Sermon Ideas For Mark 1:29-39 Part 6
I am not much of a musician. When I attempt to sing, staying on key is an ongoing challenge. I like music and appreciate the talents of others. My wife is an accomplished pianist, and I can listen to her play for hours. In spite of the fact that I am personally musically challenged, I am aware of that which seems to me to be some rhythmic qualities to this particular lection. There is almost a dance motion here.
Jesus' pastoral dance with his disciples and those who came to him for healing has a four-part rhythm. Healing, praying, preaching, and moving on. Healing, praying, preaching, and moving on. Can you feel the beat? As a pastor I sometimes feel a kind of rhythm while leading a worship service. From praying to singing to preaching to reading to praying again. At other times I experience it while going about my varied pastoral duties. From worship and sermon preparation to a committee meeting to a hospital bedside and then back to my office. The rhythmic beat goes on. The dance of life and ministry should speak to us of health like the beat of a vigorous heart.
There are exceptions, of course. Like the heart that suffers from arrhythmia. Like the pastor that doesn't have all the necessary steps to the dance. Like the ministry that moves at too fast a pace to sustain. Like pastoral "burn out" when too much is attempted by too few.
In this scripture passage, Jesus is healing and praying and preaching and moving on. He is healing Simon's mother-in-law in the home of Simon and Andrew. Then that evening he is healing the sick and demon-possessed, from all the town, who form a mighty press at the door of the house.
The next morning Jesus is up early and by himself off to a solitary place to pray. If he doesn't, his emotional economy will become unbalanced. The expenditure of energy in healing and preaching is great. There must be a time of replenishment. Alone time, rest, reflection, and communion with the Source of his strength is a necessity. Without that he is depleted and empty. His strength is sapped. He has nothing left to give.
Confronting and dealing with demons is a demanding experience. From a pastoral perspective the preacher needs to remind herself that the faces of the parishioners looking into hers every Sunday morning include the faces of many who are wrestling with their personal and collective demons. Chances are the pastor is already engaged in many of the ongoing battles in a supportive way alongside her individual parishioners.
For pastor and parishioner alike time to rest, recuperate, and heal from the ongoing spiritual warfare is a must. Even as it was for Jesus. To ignore the rhythm of engagement and withdrawal, to miss the necessary dance steps, is to flirt with disaster. For Jesus it meant the discipline of arising early in the morning "while it was still dark" and going out to pray in "a deserted place." What it means for the contemporary pastor may differ in form, structure, and location, but rest assured the importance is still critical.
Another part of the pastoral rhythm is experienced in Jesus' response to his disciples when they found him in his solitude and said, "Everyone is searching for you" (1:37b). He didn't say, "Tell them to wait a minute, I'll be right there." Apparently, he didn't consider himself to be "on call" right at that time. Instead he answers, "Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came to do" (1:38).
Jesus is moving on, he's ready to be on the road. There will be other people, other demons, other healings, other preaching. As a pastoral counselor trained to do in-depth, long-term, pastoral psychotherapy in a formal setting there have been times when it was necessary for me to say to a client after many hours of therapy, "You know, I think I've helped you all I can. Maybe you need to move on with your life without formal therapy for a while or maybe you need to see another therapist. I'll help you find someone else if that is what you want but I think I've gone as far as I can go on this walk with you."
In ministry as well as in life generally there are times to move on. Life is a pilgrimage. It's most important that we go on to the next stage, to the next task, to the next relationship. We may be very comfortable with what is; the routine may provide a sense of security but there comes a time, a right time, to move on. That, too, is a part of the rhythm of ministry. Jesus was healing, praying, preaching, and moving on. There was an on-going beat to his ministry that took him down the road that eventually led to Jerusalem and the cross, and the fulfillment of his calling.
The preacher who preaches from this text needs to be in touch with the rhythm and the beat of ministry. Self-care and the care of others go hand in hand. We are intentionally involved in healing, praying, preaching, and moving on, in our relationships, in our tasks, in our journeying. But this rhythmic beat is something the person in the pew needs to experience also because it is the pulsating beat of life and their individual and communal ministries also. It is an appropriate response to the Lord of the Dance.
Dwight W. Cumbee
Rio Verde Community Church
Rio Verde, AZ