One of the distinguishing features of the twentieth century, which is following us into this new millennium, is the fascination that we have with fame and success. It’s a product of electronic mass media that people can become famous all over the world. They can become celebrities whose faces and name sell everything from movie tickets to cameras, shoes, perfume and clothes. The often sordid details of their flawed and broken lives sell new papers and magazines. We all want to know their secret to success or the details of their fall.
Jesus had preached in the synagogue in Capernaum and had delivered a man of an unclean spirit. The people had been amazed at the authority with which he taught. He had then gone to the house of Simon Peter and had healed Simon peters mother in law. The town folks had waited till after the Sabbath was over and brought all their sick friends and relatives and people suffering from unclean spirits and Jesus had healed them and set free.
Then in the passage we had read out to us today we see that after this Jesus gets up early in the morning and heads out to a desolate place to pray by himself. His disciples come looking for him because as they say when they find him ‘Jesus everyone is looking for you’. Perhaps my imagination runs away with me but you could imagine in our days reporters wanting to interview him, perhaps the local radio or TV station wanting to talk about a show, a clothing store wanting his endorsement “Nike gospel shoes a blessing on the feet of him that spreads good news. Definitely the people wanted to know more, hear more and see more healing from Jesus. But Jesus tells his disciples that its time to go to another village and preach that the kingdom of God is near. His purpose is to preach the good news in all of Galilee. You don’t get the idea that this is Jesus doing a McDonald’s and wanting to open a franchise in every town, rather as he has been alone with God he has sensed that this is God’s purpose for him.
Worship: To know God and love him, love the lord with all your heart and soul and mind
Fellowship: to love others as I have loved you
Discipleship: to grow more like Jesus. If you love me you will keep my commandments.
Ministry: To use the gifts and talents that God has given us to serve his people in the church. We are the body of Christ.
Mission: to go into all the world and make disciples teaching them all that I have taught you and baptising them in the name of the father and the son and the holy spirit.
“I never trusted God. Never. God was for posh kids. I knew that that much. God didn’t come to houses where the mum’s had faces permanently bent from too many drunken beatings, and dada who had crippled minds , and kids who wore plimsolls through winter and summer because the family allowance was fighting on too many fronts.”
From an interview with Bono the lead singer of the band U2 in rolling stone magazine, Bono is a Christian and a man who is at the forefront of justice issues in the world. He says this about the church and aids.
"I'm wary of faith outside of actions. I'm wary of religiosity that ignores the wider world. In 2001, only seven percent of evangelicals polled felt it incumbent upon themselves to respond to the AIDS emergency. This appalled me. I asked for meetings with as many church leaders as would have them with me. I used my background in the Scriptures to speak to them about the so-called leprosy of our age and how I felt Christ would respond to it. And they had better get to it quickly, or they would be very much on the other side of what God was doing in the world.
Amazingly, they did respond. I couldn't believe it. It almost ruined it for me -- 'cause I love giving out about the church and Christianity. But they actually came through: Jesse Helms, you know, publicly repents for the way he thinks about AIDS."
Jesus success leads him not away from such places and people but towards them and the call to us is to follow.
Possibly the most famous Christian in the last century, an old nun in the cluttered and dirty streets of Calcutta summed up her Christian faith by saying “ I meditate on Jesus and then go and find his face amidst the faces of the dying of this city’.
Here are some questions I want to leave you with for your reflection. In them I hope you will have an encounter of the Jesus kind.
In what ways is Jesus calling you not to stay but rather to go to the solitary place and pray?
How do our lives our priorities and time and successes align with God’s purpose for us?
Who are the lepers that Jesus is inviting you to risk reaching out and touching with his healing hand?
In the answer to these we may not find success as the world defines it but Jesus and things of eternal value.