Monthly Archives: April 2017

Called In, Sent Out (Mk 3:13-19)

Meditating on Mark — Mark 3:13-19

(I’m reading slowly through the book of Mark, seeking what I can learn about God and about being a follower of Jesus from each passage. I’m also letting my imagination get involved and trying to crawl into each story, to let it speak to me as it will and to respond from inside. I’ve decided to share some of them here as I go along and would love to hear your comments and reflections on the same scriptures.)

“And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons. He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.” (English Standard Version)

Jesus and the disciples.jpg

I find myself yearning to do great things for God. Oh, I don’t mean great things as in preaching to thousands in stadium events around the world or writing best-selling books that move people closer to God. The great things I long for are everyday great things like speaking and acting in love every day in every relationship and initiating and making the most of conversations that lead the people around me closer to God. I long to bear fruit for the kingdom of God, fruit that will last (from my favorite chapter of the Bible — John 15). I want to be like the disciples here: sent out to preach and teach and heal and to have authority even over the demons that plague people I meet.

My hand shoots up and my heart cries out, “Pick me, Jesus! Pick me to send! Use me, Lord!”

But today I noticed these words: “that they might be with him”.

When Jesus called the twelve, he called them for the purpose of sending them out. He was soon to entrust to them, and to the hundred or so other followers around him, the impossible task of taking the Good News from God into the entire world — the people all around them, the people all around the world, and the people who would come with every succeeding generation. He called the twelve for ministry — to go and to do. He called them to commission them. He called in them to send them out. 

But first he called them to be with him. There were days and months and years of being with Jesus before they were sent out. And that time was spent simply being with Jesus. During that time they learned from him. They listened to him and questioned him and watched him. They saw what he did and how he did it and they learned why he did it and for what purpose. During that time their hearts and minds were transformed, shaped for the sending.

Oh, God, thank you for this reminder! I want to go and do and make a difference in my world. Help me remember to stop and “be with you”. I want to, I need to, spend time with you. I need to know your heart and to be transformed by you. I need to be empowered by your Spirit. I know this comes only by being present with you — conversing with you and reading your Word. 

I come to you, Father, today, to be with you. I will live a life of being with you. I’m yours to teach, to transform, to equip. And I am yours to send in your authority to bear fruit for your kingdom. Call me in, Lord, and send me out!

Stiff-Necked or Stretched Out (Mk 3:1-6)

Meditating on Mark — Mark 3:1-6

(I’m reading slowly through the book of Mark, seeking what I can learn about God and about being a follower of Jesus from each passage. I’m also letting my imagination get involved and trying to crawl into each story, to let it speak to me as it will and to respond from inside. I’ve decided to share some of them here as I go along and would love to hear your comments and reflections on the same scriptures.)

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.   (English Standard Version)

The Man With The Withered Hand

It doesn’t seem that anything grieved Jesus like this silence, this refusal. These men had heard Jesus teach and seen him perform miracles. They absolutely knew that he spoke truth, yet they refused to yield to it. They saw miracles and refused to believe. In fact, in this instance, immediately after witnessing this miracle with their own eyes, rather than following Jesus, they began to plot his death. 

I can’t imagine anyone doing this. Who could be so stiff-necked? But then, with little effort, I can feel that hardness of heart. I can remember in my body the refusal — refusal to be moved, feet planted, legs stiff, shoulders squared, hands shoved in pockets, chin up, jaw set, eyes hard, and heart unyielding. I’ll do it my own way, thank you. Don’t tell me what is right; I’ve got this figured out. 

Today I ponder the contrast between the man with the withered hand and the Jewish leaders. I think it was this: The man’s simple response. See, the leaders hardened their hearts, refused to respond, and both they and Jesus became angry. But the man stretched out his hand. That’s all he did. He simply reached toward Jesus. But in so doing he responded to Jesus’ call and he was healed, and I’m pretty sure the atmosphere in that room changed as undoubtedly both he and Jesus rejoiced.  

Oh, Lord, it isn’t just the Scribes and Pharisees. Sometimes it’s me, too. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me. I don’t ever want to grieve you. I don’t want to have a stubborn heart. Guard me from hardness; keep my heart soft. Keep me pliable in your hands. Give me always a responsive spirit. I stretch out my hands and my heart to you. Teach me, shape me, soften my heart. Let me always hear your voice and let me always respond. Oh, patient and loving God, I don’t ever want to grieve you.

