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Respond

 

Responsive. A quality of being barely alive to being fully alive. Giving any response at all to being quick to respond with genuine care and concern. Simply using words, listening and answering.

Jesus was responsive.  In every sense.

He was divine, yet his pupils dilated and his nostrils were full of breath. Even so, he said that real life, eternal life, was to know him and his Father who sent him. (Jn 17:3) He listened and he spoke, responses full of life giving words and tension filled directives. He acted in mind blowing ways, liberating and healing the enslaved, the hurting, the grieving, and the lost who came to him in faith.

In chapter 5 of Mark’s gospel, Jesus encounters three people whom the community would have perceived as:

a psycho, wild man

a crazy, “hypochondriac” woman

and an ultra- religious snob

Though he had every right to, Jesus didn’t judge. He didn’t justify a reason to pass them by. He didn’t condemn.

Jesus responded.

His actions frightened the powerful and shook the timid, challenged the knowledgeable and invigorated the outsiders, and overcame them all with amazement!

He threw legions of demons out of a scary, self-mutilating freak and into a herd of suicidal pigs.
He restored his sanity.

He was a channel of powerful healing energy conducted through a woman’s faithful touch into her own broken body. He relinquished her agony.

He took a lifeless hand and gently ushered a little girl from death to life and into the arms of her faith-full father.
He revived a relationship.

His words set people free, calmed fear, and gave hope:

“Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!”

“Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

“Do not fear, only believe.”

It seems to me that Jesus was available and attentive to the people around him. He didn’t have to seek them out or hunt them down.  He didn’t struggle with what to say.  He followed his Father’s lead.  John tells us that Jesus “can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” (Jn 5:19)

Whose lead are you following? Are you too busy doing your own version of “good” to notice the people crossing your path on any given day? Are you governed more by what you can’t do than by what only God can do? What does it take for you to respond? Are you bound by judgment and justification, or are you open to the Spirit’s gentle nudging?

Friends, it is God who responds to faith. We are just the vessels through whom he responds. Will you give him enough margin to use you today?  Respond.

Heal and Calm

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Have you ever known someone who was a healing and calming presence in your life? Being with them is restorative and brings peace to an otherwise chaotic world. I’ve had several friends and family members who I would describe this way. Even the darkest demons that torment my mind have been cast out in the presence of these people in whom God’s spirit dwells. Being with them is really good news!

As we are flip-booking through the gospel of Mark, Jesus was good news and proclaimed good news. In chapter three, he repeatedly heals. He heals a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath and gets all the religious people hot and bothered! In fact, he heals so many, that whenever people see him, they push and crowd just to get a hand on him! In his presence, evil spirits could not even operate freely! They (and the people they inhabited) uncontrollably fall down and proclaim, “You are the Son of God!” (3:11)

In chapter four, he calms the angry winds and the waves with a few words, while his powerful presence calms the fearful hearts of his followers.  “Why are you afraid,” he lovingly implores, “Do you still have no faith?” (4:40)

As we follow in our master’s footprints, are we ambassadors of this kind of restorative care?  Do words like “Quiet. Be still,” gently come from our lips into the chaotic environments we find ourselves in every day?

The great prophet Isaiah recorded some important imperatives straight from God the Father to his children (including you and me!) This is God speaking:

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” (Is 58:6-7)

God the Son echoed the same commands in his last earthly sermon to his followers:

“Come you who are blessed by my Father: take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” (Mt 25:35-36)

God the Father and God the Son call us to be agents of healing and peace in a world marred by sin and despair, illness and death, chaos and fear.   Following Jesus means acting like he acted. We may not have the gift of healing, but we can look after the sick and give the thirsty a cool drink, while we bring them to the feet of the one who can heal their mind, body and spirit, through prayer. We may not be able to calm the seas with a word, but we can demonstrate trust and peace in the midst of our own storms and speak calming words, through the Spirit, to our anxious friends and family.   Jesus, via his Spirit, continues to live through each one of us in every act of compassion and mercy. As Jason Gray puts it, “With every act of love, we see His kingdom come.” May his kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven!

 

Following In His Steps

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Do you remember flip books? I loved them as a kid. I would draw a stick figure on the corner of successive pages of my notebook, and then flip the pages to watch them move. It looked something like this:

The Gospel according to Mark is a flip book of sorts. It’s the shortest of the gospels, and emphasizes Jesus’ fast paced movements and actions more than his words or teachings. Most scenes transition with words like “immediately” and “at once.” Mark does not seem to be describing a continuous story line but rather a collection of discrete units, creating an artistic collage or mosaic of the life of Jesus. He lays out the evidence for Jesus as the son of God and then compels us to follow him!

If we focus on the actions of Jesus throughout this gospel, I think we will sense movement and direction, just like a flip book. A moving picture will emerge that I hope will move us. Let’s flip through Mark’s first two chapters. (Mark 1-2)

1 John baptizing -> Jesus baptized -> Spirit descending ->Father’s voice confirming -> Spirit driving -> Satan tempting -> Angels ministering -> Jesus proclaiming -> Jesus calling -> Disciples following -> Jesus touching, lifting, healing -> Jesus casting out -> Jesus commanding -> Jesus rising, departing, praying -> Jesus preaching ->Leper imploring, kneeling -> Jesus stretching, touching, willing 2 Jesus preaching -> friends carrying -> Jesus seeing faith, forgiving healing -> Jesus calling -> Levi (Matthew) following -> Jesus reclining, eating with sinners -> Jesus dispelling questions

Here’s what I see in this moving picture:

  1. Jesus submits and moves at the Father and the Spirit’s prompting.
  2. Jesus proclaims the good news of God.
  3. Jesus bids ordinary people to follow him.
  4. Jesus makes time to pray alone.
  5. Jesus casts out and commands demons that torment people.
  6. Jesus notices people, listens, asks questions, and responds to faith.
  7. Jesus touches people.
  8. Jesus eats and hangs out with sinners in their space.
  9. Jesus cares about faith more than rules.

As imitators or disciples of Jesus, are we doing these kinds of things? Some only Jesus could do, but Peter tells us that Jesus left us an example that we should follow in his steps. (I Peter 2:21) We can submit to baptism and listen for the Spirit’s prompting. We can proclaim the gospel. We can follow. We can make time to pray. We can notice people who are tormented, sick and hurting. We can carry them into the presence of Jesus, who is able to heal. We can touch, eat and recline with them. We can elevate faith over rules. His footprints are laid out for us; let’s follow one step at a time.