Let’s Go!

Mark 1:29-39

I am going to tease my wife a little, but don’t worry, I checked with her first.

I learned something very interesting about my dear wife early in our marriage. Three months after we got married, we headed from California east to NJ where I was going to start seminary.

Now my wife and I had become best friends. We had known each other for years by the time we got married, but let me tell you, you don’t really get to know someone until you are in a car with them for hours and hours not certain about where you are going.

My first mistake was that I don’t like to plan ahead. I left the navigating to my new bride. I learned at this time that a map in Carrie’s hands can be a dangerous thing.

There we were, driving down the freeway, or driving through a new town to a new place we’ve never been to before, my wife studies the map. I am just driving along, awaiting the signal about where to turn, where to go, all of a sudden, I hear, “You should’ve turned there.” What? We did a little work on our conflict resolution skills on that trip across the country.

I learned that my beloved wife is a different kind of navigator. She thinks in very different ways than you would expect. If you expect and like clear directions given in plenty of time to make calm, safe turns and lane changes; if you like to have some idea in advance about the path she, the navigator, has chosen, then my wife as navigator is not for you. I have learned that about her. You never know where you will find yourself, with my wife giving directions.

Over the years now, I have discovered something disturbing, and that is that in this way (and in many others), Carrie is a lot like Jesus. You see, Jesus, too, can be a very frustrating navigator.

As we look at this morning’s passage, there is a lot that we can learn from this passage.

We learn that that though the disciples immediately left their nets to follow Jesus a few verses back, they still go home from time to time.

We learn that though long established social custom says N-O, no to interaction between males and the females of another family, and that touch was absolutely out of the question, Jesus doesn’t let social conventions stand in the way of healing.

We learn that from the get-go, Jesus is drawing crowds, and that SRO (“standing room only”) at Simon’s house is only the beginning.

We learn that demons–powers that exist beyond our understanding, powers that torture, that bind, that hold God’s children prisoner–these demons have insight. They know something about Jesus that nobody else in the story does, and Jesus, for some reason, doesn’t want them to tell. Oh, and we also learn that Jesus sets people free from these demons that bind, and torture, and control.

We learn that even Jesus had to get away from the craziness of life to have a Sabbath time. We learn that he knew what we so often forget, that prayer is an important part of life, and sometimes you just have to make room for it.

There are many lessons and tidbits that we can draw from this text, but there is something else that hit me this week. There is something interesting in this story that is repeated subtly time and time again throughout Scripture. It is something, quite honestly, that is annoying about Jesus, sometimes even more than annoying. It is this: when we want Jesus to stay put, he is always on the move.

Did you notice that? It starts, in Mark’s telling of Jesus’ life, right here. Things are going well for Jesus and the disciples here at the beginning. He is healing. He is casting out demons. He is beginning to draw a crowd. He heals many but not all. He could have stayed put. He could have stayed there in that town for a long time. They would have come to him, the sick and the hungry and the bound. He could have built a megachurch right there–CCC, Capernaum Community Church–but he didn’t. He did what he and his Father often do before we are ready, he moves on.

The disciples hunted for him. When they found Jesus in prayer, they made it clear to him that everyone was searching for him. They wanted more. There was more to do. The job wasn’t done yet. But Jesus, instead of finishing the job, decides to move on. His vision is larger. “Let’s go…” he says.

This is only the beginning. Jesus would always be saying to his disciples, “Let’s go.” When Jesus feeds thousands up on a hillside, and he senses that the crowds want to make him king, he doesn’t stick around. He doesn’t seek the adulation, or the power, he says, “Let’s go.”

When on a mountaintop Jesus is transfigured, and light shines from his body and he meets with the heavenly figures of Moses and Elijah, and when Peter wants to stay put and hold on to the blessed moment, build a church. Jesus says, “We can’t stay. Let’s go.”

When Peter has a moment of insight into who Jesus is, when he finally understands something that only the demons have known–that Jesus is Messiah–Jesus says “Peter, you only know the half of it. Stretch your mind. Stretch your theology. Stretch your spirit to understand. Let’s go!”

