Tuesday, June 26, 2012

healing won't wait Mark 5:21-43

Ever wonder what faith is? Just look at Mark 5:21-43 to hear of two believers who came for healing and found it in Jesus.   Jesus changed lives along the shores of Lake Galilee in Mark 4 and 5.  In the middle of the lake he calmed a storm, on one shore he caste out daemons, and on the other he met people who needed healing the moment the met him.

Right as they reached the shore a crowd surrounded Jesus and friends Mark 5:21.  Crowds weren't new to them.  People searched him out wanting freedom from daemons and diseases.  At the front of the crowd was Jairus, a synagogue leader with a dying daughter at home.  Desperate he begged Jesus for help and Jesus headed with him to meet her and the crowd followed along. (Mark 5:22-24)

In Bible School the crowds have come to see Jesus this week.  We encouraged the kids to imagine crowds.  "Stand tight together shoulder to shoulder in lines.  Imagine if Jesus moved left and everybody followed."  They couldn't move fast.  They had to shuffle together to stay near to Jesus.  No doubt there were accidental trips and upsetting falls as people moved close to Jesus.

A woman full of faith and troubles came up, touched Jesus, and was healed (Mark 5:25-29).  Jesus felt power go out from him.  He looked wonder who was healed (Mark 5:30-32).  The woman knew what happened and knelt before him shaking (Mark 5:33-34).  She met him with faith and troubles and left free; the one she believed in set her free.  Right as Jesus sent her away with a blessing of peace word came from Jairus home, his daughter was dead.  He continued onward with Jairus' saying μὴ φοβου, μόνον πίστευε don't fear, only trust /believe /be confident . (Mark 5:35-36)  

Jairus hoped Jesus could heal his daugter--and he'd witnessed a miracle on the way.  After she was declared dead--Jesus kept on moving towards her like he could still help.  Leaving the crowd behind they  entered the house as people inside laughed him off (Mark 5:37-40).  But he kept on moving towards her.  Reaching out his hand He called to her in Aramaic--ταλιθα κουμ (talitha koum) little girl arise (Mark 5:41) and she stood up

Healing came for two who had faith in Christ.  This is faith--profound and sublime--saving trust in God revealed in Jesus the Christ. This isn't intellectual assent to doctrine--this is trust in the person who came bringing the kingdom of heaven close to them.  We know him as he is revealed to us in the Living Word read in scripture, preached in the assembly of believers, sung about in hymns, discovered in Bible study, and in any other way that the Lord of Heaven and Earth might choose to come to us. And through faith we see miracles like Jairus and the hurting woman who went away in peace.  

Pax, John.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Storm Calmer Mark 4:35-41

In the middle of a crisis fears, limitations, and character all become clear.  After all it was in the middle of a storm when Jesus' closest disciples, filled with fear, had a profound experience of His raw divine power.

Setting the scene: Jesus spoke to a crowd down by the lakeshore in Mark 4:1-34.  He told the crowds beautiful parables about the kingdom of God.  Marks gospel ads a key detail to the story--Jesus explained with the parables meant directly to his closest disciples but leaving mystery behind for the crowd as their pondered his teaching. Mark 4:33-34. 

Jesus' friends feared the storm:
Jesus, leader and teacher, turned to his closest followers and asked to cross the lake and go toward the other side Mark 4:35.  Others came along in boats too.  Mark doesn't leave any details about them coming along with for the whole journey or just a little way out from the shore Mark 4:36. 

The lake probably seemed calm or at least calm enough to cross as they set out with Jesus towards the other side.  And Jesus slept comfortable on a cushion in the stern as Mark as a storm blew up over the lake 4:38.  In the midst of the waves these friends feared for their lives Mark 4:37.  They called to Jesus laying asleep in the stern of the boat teacher/instructor don't you care if we are destroyed/apocalypted? διδάσκαλε ου μέλει σοι ότι απολλύμεθα.  The storm was real; it was their apocalypse and in their moment of fear they called for help to their teacher.
Jesus over-powered the storm:
Jesus was and is someone who can change a situation with just a word.  He was asleep, or maybe (Pastor Steve Whitmer argues well) Jesus faked sleep there in the back of the boat as the storm overcame them.  And right as fear overwhelmed his friends confidence in their ability to cross the lake they called to their teacher for help.  And Jesus, God in flesh and blood, overwhelmed the storm. All it took was his word σιώπα, πεφίμωσο silence, muzzle-yourself and the storm was gone.

The storm seemed like the most powerful force in the world at the moment of greatest fear.  But it was clear--Jesus, the one there with them in the middle of the storm, had such power that even wind and wave obeyed him. 
Thanks be to God for working in our lives in times of storm and struggle.  Thanks for overpowering the storms when we doubt and fear.  AMEN.
Pax, John

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Reading Parables that Read Us Mark 4:26-34

When crowds came close enough to listen to His teachings Jesus spoke in parables (Mark 4:33-34). Jesus' Parables read us pointing out what God sees in us leaving questions for later pondering and invitations to later action.