A Friend Like That (Mk 2:1-12)

Meditating on Mark in Lent — Mark 2:1-12 

(I’m reading slowly through the book of Mark, seeking what I can learn about God and about being a follower of Jesus from each passage. I’m also letting my imagination get involved and trying to crawl into each story, to let it speak to me as it will and to respond from inside. I’ve decided to share some of them here as I go along and would love to hear your comments and reflections on the same scriptures.)

And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven. . . But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

What kind of people cause such a scene? The house was packed with people who had arrived before them. The good seats were already taken. In fact, all the seats were taken. Even the doorway was filled with the later arrivals, too late to squeeze into the house and settling on listening and peering in from outside.

And then these men came. They were too late, the house packed with even the SRO tickets sold out. The show had already begun; Jesus was teaching.

But these men didn’t let that stop them. They were going to get their friend in front of Jesus. They knew what Jesus could do, they wanted their friend well, and they weren’t going to wait. Right in the middle of the teaching, interrupting the great teacher himself, not caring that they were interrupting, not caring what he would think or how their disruption would annoy the others, they removed the roof and got their friend in front of Jesus.

Mark 2 1-12

Can you imagine what the others in the room thought? What were their reactions? Hey, we were here first! Wait your turn. Who do you think you are?

And how did Jesus respond? Was he startled at the unexpected interruption? At what point did Jesus realize what was happening? What was his reaction — at first to the noise and disturbance and then to the realization of what was going on? I can imagine a slow grin appearing on his face and a twinkle in his eye as he saw the crazy bold faith of these friends. I imagine his delight at their tenacious love and faith. I imagine him thinking, “Now, this is a story that will be told for eternity.” And then he healed the man and the crowd, astounded at what they had seen, praised God.

Jesus, give me friends like this, friends who will go to great lengths to bring me to you.

And, Jesus, let me be a friend like that.

Fill me, Holy Spirit, Power of God, fill me with this kind of bold love and faith. Move through me to bring people to Jesus. And move in healing, Jesus, that people would be amazed at what you do and glorify God.

 

If You Will, You Can (Mk 1:35-45)

Meditating on Mark in Lent — Mark 1:35-45 

I’m reading slowly through the book of Mark during Lent this year, seeking what I can learn about God and what I can learn about being a follower of Jesus from each passage. I’m also letting my imagination get involved and trying to crawl into each story, to let it speak to me as it will and to respond from inside. I’ve decided to share some of them here as I go along and would love to hear your comments and reflections on the same scriptures.

If you are willing

And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.                                                (Mk 1:41-42, English Standard Version)

“If you will, you can. . .” This man came to Jesus with plenty of faith — faith, that is, in Jesus’ ability. What he was lacking, though, was faith in Jesus’ heart. He seemed to have no doubt that Jesus could heal him, but he wasn’t sure if Jesus would want to. 

“If you will, you can. . .”

After all who would blame Jesus if he didn’t want to? No one else wanted to be near this man, or the many like him. No one else wanted to chance making themselves unclean by getting close enough for an accidental touching, a chance brushing up against. No one else wanted to risk infection with the disease themselves.

Everyone stayed safely away. No one touched him. How long had it been since anyone had touched this man? Did he remember what did it feel like to be touched by another? Had he resigned himself to living the rest of his life without human touch?

But Jesus was moved with pity and did the unthinkable. Jesus touched him. There was no reason he needed to. He had healed many with his touch. But he also had healed many with only his words. Some, in fact, were in another location, perhaps another city, when Jesus spoke and made them well. But that’s not what he did in this story. Moved by compassion for the man — heart as well as body — he reached out and placed his hands on the man, unclean as the man was. And the man was healed.

If anyone else had touched the man, the person would have been made unclean. But not Jesus. When Jesus touched this man, the opposite happened. Jesus wasn’t made dirty; the man was made clean.

And this, friends, is the story of the incarnation, the story of our salvation.

Moved with pity, God, through Jesus, stretched out to touch us in our defiled, sinful, unclean state. And rather than God becoming defiled by our sin, we were made clean!

If we had a God with desire to heal us but lacking the ability to do so, we would be lost. And if we had a God with the ability to heal us but without the desire, we would be just as lost. But thanks be to God! Our Creator is our Redeemer! Our God has both the ability and the desire to save us!

Oh, God, glory to your name! You haven’t left us without hope, for you have everything we need for salvation. You, Lord, have both the ability and the desire to make me clean!

