5th Sunday after the Epiphany

first reading:  Isaiah 40:21-31

Psalm 147:1-11

second reading:  1 Corinthians 9:16-23

gospel reading:  Mark 1:29-39


Each of our gospel writers has a distinct character.  They each add their own flavor to their version of the events in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, depending on when they were written, their target audience and their personal style.  There are things I like, and don’t like, in each of our four gospels.

One of the things I love about Mark, which we believe was the first of the gospels to be written, his his intensity.  In Mark, there is no small talk, no procrastinating.  Everything is done quickly, if not immediately, as soon as possible – no delaying!

In today’s gospel we see this clearly, but we also have a chance to be surprised by Mark – and Jesus.

We open with Jesus and the disciples leaving the synagogue to go to Simon and Andrew’s house.  They didn’t dawdle or take their sweet time:  “AS SOON AS they left the synagogue” they went to the house.  And again, in Mark’s character, we get right to the point, no poetic language – Simon’s mother-in-law is sick and they tell Jesus “at once.”

Kind of reminds me of when I walk in my house after being out for a bit and I get bombarded by kids before I can get my coat off!

After Simon’s mother-in-law is healed she serves them.  She gets right back to work.  She uses her new-found health to serve others.  A good lesson for us.

The scene shifts to sundown and the house being innundated with folks who want healing, a chaotic scene to be sure, filled with noise and sorrow and joy.  Then it stops.  Like when the last guest leaves your party and you close the door and take a long deep breath of relief.

We don’t expect this from the Mark that constantly keeps moving.  He doesn’t write anything extraneous.  But here it is, so it MUST mean something.  It must be important.  But it only lasts for one verse so we’ll miss it if we’re not careful.

“In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went to a deserted place…”

In my house, I am almost always the first person awake.  Now that my oldest is in high school and it’s winter, when I wake up it’s pitch black outside – and quiet.

The frantic pace of Mark’s gospel stops in the stillness, darkness and quiet of the very early morning.  It turns out that even Jesus needed time to catch his breath.  And what did he do with this one little bit of quiet solitude?  HE PRAYED.

Durer's praying hands

Durer’s praying hands

Quiet, solitude, prayer.  In the crazy busy important life Jesus was living, even busier than you and I could ever be, he took time to recharge, refresh and reconnect.

Certainly public worship and prayer plan an incredibly important role in our life of faith.  But we also need to take time of solitude as well.  Time to allow God to fill us once again when we’re feeling empty.  In the words of Isaiah, “those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength.”

So this isn’t just alone time to sip our cup of coffee and read the paper – it’s time to PRAY.  Connecting with God.  Time for us to share with God our troubles and joys.  Time to remember how God has been present for us in the past.  Time to receive God’s love and forgiveness and guidance.

Time to talk, time to remember, and time to listen.  If Jesus needed this time, than how much more do we?

Because soon enough Jesus is at it again.  He’s interrupted by the disciples who were out searching for him.  And then they’re off once more.

The disciples want to go back, but Jesus says they need to go forward.  There are those who have yet to hear the message and THAT is where they need to go.  Good for us to ponder on this day of our annual meeting, when we look at the year that is past, and set our focus on the year to come.  Where are WE to go, what are WE to do, in order to live out the great commission to make disciples of all nations?

But back to the question I asked, “If Jesus needed this time, than how much more do we?”

Quiet, solitude, prayer.  “In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.”

When we neglect taking the time to stop and pray, we run the risk of taking God for granted.  When we think we’re too busy to stop and pray – THAT is when we absolutely NEED to pray.

Even our electronics need time to recharge.  Our physical bodies will break down without sleep.  In the same way, our spiritual life breaks down if we don’t rest and recharge in the Lord.

There’s always so much going on in our lives, whether it’s work, kids, our health and physical strength concerns, paying the bills, even our concerns for others, and can get tired and discouraged.

But listen again to how the prophet Isaiah describes GOD:  “He does NOT faint or grow weary…. He gives power to the faint, and strength to the powerless… those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength…”

Jesus needed to take that time of quiet, solitude and prayer.  He gives us his own example to follow in our lives.

He loves you and I, and wants us to be able to rest in him.  He loves you and I, and wants us to find comfort in him.  He loves you and I, and wants to give us strength.

In the midst of Mark’s busy gospel, and in the midst of OUR busy lives, that’s a good message to hear.

AMEN.

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