Monday, February 16, 2015

On the Move

Excerpt from a sermon preached at the Church of the Good Shepherd, Scranton PA
on February 8, 2015

How did you get here this morning? What life circumstances, what twists and turns, what challenges and promises and hopes compelled you to choose this? How has your life in Christ led you to this moment? Whether you have grown up in this place or walked in the door for the first time, whether you have grown up in the church or felt called to it in later life, or stumbled into it along the way, you will discover, or have already discovered, or know deep in your heart that the Christian life is not about staying in one place—no matter how comfortable that place can be.

Jesus begins his earthly ministry on the move. Baptized by John in the Jordan, he is immediately driven by the Spirit into the wilderness. From there he passes along the Sea of Galilee calling to Simon and Andrew who immediately leave their nets and follow him. Farther along he immediately calls to James and John who also follow. They head right into Capernaum where Jesus teaches in the synagogue astounding all with his wisdom and before you know it they are at Simon and Andrew’s house and Jesus doesn’t stop even then. Simon’s mother-in-law is ill and Jesus wastes no time in raising her up and once she is healed she immediately begins to serve others.

When Jesus raises her up it is a significant moment. It is a resurrection act. The same words are used for Jesus when he is raised up from the dead. And this resurrection act engenders service and healing. The woman immediately serves others, which after all is the ministry of Jesus. And then Jesus multiplies this act by healing many, many others who come to the house that day.

But what happens next is also astounding. The next day, Jesus gets up before the busyness of the day, goes out to a deserted place away from everyone else, and prays. He spends time with God. He takes time for reflection and renewal. And when they come looking for him, he does not return to the house where everyone is searching for him and where certainly there are more people to be healed. Instead he says, let us go on to the neighboring towns so that I can proclaim the message there also. For this is what I came out to do. Jesus’ gifts and ministry will be multiplied because he chooses not to stay in one place and heal those who come to him, but rather to goes out and beyond. I am reminded of our own Baptismal Covenant which calls us to seek out people in order to serve.

The Christian life is not about staying in one place. Jesus travels, raises up, heals the sick, steps aside in solitude to pray, and then moves out and beyond to carry healing to more. It is this movement that I find compelling: that ministry is followed by renewal and regrouping and then going forth, going out, taking the show on the road rather than staying in one place and doing all the good work there is to do.

The Christian life is hardly about the status quo. It is not about figuring it out and then settling in. It is always about moving on and proclaiming the gospel. Let us go on to the neighboring towns so that I can proclaim the message there also, for this is what I came out to do.  We are called to place ourselves in the loving hands of Jesus and step out. We are called to raise up the downtrodden, to serve others, to engage in acts of healing, to cast out darkness, to place ourselves before God and be renewed, and then to go—to go out and beyond.

God is hardly the champion of the status quo. Have you not known? Have you not heard? Our God is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth, who numbers the stars and knows them all by name. God does not faint or grow weary and God’s understanding is unsearchable.  Youths will faint and be weary, the young will fall exhausted, but those who wait for the Lord, those who place themselves in the hands of the living God, they shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

Place yourselves in the loving hands of Jesus. Raise up those who are downtrodden. Engage in acts of healing. Cast out darkness. Place yourself before God and be renewed. And then go. Go out and beyond. Go forth and proclaim the Gospel. And expect God to be at work in your life—to strengthen you when you faint, to raise you up when you fall, to call you into spiritual growth beyond where you last lay your head and into a lifelong relationship of transformation and love.