Sunday 7 February 2021 - The first 100 days
Lift your eyes to gaze on God. Hear God’s Word and receive God’s peace. With all that you have been, all that you are, and all that you hope to be, offer yourself now to God in worship and praise.
Hymn 445 Shine Jesus Shine - requested by a member of the congregation when I phoned them this week.
O God, we come to you out of the week just gone – with its successes and disappointments, its joys and its struggles. By your Holy Spirit, help us to focus on you now, to listen as you speak to our hearts, so that we may be better prepared to serve you in the week to come. Amen.
We gather to sing praises to our God. How pleasant and fitting to praise him. Let us sing to the Lord with thanksgiving and make music to our God. Let our worship rise high on the wings of praise.
Everlasting God, creator of heaven and earth, your love causes our hearts to soar. You know the number of stars in the universe – just as you know the number of hairs on our head. Mighty God: We love you. You call each star by name – just as you call us each by name. Mighty God… You supply the earth with rain to make the grass grow; and provide food for the animals and birds – just as you provide all we need to sustain us. Mighty God… You care about the details, seeing every tiny part of the bigger picture – just as you care about the tiniest detail in our lives; for you know the person you created each of us to be. Mighty God… Amen.
Hymn 367 Jesus Is Lord
Isaiah 40.21-31 Psalm 147.1-11,20c 1 Corinthians 9.16-23 Mark 1.29-39
Hymn 189 God is working His purposes.
During this week I attended a PAM briefing with work which I don’t have to go to because it's on a Wednesday and I don't work on Wednesdays, nevertheless, more often than not I do tend to go. At the beginning of this meeting my manager was talking about wellbeing and how people felt and then said did anybody want to share any ways in which they had tried to keep themselves uplifted during this time of lockdown. There was a silence which I felt I had to fill. I explained that everyday unless it was throwing it down with rain I will go for a walk and that time for me is special and uplifting, because it's a time when I can exercise, I can be out in the open air, I get vitamin D into my body and I listen to religious music, from YouTube so my head is filled with praising God. As I walk along and see the clouds, the sky, the trees or the snow and the ice whatever it reminds me of Gods wonderful creation. How can I ever doubt that God is in control and He is good when I open my eyes and I look around and I see. Psalm 147 expresses this feeling too, the wonder of God is shown in His creation.
We are still in the first 100 days of a new American President and ever since Roosevelt first coined the term in 1933, the end of the ‘first 100 days’ has been seen by the US establishment as the point at which to assess the effectiveness and likely success of a new president. Boris Johnson did this too, he explained what he would do in the first 100 days of his premiership.
Jesus set out His plan for His work at the synagogue in Nazareth
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”[a]
20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He said ‘Today in your hearing this scripture has come true.’
This was His manifesto promises. Unlike politicians, Jesus kept ALL His promises to us. This is what Jesus does, He proclaims good news to those who are spiritually poor, He sets us free from the chains of sin and despair and fear that we have. He gives us sight to see Him and the words to shout His glory from our hearts.
In Mark chapter 1 we see a similar thing with something like the equivalent of the ‘first 100 days’ in Jesus’ ministry. It has in it a little bit of everything that will be revealed and explored in a little more detail in the rest of Mark’s Gospel account. In short order, it tells almost all you need to know about Jesus. By the end of the chapter, you know who Jesus is and what he is about. You have enough information to make a ‘first 100 days’ type of assessment.
Mark tells us that Jesus begins His ministry by going with one of His new disciples for lunch with his family. Then He heals, not just Peters mother-in-law but many, many more. Far more powerfully than words, people can see from His actions what He wants to achieve.
After dark, when the sabbath is over, people are able to travel and carry their sick to see Jesus. The door of the house becomes a meeting-place and Mark vividly suggests the chaos of a desperate crowd. People needed healing – alongside the pain and trauma of illness, it created economic problems where workers were unable to earn their living. Jesus wields complete authority over a range of illnesses and, as in the synagogue, shows his power over the demons by forbidding them to speak. For the first time, Mark shows us the extent of Jesus’ power, verifying the big claims he made for Jesus in his opening verses.
What do our actions, as individuals or as a faith community, say about our vision for the next 100 days?
People flocked to be where Jesus was, they had heard and so they came. Where do people gather in excitement today? Football matches? Black Friday sales? Major concerts and festivals? (before COVID of course) The feel-good factor is important. These days, the hope of making a difference also attracts people. For example, events around climate change, Black Lives Matter etc, draw increasing numbers. Sadly, it’s rare today to find people gathering round the church door.
Can we recover some of the excitement and promise of seeing Jesus and experiencing his life-changing power on the home ground of our church?
People don’t flock here to see Jesus, what can we do to make sure that we have the promise of Jesus here?
Or would we do better to go where others are gathering, and take with us the joy of being with Jesus, as the ‘ground base’ to the delight of others?
The disciples pursued Jesus when they discovered he was no longer in the house and, when they found him, they expected him to return and repeat the performance of the previous day. Jesus’ approach was more spontaneous – let’s go on elsewhere. In our relationship with Jesus, do we expect to find him where we left him, doing the same things as he did yesterday? Or are we learning that our Lord is always going ahead of us, inviting us to share in the new things he is doing? And, if so, what resources do we slower creatures have, to enable us to keep up with the Lord of the dance?
Then, in the stillness before dawn, Jesus retreats again to a deserted place. For the Israelites, the desert was the place to meet God, and Jesus too uses this safe space to pray. But his disciples find this hard to handle – they ‘hunt him down’ and demand that he returns to the scene of his triumph. After his time of prayer, Jesus has other ideas. He is ready to expand his mission, and they embark on their first journey together, in which preaching and exorcism go hand in hand, each reinforcing the other as proof of Jesus’ real identity.
He went to a desert place and began to pray. Modern employers often talk about ‘work-life balance’, and some even instruct their employees not to engage with work emails outside office hours. Yet for many people the stress of work and life is becoming almost unendurable and there are rising levels of problems with mental health. Churches are not immune to this – sometimes we even point proudly to how busy we are.
Can we as a church try to model a different way of life that learns from Jesus’ practice of taking time out and making space to be with God?
Jesus knew what His mission was, the followed that mission with utter dedication, never straying and never staying, He moved to tell all people about His message of freedom and love and new life. He spent time every day with God to help Him fulfil His mission. We need to focus on our mission as a church, how faithful are we to that mission? Where does God fit into this? An afterthought or the first thought, if Jesus needed time with His father, then I am sure that we need time too.
Make this your priority this week to spend some time apart, with no distractions and speak with Jesus, seeking His voice and His will for us all.
God Bless you as you spend time with Him and may this time encourage you to fulfil the mission Jesus has called us to, ‘go and make all nations my disciples’.
Hymn 1019 You are my strength when I am weak