Posts Tagged ‘Capernaum’

Something Unexpected 2-4-18

In this sermon, based on Mark 1:29-39, I explore the healing of Peter’s mother in law, as well as the unexpected way that Jesus reacts to Capernaum’s favorable opinion of him.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/something-unexpected-2-4-8

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

Quite a few years back, early on in the days when I was just starting to discern the call into ministry…I took an assessment called Stengthsfinders…some of you might have heard of it…it’s a test that identifies between a large number of personality traits to identify just how the individual is wired…and specifically, it will identity your top 5 strengths.

Here are mine…see if you think these are accurate. Empathy…the ability to relate to the emotional state of another person. (pause) Communication…that one’s pretty self-explanatory. (Pause) Something called Woo…which sounds like I just like to go around yelling “WHOO” but actually points to the ability to persuade others to your point of view. (Pause) Input…which describes a person who wants to keep learning…they’ve never collected enough info…particularly off the wall, useless information. (Pause) And the final one, actually my number one…is Adaptability…the tendency to simply go with the flow and take things as they come…Sound about right?

Here’s the thing though…you’d think with my number one strength being adaptability…that I would bristle against repetition…planning…expectations of what will happen…but strangely enough, I’ve grown more and more accustomed to a general flow of how things will happen…especially here in worship.

Most of you have probably picked up on that. We have certain tendencies…ways that worship flows from one part to another…whether it’s the general order of worship…or the things that I say that introduce certain aspects…you probably have an idea of what to expect from me don’t you?

Admittedly, some friends of mine REALLY want me to shake things up on you sometime….they continue to push that just once…out of the blue…right in the middle of the sermon…that I should just…stop talking…and silently walk down the aisle and out of the sanctuary, around the corner and out the door…then walk across the parking lot and just sack out over on the deck at the parsonage…just to see how long it would take for someone to poke their head out the door and come looking for me. (pause)

Now rest assured….I’m never going to actually do that…as crazy as I might be, I know that would be utterly foolish…not to mention completely disruptive…but think about it…what would you do? What would happen if someone in a position of leadership, whether a pastor or not…just utterly upended everyone’s expectation? Because that’s what’s happening today. (pause)
Now its important to realize that as our gospel picks up today, we are in a utter continuation of where were last week.  As we’ve mentioned before, Mark chapter 1 crams A LOT of stuff into a pretty short space…and Mark as a whole is pretty good about moving the action along, often times glossing over the passage of time as we move from one instance right into the next…but this time is one of those where the action that we heard last week literally flows straight into today…

So let’s back up just a touch…Jesus has called the first 4 disciples, Peter and Andrew and James and John as he encountered them on the seashore…and then they mosey into Capernaum…which is the home town of these 4 guys…and then on the Sabbath day Jesus and the disciples have popped into the synagogue where Jesus takes on the role of preacher…proclaiming that the kingdom of heaven has come near.

Now we heard last week that he teaches with authority…and while we might not know just what exactly that means, we find that it takes shape when a man with an unclean spirit jumps up right in the midst of everything and Jesus throws his divine beat down on the spirit, commanding it to come out of the man…and it does.

This astonishes everyone else in attendance…and they recognize that this authority over unclean spirits simply illustrates the divine authority that lies behind his proclamation…behind his teaching…the authority behind his message…and with that, Jesus is walking out of the synagogue.

If we were watching tv right now…that would have been the “previously on” montage that opens up most episodes anymore…catching us up to where we are now…and where we are now is Jesus and the 4 guys walking out of the synagogue…seemingly across the street into Peter’s house…and here we find Pete’s mother in law in bed with a fever.

Now Jesus doesn’t miss a beat…he walks over to her…he grabs her by the hand…and as we hear she is “raised up” by Jesus…the language is quite literally that she is raised…anyone else think that sounds a lot like Easter morning when Jesus is “raised up” from the dead? It should.  Likewise she is raised to new life…and she responds by entering into service. (Pause)
Now its worth mentioning that Pete’s mother in law is not simply stepping back into traditional gender roles here. Once again the language tells us that she “serving” or more specifically that she’s “ministering.” And this is the same thing that angels do for Jesus in the wilderness…it is the same thing that Jesus proclaims as he says I have come not be served but to serve…and it’s the same thing that he commands to his followers when he says whoever shall be greatest among shall become a servant. (pause) Pete’s mom in law is raised up to a new life in Christ, a new life as a Christ-follower…as a disciple…as one who willingly serves the other…now that right there…that’s awesome…and its unexpected…but that’s a side note. (pause)

So let’s go on with the story…word of these 2 healings…first the unclean spirit being cast of the man in the synagogue and now Pete’s mother in law…it spreads around town like wildfire…and understandably…everyone in the synagogue saw it…and Capernaum wasn’t exactly a huge town…miraculous healings would have been something to talk about.

