5/1/2016 Sermon: Gospel in Motion

Mark 1:21-45

Bible Pop Quiz:  Where does this line come from?

“And Jesus remained there at Simon’s house for about a year, taking it easy and letting the people come to him if they wanted.”

You’re no dummy, so you probably sense that this is a trick.  That line doesn’t show up anywhere in Scripture.  Even if you haven’t read the Bible much you might have a sense that there’s something wrong about the idea of Jesus staying put in any one place for very long.  That’s because Jesus was a man on the move, and today’s passage is a prime example.

Let’s retrace Jesus’ movements in Mark 1:21-45 to see just how “on the move” he was.  If you can, stand up and walk a few steps to a new spot for each number.

  1. Jesus has just been at the Sea of Galilee picking up some disciples (1:16-20).
  2. Then Jesus arrives in Capernaum, a town on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee, where he goes to the synagogue (1:21)
  3. After that he heads to the house of Simon and Andrew to heal Simon’s mother-in-law (1:29-31). The people start to come to him there, bringing him those who were sick or possessed.  But instead of just staying there…
  4. Jesus leaves very early in the morning to go to a deserted place and pray (1:35-37). When Simon finds him there (“Everyone is looking for you!”) Jesus decides to…
  5. Go to the next towns and preach there, too (1:38-39). So they go all around Galilee.  (Oop – you better walk around in a circle for this one.)  Jesus heals a leper, and when news of that spreads it becomes impossible for him to move around without getting swamped by a crowd.  So Jesus moves on…
  6. Out into the country (1:45). (But even there, the people find him.)

Do you feel the movement going on here?  From one place to another to another, in a matter of just a couple days.

It was just a paragraph before this in Mark’s storytelling that Jesus called his first disciples.  He asked them to “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people” (1:17).  I can only imagine Simon, Andrew, James, and John chasing after Jesus from town to countryside to synagogue to town, and thinking, “When this guy said, ‘Follow me,’ he meant it!”  Jesus is on the move so much, in fact, that at times they have a hard time following him – they lose him and have to find him again.

Jesus is a man in motion, and anyone who follows him better get in motion, too.

So what about us?  Are we in motion with Jesus?

I’m blessed to be a part of a congregation where the answer is “yes.”  Not literally, of course, but in the more important sense, the figurative sense.  And not every one of us, probably.  But together, as a church, we are following Jesus even when it means picking up and moving to some new territory.

Here’s a good example of what I’m talking about.  About a decade ago Andrews UMC decided the community needed a place to gather.  They wanted to build a “Family Life Center,” a big facility with a basketball court and commercial kitchen and walking track.  They talked about it and dreamed about it for years.  Then one day two church members – Edna Seal and Penny Joplin – got fed up with just talking about the new building, so they went out into the yard and literally took shovel to dirt and started digging the footers of the building themselves.  That set things in motion, and without having the money in hand or knowing exactly how it would work Andrews UMC built a $1.6 million facility to benefit the community and the church.  And they did it because they felt Jesus was leading them somewhere, and they knew that your job was to follow.

I wasn’t there then, but I feel that same kind of energy now.  In the past couple year’s we’ve felt a growing use of the Family Life Center and seen a growing number of children involved with the church.  Several of us knew we could do even more with a staff person to work on those areas.  So we applied for this grant to help fund a full-time staff position without being quite sure how we’d hold up our side of the deal… but believing that if God was leading, then our job was to follow.  Now that we’re in the process of interviewing for the position I’ll confess to you:  I feel a little nervous.  I love this church, I’m happy with things like they are, and I’m a little scared to go changing things.

But our God doesn’t call us to stay put.  Our God says, “Follow me!”  So if we aren’t in motion, we aren’t really followers of Christ.  Following Christ means being willing to move, willing to go where God needs us to go.

This is a church that’s willing to follow Christ like that, and I know it because many of the members have encouraged me to keep moving to where God is calling us next.  Just to be sure, though, in worship today I conducted a little experiment:  I asked everyone to move to a different seat.

I wasn’t quite sure how this would go, honestly.  Like most churches, the majority of folks sit in the same spots every Sunday.  And I don’t blame them – I sit in the same chair every Sunday, too, right?  I like routine and predictability.  We like routine and predictability.  But Jesus didn’t say, “Come and sit with me.”  He said, “Come, and follow me.”

So I asked everyone to move to a new seat… and believe it or not, they did it!

But the lesson from today’s Scripture isn’t just that Jesus moved.  If following Jesus was about simply being in motion, we might blindly run toward a finish line or arbitrarily run like Forrest Gump.  Jesus moved differently than that; he invited his disciples to not just “follow me,” but to follow him in order to fish for people.

Notice that in all the moving that happens in Mark 1, Jesus is also stopping.  He stops to heal Peter’s mother-in-law, stops to heal the sick and possessed, stops to heal the leper.

He is fishing for people.

Our lives need to follow Christ in this way, too.  We didn’t build the Family Life Center for the sake of building something – we built it to serve the community.  And we aren’t just hiring someone so that brag that we’ve got another full-time staffer – we’re hiring someone so we can serve more people in our church and our town.

We are in motion, but we’re guided by compassion for people.  It must be that way, or else we’ll build a building but never let anyone use it so that it can stay pristine.  We’ll hire a staff member but only want him or her to do our work for us.  When we’re driven by compassion, our goal isn’t finishing a race but seeing how many people we can minister to along the way.

I believe this church is capable of that kind of gospel-in-motion.  But just to be sure, in worship this morning I conducted another experiment.  Since everyone had changed seats I figured they were sitting next to someone they didn’t know very well.  So I asked them to introduce themselves and commit to praying for each other during the week.

Are they doing it?

I don’t know.  I can’t be sure.  But I do know that Jesus calls us to a motion that isn’t just a random changing of seats on one Sunday, but a lifetime of fluid following that’s characterized by compassion for others.  And stopping to pray is a great way to do just that.

running shoesJesus Christ was a man in motion.  When he asked his disciples to “follow him,” he meant it.  Hopefully they had some good walking shoes, because following Jesus required a lot of walking.

We who are Jesus’ disciples today had better have some good shoes, too.  Jesus is often leading us to something new.  Jesus is always leading us to someone new.  So we must be ready to follow along that route of compassion.

So put down your phone.  Step away from your computer.  Let’s go!

Let’s follow Christ.

Thanks to the 2015 Doctor of Ministry cohort at Duke Divinity School for their input on this sermon.

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