When Jesus really gets on a roll, and the crowds are pursuing him, when they are hanging off of his every word, when they are ready to follow him to glory and triumph, he tells his disciples (for some reason they cannot fathom) that he has come not for glory and triumph, but to die in humiliation. “I am on my way to suffering and the cross,” he says. “Let’s go.”

Later, after Jesus death and resurrection, God’s leads the early church by his Holy Spirit. And the Spirit is always up ahead. When the disciples are focused on events in Jerusalem, the Spirit leads them out, step by step, to the boundaries of the empire.

When the new community of faith is growing among Jews, and the disciples are focused on Jewish synagogues and Jewish towns, the Spirit is ahead, moving among the Gentiles, the “unclean” ones or so the disciples thought. God appears to Peter on the rooftop with a map, and says “Let’s go…”

We discover something here, in this story back at the beginning, about Jesus. Jesus, and later the Spirit, is always on the move. His vision is always larger than our own. His desire is not to stay put, but to move on to places we haven’t imagined yet. His teaching is not about the past, but is always focused on the future and how it transforms the present. It is never to defend a threatened doctrine, or to protect a cherished practice or belief, or to go back to some imagined golden age. Jesus’ ministry always proclaims new horizons of grace, love, justice, and peace.

This is not to say that everything past, everything traditional, everything familiar and comfortable, is thrown out. Far from it. It is just that these things are never ends in themselves. When we hold on to them too tightly, they can become obstacles that stand in between where we are and where God wants to lead us. This is what Jesus was trying to show the Pharisees, and the religious authorities of his day.

It is what he invites us to see this morning. Jesus is leading us to new frontiers. He is here, among us, with map in hand, and you never know where you will find yourself, with Jesus giving directions. A map in the hands of our savior is a dangerous thing.

The question is, where is he leading you, where is he leading us, today? In what ways is he stretching our spirits, our beliefs, our practices, our routines? What does he have in store for us? Lord, could you give me some idea where to turn? Lord, we are not completely healed yet. The job is not done, can you stop for just a moment. We’re hunting for you, Oh God! Jesus says, “Let’s go!”

Where is God calling and leading you? Where you are is not the end of the story. It doesn’t matter whether you are young or seasoned, strong or feeling weak, whether your skin is light or dark, whether your speech is eloquent or garbled, whether you feel like you are ready to change the world or it is all you can do to stumble in this morning, Jesus is inviting you, saying, “Let’s go!” I have new horizons…for you.

This is a word for us as, over the next few months, we finish this building program. Have you seen how beautiful it is! But this project is not an end it itself. It is an accomplishment to be celebrated, yes, but it is also a door that is now open that leads to new opportunities of ministry. “Great!” Jesus says, “Now let’s go!”
We are having a discussion on sexuality and faith, and we are contemplating change and growth. It is uncomfortable. It is risky. Are we sure we want to do this? We would rather just stay where we are. I am not sure where the process is going, but I know that Jesus is here…with map in hand, whispering, “Let’s go!”

We are ordaining and installing Elders and Deacons in a few minutes. We celebrate and are thankful for the gifts of these committed individuals. As they serve in their offices, as they go to meetings and plan events, they are not just engaged in busyness. Their task is to listen for God’s voice for all of us and to set a direction and equip us to go!

We don’t know where exactly Jesus will lead us. All we know, in faith, is that God’s ultimate goal is justice, mercy, peace, and love. “I have good news to proclaim to all God’s children, this is what I came to do.” Jesus said. Our leader is never satisfied until these things are known and experienced by all.

I was intrigued, in the Oral History project put together by Dorothy Jones and the Memorial Committee (with the support of many of you), by the story of Pastor Koenig, who served here during and after WWII. His children shared the story when Pastor Koenig invited a Japanese clergyman to speak at a service here in Logan. He was a minister of a church that the Presbyterian Church was supporting near one of the Japanese internment camps in southern Utah. The US government had promised much but delivered very little. He said they needed supplies. They needed more blankets for the winter. They needed visitors, and support. They were true war refugees who had been displaced from their homes and their lives. Faced with that need, God said “Let’s go!” and this church, in what I imagine may have been very unpopular in a time of war, supported residents of these camps.

Who are the internees that God is calling us to minister to today? Perhaps we will find ourselves, or part of ourselves, among the bound, the restricted. Perhaps we will find ourselves in need of support and healing and love. We sure know that there are many others in our world who certainly need good news–who need support, and healing.

