3rd Sunday before Lent 5.2.12. Mark 1.29-39 Prayer, Vocation and Mission

22 01 2012

Prayer, Vocation and Mission

Last week’s passage was about teaching and authority. This week’s is about healing and prayer.  But the questions of power and authority are never far from the surface.

 Mark 1.29-39

29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31He 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. 33And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34And 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.

35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37When they found him, they said to him, ‘Everyone is searching for you.’ 38He answered, ‘Let us go on to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.’ 39And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

Reflections and Questions

‘as soon as’ v 29. The pace remains crisp. There are no pauses.  Synagogue – home – sickness – healing – service: breathless. It seems odd to us that the poor woman sets about serving as soon as she is well. ‘Normality is resumed’ seems to be the message.  To what extent do you see Jesus as the restorer of the normal – or its questioner?

‘the whole city’ v 33 Once again we have a crowd scene.  But this time the demons do not speak (see Mark 1. 24).  Jesus has complete power over them.  The plot is beginning to develop.  What do you understand by spiritual power?

‘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  Well, what else is there to do after a day’s healing and coping with demons?  Might it be that the pace and dynamism of Jesus’ ministry both requires and enables such withdrawal?  How do you imagine his ‘deserted place’?  What are yours?

‘Let us go on on to the neighbouring towns’  v 28 The energy level is back. The missionary passion is there. But notice that before, or at least alongside, mission comes vocation: ‘that is what I came out to do’.  Maybe that was what the prayer was about: reconnecting with vocation which is both ‘call’ and ‘send’.  What is your call? How does it connect to your ‘send’?

4th Sunday of Epiphany Mark 1.21-28 Astonishing Authority

15 01 2012

Astonishing Authority

We are back in Mark’s gospel for two weeks now.  Two back-to-back passages.  This week’s is about teaching and authority. Next week’s is about healing and prayer.

 Mark 1. 21-28

21 They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 23Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24and he cried out, ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.’ 25But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent, and come out of him!’ 26And the unclean spirit, throwing him into convulsions and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, ‘What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.’ 28At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

Reflections and Questions

‘he entered the synagogue and taught’ v 21. This is a bold sentence suggests no-nonsense decisiveness. No procrastination here. No beating about the bush.  Jesus (and Mark’s) evangelical urgency is apparent. Is yours?

‘astounded’ v 22  There is a lot of astonishment in the early part of this gospel – and amazement too. People are clearly shocked and maybe a bit stunned by what they hear. And this is before any casting out of demons or healing. It’s Jesus words and presence which astound and alarm them. Can you connect with this? Can you convey it?   (N.B. Mark does not tell us what Jesus said.  Why is that not of more importance to Mark?)

‘I know who you are’. v 24 It’s the unclean spirit who is talking and who tells the truth about Jesus. The spirit says who Jesus really is: ‘I know who you are, the Holy One of God’.  But why does the spirit blurt it out?  Is it raw fear? Or threat?  Or maybe the spirit just saying what everyone else is thinking.  Who has that role in your community or group or family? Do you listen?

‘Fame’  v 28 So: Jesus began to become  famous.  Today  a lot of people desire to be famous, thinking that fame is an end in itself.  And so it is in a ‘celebrity culture’. And yet we tend to look down on those who begin to become famous – this too is part of the being a celebrity culture; it is ironic and cruel as well as star-struck.   What, then, are we to make of Jesus’ fame? Did he seek to become famous?  Or did it just happen? To say he became well-known might be easier and better. To say his reputation went before him might be preferable.  But the translators have used the word ‘fame’.  What might be the lessons for the Church or its ministers in this?