Thursday, February 12, 2015

Shiny Objects

Well, we are no longer residents of the Portville-Olean, NY area. I have received a new call to a two point parish, St. Timothy's in Bemus Point and St. Mark's in Mayville, NY. The move went very well, although we are still unpacking a few things here and there. Then there's always the problem of remembering that I've seen something somewhere, but...

This past Sunday was officially my first at St. Tim's and St. Marks. The gospel reading was Mark 1:29-39.
This is what I shared with the people in Bemus Point and Mayville:

Mark's gospel is full of contrasts.
Jesus meets with his disciples,
and he escapes alone to pray.
He heals,
and he hides.
He displays power,
and he orders demons to keep silent.

The final paragraph of today's gospel demonstrates to us the essence and motivation of Jesus' ministry. Jesus has experienced a full day and evening of healing and restoring (resurrecting) people. Anyone would be exhausted after all of that. We might expect Jesus to sleep in the next day or go on vacation to get away from it all. Jesus finds all the rest he needs in communion with his Father.

In Jesus we see three key points that apply to our lives today, no matter what vocation we may find ourselves in.They are:
1. Know what you are called to do and do it.
2. Tend to what really matters and
3. Keep your focus and your eyes on the prize.

How do we know what we are called to do? Author Frederick Buechner answers, "The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet" (Wishful Thinking).
Just because there is a need does not mean you are the one to meet that need.
Workaholism even in good work doesn't do anyone any good.

Jesus did not fix everything or heal everyone in Galilee before being taken to the cross. In Mark, Jesus only heals those who present themselves to him.
Jesus does not go out of his way in search of people with problems because they found him!

How do we tend to what really matters? This is especially difficult for those of us who are ADD or ADHD. We get working on something important and then--ohhhh my! A shiny object! We run to something else we perceive needs our attention.

Even with throngs of people surrounding him day and night, Jesus stepped away from it all to regroup. Jesus needed the rest and refreshment of time with his Father.We can only give out that which we receive otherwise we will just burn out.

As busy and important a person Jesus is, he needed communion with his heavenly Father. Mark writes, "In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed (v. 35).

Out of that relationship with his Father, Jesus knew how and when he was to relate to others. That is how we can sift out the important from the urgent.

It is a struggle for most of us to carve out that special time with God to hear what is on his heart for us. If we are unable to rise early, we need to set aside even just a few minutes to spend time alone in God's presence. Nurturing our relationship with God the Father,  is an essential part of our life and health.

I was working on my undergraduate  degree a few years ago, when Ray and I lived in Rhode Island. I had not studied math in many years. One math course was all I needed to take in college, but this course was so difficult and the professor was so distant that we all felt we were teaching each other. One Saturday I sat weeping and wondering what in the world I was doing going back to school at my age. Was I crazy?
The next day at church I was the assisting minister. I told Pastor Paul all about my frustration and he said, "Keep your eyes on the prize." All I had to do was finish this course successfully. It was simply a means to getting my degree so I could go to seminary and be with you here today.

Looking at the big picture which was God's will and leading into ministry, I was able to put into perspective how important this one course really was. The lesson here is not to get bogged down on the small things. Each piece of the puzzle is important, but it is not the end all and be all. Sometimes we need to look at each segment of what we are doing, and ask ourselves how does this fit into the larger scheme of things? How will this help me accomplish my final goal.

The prize for Jesus was to do his Father's will. Jesus went off to pray and to commune with His Father. Jesus needed time to regroup and refresh himself. However, Peter and the rest of the disciples had other ideas. They couldn’t understand why Jesus had left Capernaum.

I love the way Mark portrays this, "And Simon and his companions hunted for him" (v. 36). Literally they "tracked Jesus down" and this expression has a hostile overtone. This is where we find the first dispute between Jesus and his disciples. The disciples desired to have Jesus go back to where he had been.

Jesus' desire,  (and his Father's) was to move ahead to new areas.The disciples were flabbergasted that Jesus didn't want to go back to Capernaum. Jesus had success there, which is enticing.

Why not go back to Capernaum?
Miracles were happening.
People were being cured.
The whole city was at the door.
There was no opposition to Jesus and his ministry.
They liked him.

Wouldn't we love to have everyone in town fighting to get into our church?

Why did Jesus have desires to move on to other areas in Judea? Why was he not concerned about going back to Capernaum? The answer is simple. Jesus had accomplished what He had wanted to; and it was time to move on.

The disciples misunderstood Jesus and his mission. Jesus did not come to keep the gospel hidden in one place or to be bogged down by the needs of one place, but to spread God's kingdom throughout Galilee, Judea and the whole world.

Are there people or things that we allow to consume our time? Maybe our email inbox cries out for our time. Do we allow our Facebook feed to consume us or our family or some other really good thing?

Jesus teaches us to focus on the big picture and to stick to our mission. The future carries uncertainty. The disciples won't always get what they want. The people will not always get what they want. But the will of God will be accomplished.

As we go through this week, and we return to our homes, our jobs and our responsibilities, let us examine as to whether we are seeing the big picture and have accomplished what God intended or are we still being bogged down in the quicksand of minute details? The only way we will know is when we stop and regroup by spending quiet time with God in contemplation, scripture reading and quiet listening.  Amen.


Sharron R. Blezard,

M. Eugene Boring & Fred B. Craddock, The People's New Testament Commentary

Gail Ramshaw, Sundays and Seasons

Matt Skinner,

Brian Stoffregen,

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