Feb. 5, 2012 Epiphany 5 “Let Us Go On”

The gospel reading from Mark today shows Jesus’s ministry getting off to a perfect start. Jesus and his disciples – it’s just a small group so far – have come to Capernaum. This is their home town, the little village by the sea where they grew up. Their friends and family are here. And things get off to a wonderful start. When they get to Peter’s home his mother-in-law is suffering from a fever. I imagine it took a very serious illness to keep one of these village women in bed, especially with important company arriving, so she must have been very sick indeed. But Jesus takes her firmly by the hand and she is well at once – so well that she hops up and begins to bustle around, fussing over them all and preparing enough food to satisfy the hunger of this gathering of working men.

While she works, word is getting around – as you know, it doesn’t take long in a small town – and by the time the sun begins to go down and the lamps are being lit there are masses of people at the front door. Literally the whole town has come, because everyone has some need. Some have illness in their family, some have friends or family members who have been oppressed by demons, and Jesus is able to heal every hurt, to dispel every work of darkness. Hope and healing have come to Capernaum.

I feel sure that Peter and Andrew and James and John must have felt very good about their commitment to this new ministry. It seemed like ministry with Jesus was all they could have hoped. People were being healed, God was being glorified, and they had a perfect base of operations: good food, safe and comfortable lodging, and the sea was right there if they ever needed a backup plan for their finances. The whole village must have been full of joy and expectation for good things to come, while the ministry of healing continued late into the night.  But then, in the wee hours of the following morning, when there wasn’t even a hint of light in the sky yet, people began to notice that there was someone missing. After a very few hours’ sleep, the disciples had risen, and probably not a few of the villagers as well, eager for the day to come, ready to pour their hearts and strength into helping Jesus with his ministry. But they couldn’t find Jesus.

When they finally found him, way out in some desolate place, they scolded him a little. “What are you doing way out here – everybody’s looking for you! Let’s get back there and get to work.” And Jesus looked at them, and he said, “Let us go on, let us move on to the next towns that I might preach there also. That’s what I set out to do.” And I think it must have been a transformative moment for Peter and the others – that moment just before dawn when that little band of men began to see that Jesus had something much bigger in mind than any of them had realized, and that their brief and happy vision of comfort and security and success wasn’t really on the menu. I think it must have taken a lot of courage, a lot of faith, for them to refocus, to readjust their expectations, to open themselves up to following Jesus into something new and unknown.

And I feel like I know how those disciples must have felt, because right now I feel so good about our life as a church, and I don’t want anything to change. I love each and every person here. I am thankful every single day that God called me here. We have an absolutely gorgeous little building, we are doing fine financially, our new Vestry is wonderful, the children in our Youth Group are a pleasure to be around, and over this past year I am certain that God has been working among us, to heal and to comfort, to teach us and to help us grow. Hope and healing have come to St. Philip’s – not just in the past year, though that is all that I have experienced, but over the past several years.

When I began to study the gospel for today, and to pray and seek God’s word for us, here’s what I heard. “Let us go on.” God has surely blessed us; his ministry in and among us has been powerful. We are in a very good place. Now is the time we must be very attentive to Jesus’s leading. Now is the time we need to be ready to be transformed by his call. Now, at the dawn of a new year, we want to be the disciples seeking him, finding him, even when that means he takes us by surprise, even if that means leaving our security and success behind and heading out into the unknown.

I have lots of ideas for the way I would like to see God work at St. Philip’s and in our community in the year to come. Like those first disciples, I am really excited about Jesus’s ministry here over the past year. But I want to hold all my ideas and all my excitement lightly, because I want to always be ready and open to hearing these words from our Lord Jesus, “Let us go on.” In  the end, the one decision we can make that will never fail to be successful is to follow Jesus, who is the Way, and the Truth, and the Life, our Good Shepherd, the Head of his Body which is the Church – which is us.  With all our hearts and with all our souls, and with all our minds and with all our strength, let us follow Jesus – together – into this new year. “Let us go on.”

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