Posted on Feb 04, 2018 by Pastor Dave Whetter
We are creatures of habit, aren’t we? Now, I say this not as a negative, but as an honest statement of how we live our lives. In fact, I would argue that without habits we might not be able to function. Psychologists tell us that we all have an enormous amount of activities, or behaviors, that we must do every day. These behaviors include things like eating, speaking, working, playing… In fact, we have so many behaviors that we must do every day, some simple and some complicated, that we have to develop habits just to get through our days. We have so many things that we have to do every day that we need to learn to do some of them almost without thinking. When we are doing something that is habitual, we are not engaged in the task in the same way as when we are doing something that is not habitual. So, for example, something I do every morning when I get up is make coffee. I walk out to our kitchen, I turn on the grinder to grind the coffee, while it is grinding I fill the coffeemaker with water and I put in the filter, then I dump in the coffee grounds and hit the brew button. Most days I do this without even turning a light on. In fact, it is such a habit, that there are mornings that I am at my desk and I think I didn’t make coffee and I walk into the kitchen only to discover that the coffee is brewed. But you know, a couple of weeks ago when I was at my sister and brother-in-law’s home trying to help them get a new cancer treatment plan with a new oncologist, that same act of making coffee was actually complicated. I didn’t know where the coffee or coffee filters were, and their coffeemaker was different. My habitual act of making coffee wasn’t so simple. Without habits, we might not get everything done that we need to get done.
A worship habit we have is offering the Peace. You know, we do it every time we gather, and for most of us it is just a time to great each and say hello, but the reality is it has become such a habit that we have forgotten its meaning. It is intended to be an act of reconciliation. It is an act of taking time to make sure before we gather at the table together that we have reconciled ourselves to each other.
Being creatures of habit is not a bad thing; however, psychologists also point out that sometimes we need to change our habits, even the good ones. Oh, it's easy to see why we need to give up bad habits, like smoking or things that are bad for us, but why would we ever want to give up a good habit. Well, when we do the same thing the same way, all the time, we might not be doing our best. We might not be as engaged as we ought to be, and that is what we hear in our gospel story today.
As we heard last week, according to Mark, Jesus began his ministry by healing a man on the Sabbath that had been possessed by an evil spirit. Then today, our story continues as Mark tells us, “As soon as [Jesus and the disciples] left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them” (1:29-31). Now word got out and by evening everyone was bringing him all the sick and possessed to be healed. In fact, Mark says the whole city gathered to see the miracle worker heal people. Life was good; people quickly got in the habit of coming to Jesus to fix their problems, whatever they might be.
But, Jesus needed a break, so we are told very early the next morning, while it was still dark, Jesus left the house and found a deserted place where he could pray in peace. But that didn’t last long because when his disciples realized he wasn’t there, they literally “hunted for him”, Mark says, until they found him (1:36-37). And when they found him they said, “This is great stuff you are doing and everyone wants you to keep doing it, so let’s get back to town and keep up the good work.” But, Jesus said no! In fact, not only didn’t he want to not go back to heal more people there, he wanted to move on completely.
Now, it’s not that Jesus didn’t want more people in Capernaum to be healed. God is well aware that healing is needed in this world and God wants to bring about healing. But, the disciples quickly grew to like the fact that Jesus could do everything for them. It is as though they grew to expect Jesus to “snap” his fingers and poof, healing happened. But in those healings, they and most of those that had been healed failed to see the opportunity that comes with healing to be one who can now be a full servant, as did Simon’s mother-in-law. You see, she didn't serve Jesus after being healed because she had to or because she was a woman; no, she served in response to being healed
So, when asked to do more, Jesus says it is time to move on. Jesus had already healed many and now it was time for those who had been healed to continue the healing and sharing of the gospel. Jesus and the disciples needed to move on so they could continue their mission of spreading this great story so hope and healing could come to all the world. And there in lies the good news in this story.
All too often, we discover a good thing and we seek to keep it for ourselves. We desire to continue to do the same things, go to the same places, and see the same people so that we can continue to feel good. We do the same thing over and over because they make us feel good. They become habits and we don’t even know why or how we do many of them, but we have always done them. But, as Jesus so often says in various ways, the point of this good news is that it ain’t about us. We’ve already received the good news. We have been assured of our salvation and now it is time for us to move on and share that good news with others. So often we fail to see the opportunities for ministry that God sets right before us.
In our text from Isaiah, twice the prophet asks, “Have you not known? Have you not heard?”. In other words, “Have you not been paying attention?”. When things get difficult in life, so often we want to blame God or blame others and, yet, more often than not, God has given us all we need to continue on through the difficult times. God doesn’t take the hardships away, but God promises to be with us and to give us what we need. Instead of feeling helpless and hopeless with the “snap of His fingers,” Isaiah says God gives us power and hope to go on and offer healing and hope if we would only pay attention.
And that is our challenge in our personal lives and in our community life. As hard as it is, we all have many habits that it is time to change. We all need to make time in our lives to move on, so that we might continue to bring the good news that we know so well to the world.
When Jesus said “Let us go on to the neighboring towns…” (1:38) the disciples had no idea what they would be doing or where “moving on” would finally lead to, but they went. They followed Jesus into an unknown future and although it was difficult and at times downright scary, they went and they came to know a joy that only Jesus could offer.
Today that same invitation is being extended to us as individuals and as a faith community. Are you ready to move on to the neighboring towns so that we might share the good news and tell the story? Is there more work to do here, yes, but others will do it. Now it is time to move on! Amen