Scripture: Mark 1:29-45
Key verse: (38) “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.”
Reflection: One of my mentors in ministry once told me that the afternoon before a Session meeting; he made a point to make a few pastoral calls. He said, “I need that to remind me why I do what I do.” While I’ve not managed to keep that discipline before every Session meeting, when we face a particularly arduous agenda, I do my best to make the time. The day-to-day demands of ministry can easily distract from the central mission of the church. That’s not to say those daily demands are unimportant, but budget issues and facilities challenges and personnel matters are not the heart of ministry.
Today’s reading is comforting in this regard, for even Jesus felt distracted from his central mission. He has been in Capernaum, stirring up trouble in the synagogue by healing on the Sabbath and by teaching with authority, “and not as the scribes.” (That phrase always stings a bit, as in many ways I’m like the scribes of Jesus’ day!) That afternoon he continues to heal people; first Simon’s mother-in-law, and then all the sick people of the town. Early the next morning, before dawn, he goes into the wilderness to pray. His newly gathered disciples go out to find him. They’re ready for day two of, “The Magical Mystery Healing Tour.” People are already lining up for their healing. But Jesus says, “It’s time to go.” Why? His popularity is growing. His healing power is on display for all to see. Why does he tell them it’s time to go?
Because he did not come to be a healer. He came to proclaim the good news that the Kingdom of God has drawn near in him. (Mark 1:14-15) The healing miracles he has performed are not an end, in and of themselves; rather they are signs that point to the new reality he embodies. Healing is part of the message, but it is not the point. As Jesus discovers, the demands for healing do not decrease. As he tries to get back on point, a leper comes to be cleansed. He heals him too, commanding him not to tell anyone. But the man blabs all about it. From that point on, Jesus must travel in secret to be about his mission to proclaim the message that the reign of God has come.
What is the mission of the church? What is the point of our ministry? Is it outreach and service and mission trips? Is it worship? Is it studying the Bible and growing in the faith? Is it caring for one another in love? Like Jesus’ healing miracles, these are all important aspects of our call, but they are only part of a larger mission. As the body of Christ in the world, we are called to proclaim the good news, in word and action, that the Kingdom of God is breaking into our world. Worship and outreach and pastoral care point to this new reality. Education gives us the vision to see it. But our central mission is to embody God’s tomorrow in the midst of our broken world’s todays. In our ministry, we offer a glimpse of God’s kingdom breaking into our world. When the hungry are fed, when the poor have good news brought to them, when the dividing walls of our world collapse and we experience reconciliation with one another, when a person battling illness feels the healing touch of prayer, when in worship we experience God’s presence with us, we glimpse God’s kingdom breaking into our world. These are not ends, in and of themselves, but means to the greater end of our ministry to join God’s transforming work in our city and in the world. That’s what we’re all about. That’s what we are here to do.
What is your mission in life? What is your calling? Karl Barth says that humanity shares the same calling, to follow Jesus Christ; to live into the fullness of humanity he embodies as the world’s only fully human being. How has God gifted you to answer this calling in your life, in your work, in your relationships? Take some time today to remove yourself from the demands of daily life and pray. Jesus did, so can we. Through your prayer, may God give you the clarity to understand why you are here, and to do what you are here to do.
Prayer: “In the midst of today’s demands, O Lord, open my eyes to see, my ears to hear, and my heart to know what you call me to do. Then grant me the faith to do it. Amen.”
Author: Joe Clifford
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].