Saturday, February 7, 2015

What’s in a day?

Mark 1: 29-39

Jesus has had a day! He preached or taught in the synagogue. His remarks were different from those of other rabbis; the folks said he taught with authority. We know he spoke with God’s authority and wisdom. I have some idea of what it takes to teach and preach.
He dialogued with an unclean spirit and cast him out of the man he was possessing. How much of the conversation was included, and how much was the story in Mark a summary of a much longer conversation? How much energy does it take to do battle with an unclean spirit?
He healed Simon Peter’s mother-in-law. We should notice here that at least one of the disciples was married. Simon Peter has a mother-in-law, so he has to have a wife. The men went home to Simon Peter’s house after worship in the synagogue and discovered that the mother-in-law (let’s call her Mom) had a fever. Jesus went to her, took her by the hand, and she was healed.
After the Sabbath day ended, Jesus went outside and discovered that there were countless people outside Simon Peter’s door waiting to be healed. At some point Jesus muse have said, “I am finished for tonight.” And he went inside the house and went to bed. How much did it take to heal all these people?
I imagine Jesus was exhausted, physically, mentally, and spiritually. He went to bed, slept and was refreshed for the next day. I wonder if he saw all those sick and possessed people in his dreams. I wonder if he realized that this was what his life would be like every single day.
He had an answer for the stress and exhaustion. He got up early in the day, went to a quiet place, and prayed. I assume he prayed for strength, for stamina, for wisdom.
And for guidance. Should he stay in Capernaum and heal everyone in town, or move on without seeing everyone who needed him? The answer came clearly in his prayers. It was impossible to heal everyone, everywhere, but it was important to heal people in as many towns as possible to spread the good news as far as possible.
Jesus needed this balance in his life: days full of ministering to hurting people and sharing the good news of God’s love and forgiveness; and time away spent in prayer, recharging his spirits for the work he was sent to do.
… I notice also that as soon as Mom was healed, she got up and served the men their after-Sabbath worship meal. Women’s role in Jesus’ time was to serve the men of the household, and most women prided themselves on doing their job well. It was what they did. In this case, I can only begin to imagine how she felt.
Fevers today cause us to be concerned. We take two aspirins and call the doctor in the morning if we are not better. If we need an antibiotic, there are many to choose from, depending on the cause of the infection.
But in Jesus’ time, fevers were scary because they were deadly. There were few medicines to deal with fevers, and little scientific knowledge to understand the causes and cures for them. Mom may have had a passing illness, or a deadly disease. The text doesn’t say.
When she was healed, she was so fully healed, she was happy to be able to serve her men again. I notice this about Jesus’ healings: when Jesus heals someone, there is complete and total healing.
When I have had bronchitis, and start on antibiotics, I feel better, but it is days or even weeks before I am back to normal. Jesus healed the mother-in-law and she was ready to serve immediately.
When people have knee replacements, they are not usually ready to get up and walk that afternoon. Jesus heals the lame and they take up their mats and walk away.
When people have cataract surgery, they do not see clearly right away; they need time for the dilation to reduce, and the incision to close. They need drops in the eyes for a couple of weeks. But when Jesus heals blind people they not only see well immediately, they also know what they are seeing. – There is one instance when it takes Jesus two tries to finish the job, but in all other cases, the healing is complete on the first try.
We don’t hear about Mom taking time to pray as Jesus did. But she may have. At least she must have prayed for healing and given thanks when she was healed. But we don’t know if she took time, as Jesus did, to spend time with God. We do get the sense that she saw this service as a joy, not simply a duty because she was a woman.
I wonder if she saw Jesus as a role model for her own faith and began to take intentional time each day to pray, to spend time with God. I have a hunch that it was not common to take such retreats. Otherwise, the disciples would not have interrupted Jesus in his prayers.
… We, too, have long, busy days. Our days are filled with fun and stressful and boring and restful events from the time we get up until the time we go to bed. We go to work; we volunteer at the church, at the VFW, at the Park, at SOS – the food pantry, with the Scouts; we cook and we eat; we shop and we clean; we work on projects – fixing cars, creating crafts, sewing quilts, knitting and crocheting shawls and blankets; we watch TV and we read books and we play video games; we gather with family and friends and spend time alone. So much activity to fill our days.
I suspect that most of us get up in the morning and go to bed at night without having spent much time with God. There is so much to do, we don’t have much, if any, time left for God.
My hunch is that Mom – Simon Peter’s mother-in-law – did not take much time for prayer other than that required for daily and weekly rituals. Jesus had a different idea. Jesus believed that it was essential for his life and ministry to spend significant time with God, not just in ritual actions but simply “hanging out” with God.
When we spend time hanging out with God, we learn to listen more than we speak. We learn what God wants for our lives. We hear how much God loves us and forgives us. If we pay attention, we can discover God’s purpose for us in God’s world. And we can be refreshed by our time with God in the same way that Jesus was.

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, you call us to join you in prayer. Remind us often to come and wait in your presence. Fill us with your wisdom, your guidance, and your peace. Refresh us for life and ministry in your name for your purposes. Amen