And so…when evening falls, everyone seems to know about it, and everyone starts bringing the sick and the possessed to Jesus to be healed…the entire city gathers around the door…and into the night, Jesus heals them all.

Now I can only imagine what the people were thinking there in Capernaum…Guys…this is awesome…we’ve got this AMAZING preacher…and not only that…he can heal…like…actually heal. We should keep this dude around…we can learn a lot from him…and if we get sick he can heal us…I mean…maybe he’s like, the Messiah or something? So I think we should keep him around, maybe give him a house or something so he’ll stay…so we’ve got him right here when we need him. Sounds good. (pause)

But Jesus doesn’t exactly play along does he? After all the healings are done…late at night…actually early in the morning before it even gets light…he slips off into the wilderness to be alone…and we hear the next day that everyone is hunting for him…now its Peter and the other 3 guys who actually locate him…and it seems like they are buying into things too…Master, everyone is hunting for you. (pause)  Now think about it for a second…if you’re hunting for something…you want something from it right?  I remember in my younger days when I would go fishing, I practiced catch and release…but its pretty hard to catch and release when you’re hunting isn’t it? And so it stands to reason that if everyone in town is hunting for Jesus, they want something from him. They want him to live up to their expectations…expectations that he’ll keep healing…that he’ll keep teaching…that he’ll take on the mantel of Messiah that fits the bill of what they’ve come to expect.

And I can’t help but think that the people of Capernaum…all of them, even including the 4 disciples at this point…I think they’re stuck in expectations….they’re stuck in what they’ve always thought…what they’ve always known…and we find evidence in this in what might have been almost a throw away comment from the narration of Mark.

Did you catch when the people from the city started bringing their sick to Jesus? (Pause) At sundown…and here’s the thing…in the Jewish understanding…the new day started at sundown…like today is Sunday…but at sundown, when its evening…it stops being today and starts being tomorrow…everyone with me?

Okay…and remember what the setting was at the beginning today? Jesus was in the synagogue…and it was the Sabbath…Jesus heals, not once, but twice on the Sabbath…he performs “Work” but the law says that’s a no-no. The law says they have to wait until the Sabbath is over…which happens at sundown right? (pause)

The people of Capernaum are stuck in the old way of thinking. They’re caught in the old rule book. They’re still following the same method of bookkeeping…thinking that there’s some cosmic scoreboard that they need to be aware of in terms of honoring the Sabbath. Not only that…but Jesus seems to know that if he sticks around Capernaum…they’re gonna force his hand…they’re gonna try and make him be the Messiah that they expect…which is to say a political figure…that’s what Messiah’s were…God’s anointed leaders…often the kings of their history…that’s what they wanted him to be…and hey, throw in the ability to heal diseases and you got a bonus out of this Messiah right? (Pause)
But here’s the thing. Jesus is doing something utterly different. Utterly other…utterly new. Jesus isn’t playing by the rules anymore…in fact, whatever it is that God is up to in the world through the life death and resurrection of this man known as Jesus of Nazareth…the one that we have come to call the Messiah or the Christ…whatever it is that God is doing…it is completely off the map of expectations.

Sabbath rules don’t apply…if someone needs healing, Jesus will heal them…if someone needs to be freed from what hinders them…Jesus will free them…and why? (Pause) Because the kingdom of heaven has come near. And this kingdom is utterly unlike ANYTHING that we can imagine or anticipate.

And this is what Christ has come to do…to proclaim the good news of the kingdom…and not just Capernaum, but everywhere. (pause) Yes, Jesus can and does heal.  Yes, Jesus shows compassion on those who cast aside. Yes…Jesus brings about a new normal…a new existence…a new way of being in this world that we have been given, flawed though it is.