Are you satisfied with your life and where you are, and where we are as a church, as a nation, and as a world?

If the answer for you to that question is ‘No,’ than know this: neither is God. God is hungry to bring healing, to love you, to welcome you, to strengthen you, to plant seeds in you so that you can go with him to bring good news to the world. God wants us to be hungry too.

If the answer to the question of “Are you satisfied?” is ‘Yes,’ then this morning’s message is this: be ready. Look up, because Jesus has map in hand, and he has something more in store for you, and for all of us. His vision is larger, and he bids us, “Let’s go!”

(To listen to the sermon, please click below)

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  • Back to School, Not Back to Church…

    …at least not all the way. Some ministries of the church are in action, others are not.

    Ministry is Continuing!

    To date we have shared around $7,000 with our local community to help relieve those affected by coronavirus, and we have another $2,000 we will be distributing now. This has gone toward food, diapers for families in need, rent & mortgage relief, and other purposes.

    Thank you for continuing to worship with us—our YouTube videos get around a hundred views each week, and in some cases, there are multiple people watching one screen. Thank you for listening. And thank you for your continued financial support.

    We are going to be doing some new things in the interest of our own spiritual health, fellowship, and the ministry of the church. The first is drive-through communion (or drive-thru, as it is frequently written).

    Drive-Through Communion — Sept 6th, 9:15-9:45am

    If you wish, you’re invited to drive through our parking lot on Sunday, September 6th from 9:15-9:45am and I will serve communion to you. You are just as welcome to partake of communion from home, as we’ve done the last few months.

    Fellowship Bike Ride — Sept 13th, beginning at 1pm

    On Sunday, September 13th we will have an FPC Bike Ride. We will meet at FPC and go on a 10-mile bike ride led by John and Jean Stewart. Maps of the route will be provided, and a shorter route will be available if needed. Some of the route will be on streets and some on dedicated bike paths. Meet us in the parking lot at 1pm, and we will depart by 1:15.

    Zoom Bible Study — every Tuesday morning from 8-9am

    If you’d like to join us for Bible Study we will begin on Tuesday, Sept 8th, from 8-9am. We will meet via Zoom so you can enjoy breakfast and coffee from home. The zoom link will be available on our First Pres Logan Facebook page each Tuesday morning.

    My role as pastor is to be a spiritual guide, someone who helps each of you on your faith journey (and as you might imagine, you help me just as much). I confess to you that feeling like we are connected and in touch these months has been a struggle. Continuing to not meet in person remains one of the more challenging decisions of my career in ministry. I want to see all of you each week. Worshiping at home via YouTube is certainly just as pleasing to God as when we gather and sing, but it doesn’t feel the same to me, and I’m sure it doesn’t feel the same to you. Hopefully, some of the above activities will help us with that.

    In the Presbyterian system the pastor does not make decisions about all of the activities and happenings around a church. The pastor leads worship, teaches through Bible Study and similar endeavors, provides pastoral care, and participates in many other diverse activities around the church and community. We have Elders and Deacons who take on other responsibilities, including making decisions about church activities (reserved for Elders, who serve on Session). Who does what around a church (and how we do it) is outlined in the Book of Order, which covers all kinds of things. But as you can imagine, there isn’t a chapter titled What To Do in Case of Worldwide Pandemic.

    The Elders that we elect as a congregation (you elect them, Pastor Meg and I do not vote) make many important decisions for each congregation, although pastors frequently share their thoughts and offer guidance for any vote that is taken. The Session of FPC Logan met on Wednesday, August 19 and voted unanimously to continue with online worship for at least the next month (until the next Session meeting, on September 16th).  At that meeting we will reassess the situation and take another vote for the coming month (or months). Session made this decision because we don’t feel it is safe for us to be in the same room for an hour together. Some people may be willing to take the risk. I am not, and neither are your FPC Elders. Of particular interest is the effect that the return to school will have on coronavirus numbers. Public schools and the Utah State University are back in class now, with both online and in-person classes. Also, of great interest is progress in vaccine trials. We are praying that one (or several) of these vaccine trials provides good news in the next few months.

    May the grace and peace of Jesus Christ be with you all,

    Derek

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