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Mark 6: 30 – 34, 53-56
July 17, 2022
The disciples have been busy! After Jesus was rejected in his hometown of Nazareth, he called the 12 together and sent them out, two by two, and charged them 1) to travel lightly, taking nothing but a staff – no bread, no bag, no money – sandals on their feet and one tunic only. He cautioned them 2) not to overstay their welcome when they visited people’s homes, and to be ready for rejection as he was just rejected by his hometown neighbors and friends. Not a very encouraging description of what to expect as a disciple, is it? I was struck with how accurately his instructions describes Interim Ministry!
The disciples went out and preached repentance, casting out demons and healing with oil. . . or in my work, dispelling rumors, modeling healthy behavior, strengthening the administration, encouraging committees, guiding the staff, visiting with you, praying with you, reorienting you around the positive rather than the chronically negative, and proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ alive at WPC to your friends and family, and to the stranger who walks through the doors – any of the many doors of the church.
I travel lightly, not moving to Akron and burdening myself with a house or an apartment. I drive a lot, but I am unencumbered; just my briefcase and the occasional overnight bag. My office has a few books on the shelves along with a few posters; I will not stay too long as Jesus cautioned. Be ready to be rejected, he warned. This is the awkward truth of being a Christian that may unsettle us: sometimes you will be at odds with those around you. Have you had that experience, at the office, around the dinner table, in a hallway or parking lot conversation when you acted in good faith, and it was not well received at all! These are less polite, more aggressive times, and it is wise to be cautious when speaking up or standing firm, but to be afraid to speak or to stand does not honor Christ. . . remember the promise of God in Hebrews 13: 5, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Now the disciples have returned from their first week on the job, as it were, reporting to Jesus all that they had done and taught. Jesus, knowing that there is a learning curve to being a disciple, continued to teach them the many things which they would need to know as they continued to follow and serve him. An important aspect of his teaching was to take them aside for a time – to be renewed, to be refreshed.
In the King James Version of verse 31, the translation reads “Come apart and rest a while” which is a reminder that if you don’t “rest a while” you “will come apart”! The disciples were ready for their rest – their sabbath rest – a time when they ceased their efforts of teaching, counseling, advising, (whatever forms their proclamation of repentance took) and their work of restoration, of healing – physical, emotional, spiritual healing. I am ready for a time of rest. Gwen and I will leave soon to travel to NYC and spend time with our daughter and her husband.
The disciples’ work resumed, as we heard, after they got into a boat and crossed over the Sea of Galilee to land at Gennesaret. Once there, the people find them again and begin to clamor for Jesus’ attention, bringing to him those who desired to be well, and who, like the woman with the 12 year hemorrhage, were desperate to reach out and touch the hem of his garment, if that was all they had available to them. It must have been chaotic, raucous, emotional with anxiety, tension-filled with despair from the sick and jubilation from those made well. My work will also resume when I return Tuesday the 26th to a Session Meeting. Session meetings! I don’t know many Presbyterian Ministers who look forward to Session Meetings, which can be chaotic, raucous, emotional with anxiety, filled with tension and sometimes sparks of jubilation. Yet, I would have it no other way. A group of disciples sets aside time to be together and discern the mind of Christ. It is Biblical. It is not easy, but again I would have it no other way. Having Jesus as our Teacher and Friend prepares us to speak the truth in love and face the challenges of the church. When elders meet, we are to discern the mind of Christ, which can be difficult to do under the best of circumstances (the disciples very often struggled to understand Jesus). Your elders meet together to seek the counsel of Jesus: when we do, we can become better human beings transformed by His grace and love. There is scientific evidence that love changes us if we are willing to be changed.
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Written in 2009 and updated in 2017 by Susan Kuchinskas, an article in a research journal caught my eye when I read the title: “Benefits of the Daddy Brain.” The bold print on the next page enticed me to read more, and I paraphrase: New research on mice, rats, monkeys and humans shows that, while men don’t endure the pangs of childbirth, they get some of the same cognitive and physical benefits. [Loving a woman and] . . . [fathering her] parenting children changes a man’s body and brain in ways that make him more canny and resourceful, while improving his ability to handle stress. At the same time, living [with the woman he loves] in a loving relationship alters a man’s hormones and neurochemistry to make him a better mate.
Yet another testimony to what we have known from the start – that we are meant for love, and love changes us. There are actual physical changes to our bodies, minds and spirits when we love! Hidden within our own bodies is a hint of the resurrection body to come, when by the grace and glory of God we shall all be changed, as Paul writes, in an instant, with a glad shout, in the twinkle of an eye! If we are responsive to human love in this physical realm, why wouldn’t we respond to God’s love in the spiritual realm? A session meeting is meant to be a little slice of heaven when disciples seek the mind of Christ and are united in His service. Imagine that!
Decide today, decide each day, to face the morning light with the intention to follow Jesus by teaching and doing. There will be challenges, as there are for every disciple. It won’t always be easy, but loving truly never is not meant to be easy. It is meant to be satisfying, fulfilling, redeeming. So, tell me, fellow disciples, what have you been up to in the name of Jesus? What have you done, or said, to show that the Kingdom of God is at hand, because Jesus loves you? Another way to ask this is, What has Jesus taught you as his disciple? He teaches his disciples many things. What has he taught you, and how have you shown this or done that and shared his love with others? We will be better human beings when we are changed by his love. Amen.