Many of us have been thinking about what will happen after the pandemic. Just as the pandemic has changed us – giving us a new concept of personal space, leaving us more accustomed to working from home and using Zoom rooms for meetings – it is clear that some things are going to change.
The old joke: How many Episcopalians does it take to change a light bulb? Change? (as we clutch our pearls and wring our hands)
Jesus seems to embrace change. He would move on and would call us to join him.
In today’s gospel story, what Jesus does most is to keep moving, and not just in an intellectual or spiritual sense. He is literally, physically on the move from one place to the next. Jesus leaves the synagogue in Capernaum, where he has been teaching and healing, and he walks over to Peter’s house for dinner. After healing Peter’s mother-in-law, Jesus leaves while it is still dark to go off and pray alone. When his friends find him, he announces it is time to move on.
The gospel does not tell us whether Jesus received an explicit message or just had a feeling, but he discerns that the need to move on is urgent. Jesus wants to go on to neighboring towns to share more of the good news he proclaims about the Kingdom of God. Jesus is not content to put up his feet and enjoy his success. In fact, he consistently avoids publicity, telling the demons to be silent about his identity and the healed not to talk about their healing. Jesus is not going to settle down and cultivate a nice healing business in Capernaum. He does not seek fame or money or stability. Jesus is on the move.
Jesus moves so much and so quickly in the Gospel of Mark that it has been called a holy travelogue. By the time he is arrested (Ch 14), Jesus has walked all over Galilee, through Samaria and into Jerusalem. His sense of call is so powerful that he is a perpetual pilgrim. Jesus travels so much that he refers to himself as the homeless Son of Man, the one with nowhere to lay his head. I can only imagine how his mother felt about that, but the moving on clearly brings a sense of loss. And at one point, long after today’s passage (Mark 10.28), Peter plaintively reminds Jesus that his friends have given up everything in order to follow him. Everything.
Jesus promises Peter a reward a hundred times greater than his sacrifice for moving on. There is no record in the Gospel whether Peter was satisfied with that response. I wonder if we are. Most of us struggle to move on with the passion and commitment that Jesus had, even if moving on is a fact of life. Human nature seems inclined to resist change with feverish passion. Nearly all of us know the feeling when a work change is announced. We know about the fearful reluctance that marks going to live with a parent or a child or into nursing care. We feel anxiety when we consider the possibility of changing the words of the church service or the music we use.
How much do you love change? I am not a fan. I like the predictable nature of regular life. I do not seek out surprises. A change in the cable lineup irks me. My fashion sense is never avant garde. I do see that there is some irony in working in parish ministry and not relishing the process of change – because each day is different in a parish and the church is in the midst of a huge transition right now. I attribute this to God’s sense of humor. (Tell God your plans and hear God laugh).
So where are we headed after this dreadful pandemic is past?
Jesus calls us to follow him on to the next place and the next big thing. What that shall be is not clear. Often our life is not clear except in retrospect. If we are willing trust Jesus, perhaps we can believe that ultimately it will be all right.
In GMark, the ministry of Jesus as he travels in Galilee is not primarily a healing ministry. It is a ministry of power. The power Jesus has and shares is part of his identity as Son of God. Yet Jesus’s implicit promise is that part of the journey with him will involve healing. Will Jesus heal our fear? Will he heal our weakness? Will Jesus transform the fear and weakness which mingle in feverish resistance to changes which are necessary for new life?
Jesus comes to tell us good news. The good news is that we are also connected to the power of God. The good news is that we shall never be alone. And, that good news is accompanied by mighty deeds that free us from our burdened lives. When Jesus sneaks out to pray early in the morning, and the disciples find him, he responds with a renewed commitment to his mission of proclamation and confronting the power of evil. Lives are changed, the world is different. Can we allow Jesus to heal us of our fevers – as he healed Peter’s mother-in-law – so that we can hear the good news of deliverance and join him on his mission?
Jesus is on his way.
Are we willing to keep moving with Jesus?