Everybody is looking for Jesus

Jesus Praying (Tissot)

Everyone is looking for you! That’s what the disciples told Jesus, in today’s reading from Mark. Jesus hardly gets a moment to himself.  In this short section of text: he preached in the synagogue, healed Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever, and healed the sick and demon-possessed who gathered at the door.  Finally, in the dark before dawn, Jesus was able to go, by himself, to pray.

Prayer can happen over a meal, in the middle of your work, as you drift off to sleep.  Whenever or however you pray, the act of praying makes an intentional connection between you and God.  Prayer takes many forms but essentially it is a conversation with God.  Conversation means talking–it also means listening. Prayer is a way to enter into God’s time, and a way to restore your soul.  Even Jesus, it seems, needed to be restored and re-centered at a busy time in his ministry.

People were looking for him while he was off by himself praying.  You can hear the edge in [Simon] Peter’s voice: “Everybody is searching for you!” (Where have you been? You should have been here with us!)  It sounds like Jesus really heard something during his time of prayer, because he did not go back to Simon Peter’s house to continue to heal the sick and demon-possessed.  Instead he called his disciples to continue traveling through Galilee, proclaiming his message, “for that is what I came out to do.”  Jesus was listening to what God wanted him to do, and he could hear God when he was praying more easily then when he was surrounded by people.

Questions to think about:

  • Why do you think everyone was looking for Jesus?
  • Where and when do you pray?
  • How do you feel after you pray?
  • When you pray, are you usually talking or listening?

Blessings, Mother Anne+

Jesus and the Kingdom of God

What would you attempt to do if you knew you couldn’t fail?  Fear of failure, or just plain fear, is a kind of jail. It is hard to break out.  Jesus taught people about what is possible in the world–he told stories with surprising meanings, with unexpected endings.  And the people who heard him knew that there was something different about him.  In today’s reading from Mark, we hear how they were jolted, did double-takes, scratched their heads, said, “What? What’s this?”  They hadn’t heard anyone speak like this about how to live in a new kingdom.  They said he was teaching with authority–that he knew what he was talking about! Jesus told stories about living without fear of failure, of living in the Kingdom of God right here on earth.  Jesus taught people about the Kingdom of God (and how to live in it) by telling stories.  Often, the particular type of story he told had a surprise ending—we call those stories parables.  Parables never turn out exactly as you expect them to, and they leave you with plenty to think about.

One parable Jesus told was about a rich man who was going away on a long trip, the Parable of the Talents.  He left three servants in charge of different amounts of money, called talents.  A talent is a large sum of money—picture a bucket of gold.  The first two servants used the money to invest and trade, and the third buried the money in the ground.   When the rich man returns, he is pleased by the servants who made more money, and displeased by the servant who gave him back exactly the amount he had received. The money was not damaged, and the rich man wasn’t hurt by the servant who buried the money.  Why was he angry? The money seems to represent something else.  What could be damaged or wasted by putting it into a box and burying it?

  • The only copy of Beethovenʼs Ninth Symphony
  • The cure for cancer
  • Seeds to feed the hungry of the world
  • Justice
  • Joy
  • Love

The servant said he didn’t trust his master.  He accused him of being a hard man who took what he didn’t work to earn.  He was afraid of his master. The broken relationship between the master and servant may be the problem.  This parable may be pointing to the need to take risks—to participate in the marketplace of the world–and to be in relationship with people.  Jesus was talking about the risks of living, of giving yourself, of following him.  Jesus gave himself–he lived in freedom, without fear. He cared profoundly about people, about justice, and about Godʼs vision for life in this world.  He was not cautious, conservative, or concerned with safety.  The cautious man who had one measure of money, and kept it safe, returning it to his master unchanged is the person who says “I am spiritual but not religious” –a code phrase as recognizable as a parable. It means “I understand God in my own way. My riches are separate from the world.  The box is closed and buried, and my talent is not going to interact with anyone else.”

