Our text this week is a continuation from last week’s account. After Jesus teaches in the synagogue (v. 21-28), he enters the home of Peter and Andrew. Peter’s mother-in-law is sick with a fever. He heals her and she immediately gets up and begins to serve them. At evening time, the people of Capernaum gather at the door. He heals many and exorcises evil spirits – probably late into the night. Sometime in the early morning, while it’s still dark, he finds a quiet place to pray and re-charge. When his disciples come looking for him, he states that they need to move on, preaching the good news of the kingdom in other towns and villages as well.
Jesus has had an intensely full day of teaching, healing, and ministering to the needs of the sick. This is followed by his “disappearance” to a quiet and lonely place in order to pray. Finally, the next day, we see his surprising conclusion to “move on” to other towns and locations – rather than to stay and continue to serve in this community where people are still in need and there’s an obvious clamor for his attention.
What should we make of this?
Although I’ve titled our meditation for today “Work, Pray, and Move On”, what I’m trying to see in this extremely busy day of ministry for Jesus is a kind of rhythm, or possibly a balanced, healthy view of time management. How does Jesus deal with both the demands and the constraints of this suddenly exploding work load?
The need to follow intense activity with rest and re-charging is a rhythm that I’ve found difficult to maintain and balance in my own life. The need (and command!) for such a life rhythm goes all the way back to the very model set for us by God in the creation story; six days of good work, followed by a day of rest. Or, as it became part of the rhythm and life code for all the people of Israel, the 4th of 10 commandments – to keep and maintain the Sabbath day as a holy day of rest. As a missionary in Japan, I can remember any number of pastor and leader gatherings where we would exchange comments such as, “It’s been so busy recently – I haven’t had a day off in months.” These comments, or similar ones, would often be shared with almost no awareness that, if true, would be a complete breach of our promise to accurately teach scripture, and would represent an open refute of at least one of God’s holy commandments! So at least one obvious take-away from today’s account is the fact that Jesus needed and made space in his daily rhythm for quiet prayer and re-connection with his heavenly Father.
In my own ministry I’ve often jumped into the work and found that part easy. It was more difficult to stop and truly rest and pray…. and finally, it was MOST difficult to change gears and move on. As I got “into” a task and had more and more of my own time and energy invested in it, it became more difficult to switch gears and start something new. Perhaps in a natural way, it was harder to see the ministry as “God’s” and easier and easier to see it as a work that “I needed to direct.” While there’s honor in “sticking to things, even when they get difficult”, I wonder how many times I’ve missed the clear leading of the Holy Spirit to “move on”.
And that’s the final part of the rhythm that stands out to me today when I ponder Jesus. Activity – followed by rest and prayer – often produces the kind of flexibility and clarity that we see in Jesus. It would have been so easy to “set up shop” in Capernaum; to rent some space, build a center, start a “seminary” for training, write a best-selling book, etc. etc. That’s what everyone was clamoring for. But instead, Jesus comes away from his time of prayer with a clarification of his call. “We must also go to other towns and villages to preach this gospel, because that’s the reason I have come (been sent).”
- How about you? Are you keeping a healthy rhythm? Are you working hard? Are you taking time to rest and pray? Are you flexible and open to new directions?
- How about us as a church? Maybe this time of pandemic has seemed like a long, enforced period of rest and “pause”. If so, are we taking advantage of this time to re-connect with our Master, to re-charge our depleted batteries…. to spend time with God?
- Are we able to contemplate “moving on” , to leave what’s been comfortable and consider completely new activities and ministries as a church?
(The above is a summary of the message shared during our zoom worship session on Sunday, February 7th.)