This is what Jesus has come to do…to make all things new…to make all things Good…and to draw all people to himself….Jesus has entered into our reality in order to bring about this kingdom and he has invited us into it. (pause)
So what does that mean for us today? How do we respond to this man, who is also God…who has utterly changed the game? What does life look like now, in the midst of this kingdom which is both now and not yet?

In order to answer that question, we need to look back at Pete’s mother in law…we must remember that her story is not an example of a happy little house wife that we can say “oh now you’re up and about, good make me a sandwich.” What we learn from her is that to be raised to a new life by Christ is reflected in our ability and desire to serve those around us…to minister to those around…to literally embody the change that the kingdom of heaven is bringing into this world. (pause)

We all have our tendencies to be like Capernaum…wanting the Messiah to act a certain way…or to be a certain way…or to bless the ones that we want…we all fall in the trap of setting up the Messiah according to our expectations…but in the end that’s not how this works…because Jesus is continuously bringing about something new…and through the power of the holy spirit may he change us all in a way that makes our lives reflect this utterly new thing out into the world that we hope to see changed. May we be the change that we hope to see in the world…and may we give credit where credit is due…that this change is only possible through the power of Christ working in us and through us. May that be…the kingdom coming near to us. Amen.

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Have You Found Jesus? 2-8-15

In this sermon, I explore Mark 1:29-39. Jesus has been active in Capernaum, but when everyone starts looking for him, he decides to leave. Apparently Jesus isn’t open to “being found.”

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/have-you-found-jesus-2-8-15

