Monday, January 30, 2012

Healing Prayer - Holy Ground

Our text on Sunday was Mark 1:21-34. Check it out.

I love the gospel of Mark.
Quick to the point of brusqueness,
Mark moves things right along,
no meandering,
no wondering.
A lot of "immediately"s and a lot of "amazed"s
are peppered throughout his narrative.
Usually, I enjoy a story that unfolds slowly,
like a beautiful flower,
gradually revealing its hidden beauty and fragrance.
Mark will have none of that.

And on Sunday, I remembered how much I like that,
how thankful I am for Mark's rapid-fire depiction of the jaw-dropping things 
Jesus began to do after his immersion in the Jordan River.

Living in the 21st century as we do, 
I am struck by how underwhelmed we are a lot of the time.
Maybe that's because we're bombarded with HEADLINES all the time,
most of them horrific.
Maybe that's because finding a good news story 
is increasingly tough to do.
Maybe it's a cultural thing.
But maybe it's a church thing, too.
Maybe we have mislaid
our sense of wonder,
that overwhelming well of gratitude and praise
that winds like a shimmering ribbon throughout so much of our Holy Book, 
most especially the gospel narratives that
tell us about the life of Jesus.

So let me ask you a question:
When was the last time that you were truly amazed by Jesus?
I mean, stopped in your tracks,
drop to your knees,
bleary and teary-eyed
at who Jesus is and what Jesus does?

It's so easy to become slightly blase about the whole thing sometimes. 
Oh, yeah, Jesus is a great guy - loves little kids, lives simply, must have been a quiet sorta fella, 
don't you think?


But start reading Mark and those yawns 
will be stifled pretty darn fast.
The people of Capernaum, that little backwater town in Galilee, 
they were stunned.
The man in the synagogue -
did you catch that -
in the synagogue
who had an evil spirit within -
both he and the spirit were slack-faced with wonder
and fear.
Peter's mother-in-law, the one who was too sick to serve,
she was pretty bug-eyed, too.
And then all those townspeople,
the ones who crowded around the front door 
of Peter's house that night.

Here was someone who spoke and taught with authority.
Here was someone whom the powers of evil 
knew instinctively was their nemesis. 
Someone with whom evil was totally incompatible.
Here was someone who cared about 
his friends and their families.
Here was someone who had compassion on an entire town -
 and who showed that compassion by 'healing many.'

Our pastor noted that the first step to healing
is to rout out evil.
That's the first little nugget in this narrative -
the spirit of evil is noisy and chaotic.
Jesus is calm and clear:
"Shut up. Get out."
Can we do that to the evils that beset us,
those voices,
that fill us with chaos and noise?

It's time to be released from the noise,
to lean into the calm,
 to be amazed at the gracious,
authoritative healing power of our God.

Our service ended with a time of anointing,
of coming forward to be blessed,
touched by the oil of grace,
prayed over.
One of my very favorite things ever 
in my years of pastoral ministry.
And, at the very last minute, 
I was invited to stand in front of the kneeler 
and pray for some of the hurting ones who came forward.
While the congregation sang, about a dozen people found their way to the front.
Each one amazed,
each one open,
each one blessed.

And I?
I was the most blessed of all.
For I stood on holy ground,
lifted by the music,
surrounded by the people of God,
amazed at the power of grace
all over again.

Linking with Michelle DeRusha and Jen Ferguson and Jennifer Lee and Ann Voskamp
this Monday night.