You are the Holy One of God! (Mk 1:21-28)

Meditating on Mark in Lent — Mark 1:21-28 

I’m reading slowly through the book of Mark during Lent this year, seeking what I can learn about God and what I can learn about being a follower of Jesus from each passage. I’m also letting my imagination get involved and trying to crawl into each story, to let it speak to me as it will and to respond from inside. I’ve decided to share some of them here as I go along and would love to hear your comments and reflections on the same scriptures.

a new teaching with authority

They went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And 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.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” (English Standard Version)

 

Wow! What was that? I imagine myself there in the synagogue listening to Jesus speak. There Jesus is, up front, teaching like so many others have done on so many other Sabbaths. But something is different. There is something about what this man says or how he says it that grips me, grabs our attention. What is it? I can’t put my finger on it, but its is different than the other teachers. And we all lean in and listen intently, focused on his every word and thought.

Suddenly, off to the side a bit, a man calls out, screams, jarring us with his interruption. “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? . . . I know you you are, the Holy One of God.”

My body tenses with the interruption. My heart pounds. Now what? What is going on? Who is this man? What will Jesus do? Will he raise his voice and teach over the man? Will he order the man out? I wait and watch, tight with anxiety.

But Jesus doesn’t seem flustered. He simply says, “Be silent, and come out of him.”

They come out, but not silently. And not without a scene. Convulsions and crying out, more screams. What is happening? Everything is out of control. Chaos! For a second. Then silence.

Calm and quiet, for a few seconds anyway, as we strain to see the man rise, back in his right mind. We watch silently, for a second, and then a new noise ripples through the room. Murmurs. Exclamations. Questions. Shouts. What just happened? What did we witness? Who is this Jesus? The demons obeyed him right before our eyes! 

This Jesus must be from God!

Wow, Jesus! This is what John was seeing as he looked ahead at your baptism. You are the “One who is mightier”! You have authority over even the spirit realm, over unclean spirits. You have authority in teaching and in action. You are the One we are watching for. You are the Holy One of God!

I want to know  more. Jesus, I am going to watch and listen and learn and see what you do next. I am going to follow you. I want to know all about you. I want to know who you are. I want to know you! Where you are is where I want to be!

 

 

 

 

Repent, Believe, and Follow (Mk 1:14-20)

Meditating on Mark in Lent — Mark 1:14-20

I’m reading slowly through the book of Mark during Lent this year, seeking what I can learn about God and what I can learn about being a follower of Jesus from each passage. I’m also letting my imagination get involved and trying to crawl into each story, to let it speak to me as it will and to respond from inside. I’ve decided to share some of them here as I go along and would love to hear your comments and reflections on the same scriptures.

See, Love, Follow

Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him.                                                                                                               (vv 14-18) English Standard Version

I try to read the gospels with a particular perspective. I want to learn more about my Father God by learning more about Jesus — his motives, his actions, his heart, his desires, his habits, his commands, etc. I want to know the Father better because of what see in Jesus in the gospels. And I want to ask myself, “So, what?” What does what I learn have to do with me? How does it affect me and the way I think and live? 

I don’t want just head knowledge of the stories; I want to be changed by them.

Part of this kind of reading is that I like to observe what Jesus asked of people when he was here. What did he require of the men and women who came to hear him preach?How did he call them to live? In this passage, we see three things Jesus asked of people around him. Jesus called the people of Galilee to the first two in verse 15: “repent and believe the good news.” Because the time had come and the kingdom of God had come near, he told the people to repent and believe.

Repentance, it seems, is a laying down of our own ways and a turning toward God. And the good news at this point in the story seems to be that the kingdom of God had come near. It was at hand. He wanted them to lay down their earthly thinking and turn toward God expectantly. That’s about all they had for now. They didn’t know much about this man Jesus. The rest of the story was yet to unfold. But he called them to turn and watch expectantly. Something big was about to happen!

Then, in verse seven, Jesus simply says, “Follow me.” That’s it. That’s all he asked. The rest of the sentence is what he planned to do for those who followed.

Pretty simple, so far. Repent, believe, follow. Just start there. The rest will unfold; it will make more sense later. For now, repent, believe, follow. I like it. It’s simple enough for me. I can do this much. And I will do it with my eyes on Jesus, watching and listening and receiving and responding. 

I’ll do it, Jesus! I do it now. I lay down my earthly wisdom, my worldly pursuits, my own ways, and I turn to you in the belief that you have something big in store. I will follow you. I want to see you at work and do what you do. I want to learn from you — learn about the Father from you, learn your ways and learn his ways. I want to be changed by you.

Father, as I move on through my reading of Mark and the life of Jesus, allow me to get to know you better. Teach me what it means to be a follower of Christ. Teach me, lead me, shape me, and send me out to “fish” for people.  Amen