Kenora Epiphany + 5
7 February 2021
Psalm 147:1-12, 21c
1 Corinthians 9:16-13
Almighty God, by whose grace alone we are accepted and called to your service: strengthen us by your Holy Spirit and make us worthy of our calling; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Today, I want to look at a very important part of Jesus teaching.
Something that often gets jettisoned from each of our lives at the earliest notion of a busy day, a busy week, or even a busy month.
Today, the gospel tells us: “35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.” (Mk 1:35)
The gospel makes a point of letting us know that Jesus got up, went apart from absolutely everyone and everything, and he prayed.
And you have to remember that this is only Mark’s first chapter, which means Jesus has been a very, very busy person as he is baptized, tempted, establishes his ministry and his message, calls his first companions / disciples and begins to get to the work that God needs from the Messiah.
In some ways it reminds me of the efforts of someone starting up their own company, the trials and tribulations along the way. But where Jesus intentionally takes time to rest, rejuvenate, and refocus, humanity often just pushes through until we suffer the ill-effects of our lifestyle choices in the form of burnout or depression.
To put it in modern terms, lets envision Jesus early morning sojourn this way.
After sundown, the people just kept coming to Simon’s house, each one just needing to see the effect of healing in the lives of those who they love. And he couldn’t turn anyone away. It was a long evening of healing people, and talking to them, and casting out demons,
When he had sat with the last person and their family member, Jesus caught a few hours of exhausted sleep on Simon Peter’s couch. The rest of the disciples either went to their homes, or had bunked down in the guest room long before the last of the people came to see Jesus.
Early in the morning, Jesus wakes up, and quietly gets up, puts on a pot of coffee, and after filling a cup, he heads out the back door of the house, and goes up into the hills, and the bush behind.
The sun is just beginning to rise, the light is colouring the sky to the east, and the cool of the morning air still holds sway, causing the coffee in the cup to steam and to his hand, as he walks into the brush and trees.
After going a way into the bush, he finds a clearing where he can sit down, and watch the sun rise, and while he’s there, he prays.
He asks God for direction; he seeks to know the will of God in his next step; he prays for those who are embarking on their journey with him to learn from him, and to take the lead when the time is right.
At the same time, he watches the sun rise. He feels the growing warmth of the day on his face and limbs, he drinks his coffee, and he listens to the sounds of the birds and the small animals waking up and beginning their day.
When the sun is truly up, shining brightly above the horizon, another beautiful day has begun, and the disciples all sweaty and bothered from their search and their concern at waking up and finding him gone, find him here.
Here he sits, calmly finishing his now cooled cup of coffee, and enjoying the bright sunshine on his face, as the birds fly to and frow, the insects are active in the flowers and the trees, and the small animals are looking for their own breakfast. Jesus took an intentional period of Sabbath.
Our gospel tells us: “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.”” (Mk 1:36-38)
Jesus, in the pressures of the day, in the need to find direction, took time apart to pray and to reconnect with the divine so that instead of staying in Capernaum, as the people would have wanted, he knows to keep going, to take his message to the people instead of expecting everyone to come to Capernaum to seek out the Son of Man.
I remember when I was growing up, that my parents would come home from work, and work would stay at their workplaces. Now (yes, I’m about to date myself) this was before the days of personal computers. This was before mobile, cellular, or even cordless phones. In fact, this was just before the cassette tape answering machine entered the house for the first time.
In general, it was a time between the tasks that drew one’s attention out into the world, and the tasks of the home and family.
But at the same time, it was a period of rest, of relaxation, and of regeneration, of sabbath in a daily routine.
And we are able to see this modeled by Jesus, today, as well, as he intentionally takes Sabbath time in his busy life.
But it doesn’t stop there.
Since then, our computers have followed us home, and have begun to dominate our time, and our attention, such practices as I saw modeled growing up seem to be harder to pin down, to make a regular practice and to bring into our lifestyles, these days, as a daily activity.
Add into this the fact that with the pandemic, the continuous use of technology has become our work from home ‘go to’, as well as the consistent way that we’re able to stay in touch with friends and family, and colleagues means that we are accessible to others 24 hours a day 7days a week, even and especially in the midst of Covid practices and isolation.
So, we need to intentionally look at what we learn from Jesus, in today’s gospel. We need to recognize that there is a time for teaching, for healing, and for fellowship, but there is also a time for Sabbath, for regrouping, for coming back to who we are and whose we are.
“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.”” (Mk 1:35-37)
Our world is continually focussed on moving faster and faster. We are increasingly failing to take time to put down our burdens, or remember that we are the Children of God, or to realize the peace that is able to come when we step away from technology altogether, even if its just for a short period of time, but on a consistent basis.
In today’s gospel we see how Jesus is likely overrun by those desiring only to see physical health and wholeness in Jesus actions, they’ve finally found a moment of hope in the thought that their loved ones will be free of illness or demon possession.
Then there are those willing to compartmentalize what Jesus brings to us all who believe, to the whole world in order to see their own desired outcome.
And there are those who would only see the benefit of the tourism dollars of those coming to Capernaum to seek out Jesus the wise healer, and would want to see the community prosper because of those coming to seek out healing and consultation with such a one as teaches as having authority. (Mk 1:22)
I mean talk about a community draw!
But none of this aids the message of the Messiah to reach out to all who believe, and all of the children of Israel.
So, Jesus moves on when the disciples find him in the midst of his time of prayer and meditation, of sabbath.
“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.” (Mk 1:37-39)
Jesus reminds each one of us of the need to take the intentional time away from all of the distractions, away from today’s ‘conveniences’ that although not designed to pull us away from our lives as Christians, as the children of God, not to mention from our loved ones and friends do inevitably do that.
Yet we continue to have the opportunity to seek out this sense of Sabbath, this intentional space, this intentional time to set our tasks and burdens down.
We always have this opportunity to lay our problems and our concerns, our loved ones before God, and to allow God to give us answers, direction, and assurance of God’s love.
Jesus came among us to help us to tear down the barriers that exist between us, our lives, our hearts and God.
Jesus came to fulfill the law, yet at the same time he teaches us to love each other as we are loved by God.
“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.” (Mk 1:32-34)
As always, God gives us more than we can ask or imagine, and God has sent us Jesus to teach us to love, to be loved, and to come back to that sense of ourselves as the children of God, as the body of Christ, as the community who gathers, even if its in our own homes, in Sabbath to find a closer relationship with God than we’d ever imagined.
And this is what we need to see, to remember, to understand, and to model not just today, but every day. We are encouraged to take sabbath, to rest, to remember, that God has always and continues to be an active part of each of our lives.
Jesus continues to be an active part of each of our lives because it’s only when we intentionally take the time to return to the natural rhythm of our lives that we are able to feel the movement of the Holy Spirit as we are encouraged to return, and to rest, and to take Sabbath, often.