A SERMON ABOUT SEARCHING

EVERYONE IS SEARCHING FOR YOU

MARK 1: 29–39 FEBRUARY 8, 2015

I. WHATS THE CONNECTION?

A. The passage in Mark today is three separate stories. But how are they connected? Take for example these three things and decide how they are connected. Reagan, Clinton and Bush. Right. they are all former Presidents. Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and Philadelphia. Of course, they are all cities in Pennsylvania. OK, Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Rick Sweeney. Why are you laughing? All three are married men over 40. What did you think I was going to say? What connects these three stories in Mark is that they are all about searching.

B. These stories are about searching for wholeness and rhythm and purpose in life. I got home after dark one night and noticed my neighbor on my side of the driveway on his hands and knees obviously searching for something. I asked what was up and he told me he had dropped his keys. So, I offered to help him look. “Did you drop them right in this area?” No, I dropped them on my side of the driveway.” “Then why are you looking for them over here?” “The lights better on your side.” I wanted to help him find them since I was sure he was late for his MENSA meeting.

C. Helping someone search is the other element of commonality in these three stories. It is about relationships. People who seek to follow Jesus are never called to play the Lone Ranger. We are connected. So your lack of wholeness or rhythm or purpose in life is MY problem too. So Paul uses the image of the believers as parts of one body. What affects one part affects the whole body in spite of different functions.

II. THE MOTHER IN LAW

A. The first story is the healing of Peter’s Mother in law. She has a fever. Her house is filling up with guests and she is not well enough to take care of them. She is searching for healing and a return to wholeness. And Jesus, without any fanfare simply takes her hand and helps her up and her fever is gone. Then she gets up and serves them.

B. She needed to be back in the rhythm of life. Her life was about service. Mark uses the Greek word Diakonoso. That’s the same root as our word Deacon. She was the first deacon in the New Testament. Her meaning in life was to serve others. So, there is a connectedness to her searching. She needed to be whole so she could resume the rhythm of her life and live out her purpose which was to be a deacon. Please don’t think of her service as menial. Jesus said, “If anyone wants to be great in the kingdom of God, let her become a DEACON, a servant.”

C. I I want us to notice two things about this story of healing that might shed light on all of the healings that Jesus performs. And they are the purpose of those healings and the way the healing takes place. I had a seminary professor ask us once, “Why did Jesus heal people?” The obvious answer was that he loved people and didn’t want them to suffer. But everyone who was healed in the New Testament eventually died. So their physical healing could not have been the ultimate reason for the miracle. It was to show the power of God in Jesus and to restore wholeness so that people could find their purpose in life.

D. And then there is how the healing takes place. Jesus comes into her home and touches her. Don’t miss how important touch is to Jesus. It is the intimacy of his love that brings the healing. It’s personal. And that is how healing occurs in us and through us.

III. THE CROWD

A. So what do we make of the next story. Word gets out that this Jesus can heal the sick and cast out evil that is making people sick. So they start to gather at Peter’s house. Mark says the whole city came out. It was a small town, but still, the whole city? Maybe what Mark was trying to say was that EVERBODY is searching for wholeness. You and I may not be suffering from a clearly defined illness right now but my guess is that we all have something we would like to find a cure for. Depression, self-doubt, broken relationships, addictions, ugly old feelings hidden just below the surface of our consciousness. There are as many forms of brokenness as there are people in the crowd.

B. And I think it’s true. We are all searching for wholeness. Now we might wonder how Jesus was able to be personal with such a crowd. But such was his capacity for love. My guess is that he touched each one. My guess is that he understood deeply the personal nature of each one’s brokenness. My guess is that each one went away feeling that he or she was loved personally and intimately by the one whose touch had healed them. We don’t get any follow up information on them, but I am thinking that each one rediscovered the rhythm of their lives and their purpose for being alive.

C. Who is in the crowd of searchers now? There is a man who lost both legs in Afghanistan and after battling depression now counsels other amputees returning to the States. There is a woman who had one lung removed due to cancer who now advocates for smoke free environments. James Brady is there in spirit. Surviving an assassin’s bullet meant for President Reagan, pushed for tighter gun control legislation his whole life. And there is Jeb McGruder coming out of the lie infested Nixon White House, going to seminary to learn to preach the truth of the gospel of Christ. A million different faces in the crowd, all seeking wholeness and rhythm and purpose. And there is you. And there is me.

IV. THE RETREAT

A. The third story is about Jesus going off by himself alone to pray. The disciples go looking for him. But this time, their searching is not for wholeness but to fulfill their own agenda of popularity. I love that fact that Mark shows Jesus as needing time away from the crowd. He needed time to be in close contact with God. An old pastor told me in my first year in ministry, “Before you talk to people about God, you need to talk to God about those people.” Jesus needed rhythm in his life. He needed the rhythm of work and rest and prayer. So why would any of us think that can get by without engaging in self-care? A friend of mine went with his friend to a Quaker meeting. They are known for long periods of silence. After about 15 minutes of siting in silence he asked his Quaker friend, “When does the service start?” And his friend answered, “As soon as this meeting is over.” Taking time to be with God is crucial for our own wholeness so that we can serve.

B. The disciples led by Peter are miffed at Jesus. “What do you mean sneaking off by yourself? Everyone is looking for you.” They wanted to keep the momentum of popularity going. The miracles were getting noticed and the disciples were loving the public adoration. But Jesus will not be boxed in and easy to find. He tells them that his purpose is more than just miracle healings. He says he MUST preach to other towns. He never let the crowd dictate his agenda. He had a clear purpose from God and he was going to pursue that purpose. He knew that preaching and healing were two sides of the same coin of proclamation. St. Francis said “Preach at all times. When necessary use words.” Jesus is modeling for us the need for wholeness and rhythm and purpose.

V. SEARCHING FOR JESUS

A. One thing Peter said was right. “Everyone is searching for Jesus.” Some people may not know that Jesus is what will bring them wholeness and purpose all in relationship to God and to one another. But there he is; sometimes out in a lonely place; sometimes in the midst of a crowd; sometimes in your house of worship and sometimes in your home. So often with the miracle of touch. Surgeon Richard Selzer tells of a moment that symbolized the intimate giving of wholeness between a husband and wife. A woman had to have surgery to remove a tumor from her face. During the surgery, the surgeon had to cut a nerve that controlled the position of her lips. She was terrified that her husband would not find her attractive anymore. Her lips were twisted into an unusual shape. Her husband came into the room. He bent down and twisted his lips to match hers and kissed her tenderly.

B. I like to think that’s what Jesus does for us. He twists his own lips to accommodate ours. I hope you keep searching for Jesus. A little girl was lost and a policeman offered to help her find her way home. “Where do you live?” he asked. And she said, “I don’t know my address, but I live near a church with a big cross on the outside. If you get me to the cross, I can find my way home.” If you get me to the cross, I can find my way home.

C. All we want to be as a church is a place where the light is a little better and we can find what we are all searching for.

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If you are new to my blog, I have written two books. The first is entitled, Whadda Ya Know, Preacher? It is a collection of essays from 40 years of pastoral ministry. The second is a work of fiction called And See All the People. That is a story about a fictional church, it’s members and it’s pastor. Both books are available on Amazon Books in either print or Kindle form.

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Rick Sweeney

Rick Sweeney

The Reverend Dr. Richard Sweeney, Rick, is a retired Presbyterian pastor and author. Rick lives with his wife, Prudy, in Greensburg, PA.