ or ‘I expect, you to make me a priority’. You know ‘Relax, don’t overdo things, but keep overdoing them for me’. And I kept saying Yes. And I never said No. And I broke.
I broke completely. I ran away from all my responsibilities, because frankly I didn’t know which ones I had to say No to. And I couldn’t do it anymore. But I got given a second chance. That wasn’t it for me and responsibility. I got given a chance to pick up the right responsibilities. The ones that were for me.
Because what had happened was that I didn’t know how to stop, to be myself and know myself. To be centred. And to let God tell me which of these demands I was supposed to answer, and which ones I couldn’t. And which ones were frankly someone else’s job to answer. I had to learn that I couldn’t please all of the people, all of the time. I had to learn that I wasn’t God!
I’ve got to tell you that I still struggle with this. I still mistake the busy / crash cycle for Jesus’ stillness and action pattern. I still have trouble telling the difference at times. I almost feel like I shouldn’t be doing this talk. There are people in this church who have got a much better grip on being still and listening to God than I have. I only learnt this stuff because God left me no choice.
And maybe I can’t live up to Mark’s go-everywhere, do-everything Jesus. Or even other people I admire. Maybe I’ve got to accept that I have less energy than some of my heroes. I’ve got limits. I’m me. I’m now, not me 10 years ago – not ‘Peta-with-the-duracell-batteries’. Now I need to rest a lot more.
Some of us need a lot of rest, some of us need less. God knows how much we need. And even Jesus needed down-time. You know, in the same story in Luke, all the people of the town, Capernaum, came out because they wanted to make him stay. They wanted him to be their full-time miracle-man, their prophet. And so also a lot of places wanted him to stay. But God knew better. Jesus asked ‘am I supposed to stay here?’ God said ‘No. You’re supposed to go on to the other towns and villages, for my message is for them also’. There was only one Jesus, and God had a plan for him.
Oddly enough, although we know that God demands of us all that we are, all that we have, and all that we will be, actually God’s way isn’t as demanding as human beings are. Because God is ultimately realistic. God really knows us, knows what we can and we can’t do, knows how much energy we’ve got. Knows who else is there to pick up the jobs we have said no to. Knows who didn’t really need as much as they were asking us for. God knows all that.
As human beings we’re constantly either over- or under-estimating ourselves, and over- or under-estimating each other. Because we’re not God. We can’t see everything that God sees. So we need to step back. Stop. Find ourselves. Let that still, small voice nudge us – ‘No’ to this one, ‘Yes’ to this. There may be a lot that needs doing. There is a lot that needs doing. But no one of us is ever going to be able to do all of it!
You know, there was work enough in every town and village and city in Galilee and Judaea for a dozen Jesus’s. But there was only one Jesus, who went off to be alone with God, to chill, to tune out the crowds, and ask ‘what next?. What’s my next ‘yes’? What’s my next ‘no’?’ There was only one Jesus, there’s only one you, there’s only one me. We answer only to God, in the end, for what we did or didn’t do. We can’t be God. We can’t be aware of everything, we can’t get everything right. That’s God’s job.
Maybe we will disappoint someone with our ‘no’. They wanted a yes. Maybe we were meant to disappoint a few people with our ‘no’. Maybe someone else was meant to give them that ‘yes’.
To do it like Jesus did, to find the right yes, and the right no, is all about trust. Trust God’s got this. Listen and trust that God will tell me if this is my ‘yes’. Because if Jesus had stayed to heal all of Capernaum and teach everyone in town to be a disciple, the gospel would have got no further. It would have stayed in Capernaum. There would have been no Jerusalem, no Passion, no resurrection. But he didn’t know all those stages ahead at that time. He just knew that God knew. And he went and he prayed and he asked.
So saying ‘no’ to the blur of here and now, all those things flashing and beeping at us – reminders and social media and adverts and people and things – to say ‘no’ to that, we’ve got to say ‘yes’ to God. Find time to centre and listen, so that the energy and the strength that we do have, no matter how much or how little, is spent on the right stuff.
So chill out. God’s got this!