Sermon Epiphany 5 February 4, 2018

Isaiah 40:21-31          Psalm 147:1-12, 21c       

       1 Corinthians 9:16-23            Mark 1:29-39

May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

How many times in your life have you stayed with the comfortable and familiar rather than take a step into the unknown ?  Of course it’s never just a decision about you.  For most of our lives we have to consider the welfare of others, our parents  (both in our youth and in their old age).  We have to consider our spouses and our children.  It’s not good to pick-up stakes and move to a tropical island in a mid-life crisis leaving wife and kids in France as Paul Gauguin the painter did.  It may have been good for the advancement of Art but not for the day-to-day matter of putting bread on the table for his family at home.

Most of us have to make more conservative decisions, whether to take a new job with better pay but perhaps more demands on skills, time and family – all four have to be carefully weighed.  In the long run the better pay may lead to a better home, a few more luxuries but cut into family time with a longer commute and awkward hours.  If the industry we work in goes through a hard time, or the major employer in the town shuts down, severance  (if you are lucky enough to get it)  runs out very quickly.  What do you do, pick-up stakes and go to another town ?  Or do you hang around searching and hoping for something that may never appear ?  Or like so many in underdeveloped countries do you pick-up and go as seasonal workers in a foreign land, like Canada, for months on end ?  Eighteen thousand temporary workers do that and come to Ontario every year.  You have to judge and gamble that your skills can translate into a profitable future even if the only skill you have is a strong back.

And the risks of the unchartered waters arise in business too.  The biggest question around here perhaps is what to plant next year followed by the question of investing  (mortgaging yourself)  in new high-tech equipment which will lead to bigger profits next year – if the market stays the same – and it never does !

Life is full of uncertainties.  Today could be our last and it could also be our best, we won’t know until we’ve lived it.  But probably the best approach to life is to have a plan and adjust it as life unfolds, and there is always Plan B.

Jesus had this kind of decision to make.  He was early in His ministry.  He had received the commissioning of the Holy Spirit at His baptism, had faced the Temptations of worldliness in the wilderness, gathered His first disciples, performed His first healing miracles, was being accepted by the people at large and was set for a successful ministry, just like Benny Hinn.  The people wanted Him to stay with them but He had a different plan.  If He stayed He would just become another evangelist like Hinn, He could sit back and let people throw money and praise at Him.  Oh the comfortable life of the Evangelist no sacrifice needed, thanks very much !  But no !  Jesus was no Benny Hinn  (by the way have you heard of him lately ?).  Jesus was a man on a mission, the Missio Dei, God’s Mission.  Jesus knew the greater benefit of going to people instead of them coming to Him.  It’s the Servant Mode of Mission.  Paul copied the same style as did most of the Apostles going out to the people and spreading the Good News as far and wide as possible.  I wonder if there is a lesson there for us ?

People were clamouring for Jesus.  He went away for a few days and came back to Capernaum and as soon as He hit town crowds gathered and some enthusiastic people even removed the roof over Jesus’ head and lowered down a paralised man for healing by Him.  That’s the level of excitement that surrounded Jesus.  And again He had to face the decision to stay or not.  In a country and time when disease was rampant, and injuries probably life-ending a Healer was a much sought after individual.  There were no hospitals or clinics, no emergency rooms, nothing.  The people’s need was desperate and they acted that way.  So the question arises wouldn’t it be best to take care of the people’s physical needs first and perhaps the Gospel would trickle into people’s lives or was it best to concentrate on the Good News ?  A tough decision for Jesus a compassionate man, to make, only eased a bit by the fact that He already had a plan, so He said  “Let us go on to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there alsofor that is what I came out to do”.  The Plan was important to Jesus and it should therefore be important to us.

We have just gone over our plan which will guide us through the next five years  (a very short window given our longevity)  but one we need to implement.  I would ask you to think about how we will fulfill our mission, serving each other, loving each other, praying for each other and reaching out to others.  Come to our next congregational meeting and we will fully discuss the plan, what we are going to do and how we are going to do it.  When we do that I would like us to be able to step outside of the comfortable, where we might rest in the arms of the familiar.  We have to be a bit like Jesus and move into new territory because that is what we are called to do.  And once there we will spread the Gospel where it may not be known or if known ignored, this is our calling – to make disciples  (Matthew 28:19)  and to usher in the Kingdom of God which is God’s ultimate Plan, we can be a part of it.  Alleluia !  Amen.

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