Reading Mark 4:26-34 we'll discover 2 of our great teacher's parables about the Kingdom of God: one about someone who scattered seed and one focused on a mustard seed. Alone with just His twelve closest followers Jesus said it plainly, but when crowds came 2000 years ago it was time for parables. And these same pointed stories speak today testifying about God's kingdom coming among us.

Jesus compared the kingdom of God with someone scattering seed. He doesn't know exactly how it sprouts but trusts it will (Mark 4:26-27). In our age of hybrids and genetic trait selection there's still no guarantee every seed planted in the spring will sprout and produce a harvest. Instead the person who scatters seed, like a person of faith, counts on something else often something unseen to do the work.

People of faith count on God the Holy Spirit to act unseen like the soil supporting seed as it sprouts and grows (Mark 4:28-29) Jesus invited his hearers to imaging the God's kingdom as a mustard seed starting small (Mark 4:30-31) but growing exponentially from tiny seed into a bush (Mark 4:32) David Lose explores the nature of mustard plants growing like weeds in a very powerful way in this story.

Over the past 3 years I've placed a mustard seed in the hand of each seventh grader starting Confirmation. Midwestern Lutherans, like me, put emphasis on Confirmation ministry. It's a tradition that's stayed alive for 12-15 year-olds as the majority of parents in the past two generations have drifted away from churches of all stripes. Young people come immediately facing their parent's inconsistency. They wonder why it matters if they know about God and church if their parents worship so infrequently if ever. They wonder why parents expect them to be in church for 3 years but don't come themselves. These kids come ready for seed. Troubles come when we aren't planting the seed these kids need. They need the seeds of faith—the stories of Jesus love and a chance to be part of the church—the living breathing people of God.

When we plant the seeds of Jesus in what we say and do we will see God at work. It's time to be church—planting the seeds with faith God will act. AMEN.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Jesus Living Family Mark 3:20-35

Jesus living family is alive today. He named his family saying those who do God's will are his mother, brothers, and sisters (Mark 3:33-34). The church catholic today is a living household of faith, united together listening to God's Word and seeking out how best to do His will.  The Christian relationship as brothers and sisters in Christ is often underestimated—but believers learn here on earth and in the life to come that full breadth and depth of Christ's family is bigger than any human can know.

Human imagination can limit our visions of Jesus' family. His family is defined not by national or ethnic relationships, denominational or parental lineage. The boundaries of God's household are established not by DNA but by the gift of faith growing and nurtured by the Spirit leading believers to follow and serve God.

Early in Jesus' ministry crowds followed close to him seeking miracles and acts of great power (Mark 3:7-13). He had even designated close followers calling 12 men to walk with him as their teacher (Mark 3:14-19). The moment Jesus came home with this huge crowd his birth family reacted both to Jesus personally and to the crowd and the disciples. They treated Jesus like he'd gone mad (Mark 3:20-21). Jesus' mother and siblings needed a change of heart and mind about him. They knew one dimension of Jesus' being—this man who'd lived with them all his life—but now they were seeing the emergence of his full divinity. Jesus own mother underestimated his power.

The pharisees joined in accusing Jesus of having a daemon (Mark 3:22). Jesus didn't laugh off their words. Instead he turned to them with a question, “How can Satan Satan cast out?” πως δύναται σατανας σαταναν εκβάλλειν (Mark 3:23-24). Jesus was outside the lines the pharisees and his own family knew and understood—but the crowd was with him waiting for more. And Jesus spoke so boldly about who Satan is and what he does in response to this accusation. (Mark 3:25-30)

Jesus' family came near again. Many a believer, especially pastors, have similar stories to tell. A woman disowned by her pastor father after seeking to serve God as a pastor herself. A Roman Catholic family who turned away from their son when he sought ordination in an evangelical church. A Baptist family refused to communicate with their son when he entered a Catholic seminary. Even close human families will sometimes miss the calling and activity of God in the life of a beloved child or sibling.

Why should any other human family like Mary and Jesus' siblings be any different?

As Jesus taught the crowd and the disciples His own mother and sibling sent word that they were outside—and Jesus wouldn't leave the company of the crowd to go meet them (Mark 3:31-32). The family's relationship with Jesus was going to be forever different. The crowd recognized something inside of Jesus that even the ones closest to him hadn't seen. His words to the crowd sound harsh towards his family at first (Mark 3:33-34). But pay attention here.  Jesus had a mission and he couldn't turn back from it.  And taking up that mission He didn't disown Mary and the rest of the family. Here we see an opening not only for Jesus family but for all who trust in God to be His brother, sisters, and mother.

Pax, John