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Sermon February 4, 2024

Epiphany 5 B 2024 A Break In The Action Sermon

Mark 1:29-39

Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Today is the last Sunday in the Season of Epiphany.  Next Sunday will be “Transfiguration of our Lord” Sunday, a Sunday that is a bridge between Epiphany and Lent.  The church calendar is indeed moving forward fast. 

As we prepare for the Lenten Season, this year I am asking everyone to read the Gospel according to St. Mark from start to finish.  Mark is the shortest of the four Gospels, and it is probably the easiest to read from the beginning to end. 

One reason it is so easy to read is that everything in Mark happens so fast.  Just look at all that has happened prior to our reading for this morning. 

John the Baptist had appeared in the wilderness and baptized people in the river Jordan.  He told everyone about the promised Messiah, the One he proclaimed would come after him. 

 Jesus was baptized by John in the river Jordan. 

And then immediately after His baptism we are told that the heavens were torn apart and the Holy spirit descended upon Jesus like a dove, and the voice of God declared “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” 

 Next, Jesus was driven into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit where He was tempted by the devil for forty days; and we are told that Jesus was with the wild beasts and angels waited on Him.

And all this happens in the first 13 verses (not chapters) the first 13 verses of the Gospel according to St. Mark.  Wow, the Gospel of Mark does move fast. 

But that is not all.  In the next few verses, Jesus called His first disciples (Simon, Andrew, James, and John) and He preached His first sermon in the synagogue.  He cured a man afflicted with an unclean sprit.  And we are told that His fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

And this brings us to our reading for today.  As soon as they left the synagogue, we are told that they entered the home of Simon and Andrew. 

This happened on the same day Jesus preached His first Sermon, and the same day Jesus performed His first miracle.    

Immediately, we are told, Jesus was confronted with another person in need.  The text explains that Simon’s mother-in-law was sick with a fever.  And her condition was not a “take two aspirins and call me in the morning” situation.  

She was deadly ill.  And she needed immediate attention.    

Concerned, the disciples told Jesus about her condition.  And Jesus went to her, and took her by the hand, lifted her up, and she was cured.

Think about it.  She was healed immediately.  And we are told that she was now well enough that she was able to get up and serve Jesus and His disciples.

And again, word began to spread, so much so that by the evening of the same day, the whole town was gathered outside Simon’s home.  And the people brought with them everyone who was sick, and everyone who was suffering, and Jesus healed them. 

In one single day, Jesus cast out an unclean spirit, stopped a fever and restored a woman to health, and then performed so many miracles that they could not be counted.

This Gospel account does not start out slowly.  The Gospel account starts with a bang and moves forward at a breath-taking speed.  And all of this can be overwhelming.  Why?  Because everything happens “immediately” and “at once.” 

But then, suddenly, there is a break in the action.  In verse 35 we are told “In the morning, while it was still very dark, Jesus got up, and went to a deserted place, and there He prayed.”

After a full day of ministry, Jesus took time out to pray.  Jesus needed time to be by Himself.  Jesus took a break so He could speak with His Father in Heaven and renew Himself.  Jesus stopped what He was doing to refresh Himself and rest.  

And this should not surprise us.  The Bible speaks highly of rest.  It may even amaze you to hear that “rest” is a repeated theme throughout scripture.  For example: In Genesis we are told that God created the heavens and the earth in six days and rested on the seventh day.

The Ten Commandments that God gave to Moses highlights that resting on the Sabbath is a requirement of the law.  In the Book of Leviticus God makes it clear that even the land needs time to rest and recover before a new crop can be planted.  (Levitus 25:4, 8-12)      

Periods of rest are important.  From a human perspective, rest is vital for better health, increased concentration, better memory, a healthier immune system, reduced stress, improved mood; and yes, even a healthy metabolism. 

Periods of rest are also necessary for a healthy faith life.  We need to pause what we are doing on a regular basis so we can live the healthy life that God intended for us.

Imagine, for a moment, that you are on a long road trip, and after several hours you find yourself tired, sore, and hungry.  Suddenly, you spot a Buckee’s in the distance.  You pull into the parking lot, and suddenly you find that you are able to stretch your legs, use the restroom, enjoy some beaver nuggets, a brisket sandwich, and get some much-needed fresh air.

Yes, we all need “rest stops” in our lives.  God never meant for us to become so consumed with work and activities that our souls become empty.  The truth of the matter is running on fumes is exhausting and leaves us unable to give our best to our family, our friends, or our daily activities.  Jesus needed His time of rest too.

We are told that after Simon and his companion’s found Jesus, together they went to the neighboring towns and proclaimed the Good News in the synagogues and cast out many demons.  Yes, Jesus had much to do.  And a short time to do it. 

And that is why if you read through the Gospel according to St. Mark, you often find yourself swept along by the pace of the events.  His ministry activity happens fast, in rapid succession.  One minute Jesus is preaching, the next minute He is casting out demons.

This year, as we prepare for the Lenten Season, I am asking you to read the Gospel according to St. Mark from start to finish.  Some of you will be able to do this in one sitting. Some of you it may take several days to read the Gospel. 

Some of you will find that you have plenty of time to read the Gospel.  While others will find that you do not have much time to read the Gospel because of the fast pace of your life.

Remember this, as disciples of Christ, we all have important work to do.  But we cannot go full speed ahead, all the time.  Jesus Himself could not go full speed all the time either.  He needed a break.  He needed time spent alone with His Father in Heaven.     

As followers of Jesus, we have a good role model to follow.  We follow a teacher who took breaks.  We follow a Lord who took adventage of the “rest stops” along the way.  We follow the One whom God sent to fulfill His Redeeming Activity in this world today.

And to that we all should say “Thanks be to God.”  Amen.

Let us pray:  God of grace, when we are caught up in the busyness of this world, and live a fast-paced life, help us to slow down and hear your voice of hope, comfort, and peace.  In Jesus name we pray.  Amen.