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:
Grace and peace to you from God our father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
Rituals are…at times…a wonderful thing…something that we do for a specific purpose as a reminder…or as a way of maintaining a connection. (pause) But at other times…a ritual is something that needs to happen as a way to maintain order.
I got to thinking about this second type of ritual the other day as I was preparing this message…and as I thought about it…I recognized a ritual that has formed over at my house…one that is enacted pretty much every night just before we head off to bed…finding the cat.
You see…the kids head off to bed earlier than my wife and I do…and its pretty normal that when we put our daughter to bed, that we leave her door open so that light will come in from the hallway while she’s falling asleep. But we always try to close her door when we go to bed…and this is because of our cat.
If any of you are cat owners…you know that they have the tendency to be independent and not controllable. They go where they want when they want…and often times this roaming around happens at night. We discovered pretty quickly that when the cat decides to roam into Ava’s room in the middle of the night…she wakes up…and that means everyone wakes up…and so, the simple solution, since we can’t just tell the cat to stay out of there…is to pull her door shut…but before we can do that…we also have to make sure that the cat hasn’t already ventured in there and curled up in her room somewhere…and yes this is a common occurrence…and so, pretty much every night as we’re shutting all the lights off we ask the question…have you found the cat?
And we never know just where she might be hiding…sometimes out in the open, or other times she’s curled up somewhere secretive and it takes us awhile to find her. And as I was thinking about that, I remembered an old Far Side comic that I saw once…there’s an open in a house, and the lady who lives there is at the front door where she is greeted by a couple of missionaries asking her “Have you found Jesus?” (pause) Now the first time I saw this I wondered what was supposed to be so funny…until I looked a little closer to discover a pair of feet decked out in sandals hiding behind the curtain…because Jesus was hiding…waiting to be found.
And apparently in the world of this particular comic…Jesus, much like my cat…needs to be hunted for…needs to be found. (pause) Now that obviously draws us into today’s scripture lesson…now today’s story is yet another direct continuation of the ongoing narrative of Mark chapter 1. Following last week’s lesson where Jesus has been in the synagogue casting out a particularly troublesome demon, he and his disciples head across the street into Peter’s house where Jesus first heals Peter’s mother in law…and then a little later on in the day the entire city crowds around the door watching as Jesus heals person after person…casting out demon after demon.
And then…following all of this, early the next morning…long before sunup…Jesus rolls out of bed…walks out of town in the surrounding wilderness to get himself just a little bit of God time…and as we see…his departure, is not well received in Capernaum. (pause)
The first things we hear is that Peter and the other disciples…however many of them there might have been at this point…are hunting for Jesus…and we also hear that they are not alone. And you know what…the notion of hunting for Jesus strikes me as significant…because there’s really nothing gentle and passive about hunting is there? Any hunters out there will likely agree with me…its something that you’ve got to really go after…to hunt for something means you are fully invested in everyway…you are dedicated all of your energy into finding whatever it is that you’re hunting for.
And as I mentioned…Peter and the rest of the crew aren’t the only ones on the hunt for Jesus…we hear that EVERYONE…is looking for him…Everyone…and once Jesus find out that he’s been targeted…he tells the crew…hey guys…lets head out…we’ve got work to do elsewhere. (pause)
And you know what…that’s always struck me as a little odd. Clearly the people of Capernaum want Jesus to stick around…they seem open to what he has to say and they certainly appreciate the miracles that he’s been dolling out…and so, it raises the question of just why Jesus wants to skedattle out of there. You’d think he want to stick around…clearly he’s got a receptive audience now…all it took was casting out a few demons…curing a few fevers and now he’s good to go right? (pause)
But that’s not how Jesus reacts is it…Jesus doesn’t seem to like being hunted…he doesn’t like it that everyone is searching intently for him…and I often time wonder just why that is…and perhaps we can start to find the answer to that question if we stop and think about the season of the church year that we’re in right now.
Today is of course, just about the end of Epiphany…just one more week and then we hint Lent…and think for a moment about just what Epiphany means…it started back in January when the 3 wise men followed a star which revealed the Christ child to them…and all the way through this season…short though it may be this year…we been hearing story after story of how Christ is revealed within the world…of how God in human form becomes known. (pause)
Never do we hear about how Jesus is found by anyone…about how the Christ is simply identified by anyone…Christ…God…Jesus…is always revealed to someone…Christ is never found…because he is the one that does the finding.
Christ is the one that walked up to Peter and Andrew along the seashore and said follow me…he found them…not the other way around…and likewise…it was Jesus who revealed himself to the people of Capernaum…and he did so through those miracles that he performed the night before he headed off into the wilderness.
And so, the next morning…as all these people are seeking him out…we have to stop and think about their motivation…did they really want to hear more about kingdom of God…or did they simply want this magical healer to stick around and take care of any problems that they might experience.
I fear that the people of Capernaum were trying to find Jesus on their terms…they were trying to put him in a box…to limit what he was in the world to do…and to keep him for themselves. (pause) But just like my cat has a mind of her own…and goes where she will and refuses to play by my rules…Jesus isn’t going to be contained either.
That’s why he takes his disciples out into the neighboring towns…because that’s what he’s here to do…not to get stuck in healing mode…though he certainly does a lot of that…but to continue to reveal the truth that the kingdom of God has come near…and to continue to free individuals from those things that hinder their live in relationship with God.
And as we realize that…perhaps we need to stop and think about our own motivations when we seek God. Are we seeking God in order to seek his will…to spread his gospel…or as I fear…do we all too often fall in the trap of seeking God when we need something from him? Do we seek to put God in a box…to keep God limited to our terms? (pause)
I pose that question…because I think we all fall in that trap sometimes…and its not only important to avoid placing limitations upon God…but its vital to realize that God…will not…be controlled. We cannot place God in a box….we cannot keep God limited to what we think is right…because God will not be hindered.
This is the good news that Jesus came to proclaim when he said that the kingdom of God has come near…We have a God who not only spoke the entire universe into existence simply because he chose to…but we have a God who set aside EVERYTHING…and became human like us…simply in order to be with us…because He wants us to be in the kingdom along with him…and by become human…by taking on flesh and dwelling among us…God utterly destroyed those human limitations that hinder us from taking an active role in the kingdom…from finding a living relationship together with our maker….and since we all know that we just can’t do anything to get ourselves up there…he gave up everything to come down here…and this is what he seeks to reveal to us. (pause)
This is why he proclaimed the gospel…and this is why we are called to proclaim that same gospel that we have first received…so that one day all may hear it…and one day the glorious truth of that gospel will be revealed to everyone.
We don’t find Jesus…Jesus finds us…Jesus reveals himself…to us…no matter how hard we try to make it work the other way around. So don’t ask the question “Have you found Jesus…” Rather, ask yourself “Has Jesus…found me?” Amen.