Jesus calls us to follow, to risk, to live fully.  He invites us to invest our precious lives in the high-risk venture of being a disciple. We work for freedom, we hope for joy. And we share our love—and we do all of this together, in community. Hear the meaning of this parable: You are not to be ruled by fear. We are given the Good News of Godʼs love, share it!

Questions to think about:

  • Who was the greatest teacher you’ve ever known?
  • What made him or her so great?
  • Can you think of a story that taught you something?

Blessings, Mother Anne+

Simon and Andrew, James and John: Fishing for People

Casting a Wide Net

     Only a few paragraphs into the Gospel of Mark, Jesus called his first disciples.  He walked right up to them in the middle of their work. They were fishermen, working in small boats.  The Sea of Galilee is more of a lake than an ocean. The water is fresh, and while it is large–the largest freshwater lake in Israel (8 miles by 13 miles)–it is not even 150 feet deep.  Its main source of water is the River Jordan, which is a connection that links this story–and the many stories that happen on and around the Sea of Galilee–with the sacrament of Baptism, and the beginning of the ministry of Jesus.  As Jesus encounters the fisherman, he has been proclaiming “Repent,” just as John the Baptist did in the wilderness at the edge of the Jordan.  Remember that “Repent” means “change direction.”  Jesus adds the invitation to “believe in the Good News.”  His invitation to the fishermen was even more specific: “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.”

The kind of fishing they were doing at the Sea of Galilee didn’t involve a hook.  They weren’t trying to catch one fish at a time.  Simon (aka Peter), Andrew, James and John were casting their weighted nets wide, and then jumping into the water to close the net and pull it into the boat.  They were catching all kinds of fish; fish of every size, age, and shimmering color.  The wide-open, energetic casting of nets was what Jesus called them to do on land, with people.  The image of a net provides a picture of how people are knit together in a community like church.  When the new disciples left their boats behind to follow Jesus, they still cast out and gathered nets by feeding, healing, inviting, praying and preaching.

Questions to think about:

  • What would the fishermen think was good news?
  • Why would they follow Jesus?
  • What other stories do you know about the Sea of Galilee?

We are like the fisherman, holding those same nets.  One way to demonstrate this is to do an activity that shows how we are connected.  Get a large ball of yarn and arrange your group in a circle (more or less).  Have one person hold the end of the yarn, and toss the ball to someone on the other side of the circle. They hold onto the yarn near them, and toss it across (but not to the person who threw it).  Keep doing this until a large net (web) is created.  Have everyone hold onto the yarn, and have a conversation about the exercise, community, etc.  Then have the last person throw the yarn to the second-to-last until the ball retraces the same path and all the yarn is rolled up.

Blessings,

Mother Anne+

Philip, Nathanael, and the Fig Tree

Jesus, Philip, Nathanael and the Fig Tree

Week by week, we are moving through the Gospel of John.  At the end of the first chapter, Jesus is calling his disciples.  First he called Andrew, who went to find his brother Simon Peter (whom we usually just call Peter) and both of them followed Jesus, believing they had found the Messiah. Next, Jesus met Philip, and said “Follow me.” Philip went to find Nathanael to tell him the news, that Jesus of Nazareth was the one foretold in the scriptures as the savior of his people.  Nathanael listened, and made a wise-crack– “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” He doubted it.

Philip knew his friend. He was always making sarcastic remarks.  Maybe he had been disappointed when he hoped for something good to happen.  Maybe he was afraid he would always be disappointed.  Philip didn’t give up on him.  He made another attempt to persuade him to come and see.  Nathanael wouldn’t commit, and finally Philip left to follow Jesus.  To his surprise, Nathanael followed him.  Nathanael dragged his feet.  He kicked rocks.  He picked up sticks and threw them ahead of Philip, trying to make him duck.  But he came.  He looked at the ground when they got near Jesus, digging his toes in the dirt, not even looking at him.

Jesus wasn’t surprised.  He even spoke Nathanael’s language; and greeted him with a sarcastic joke.  “Here is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!”  (The Israel Jesus referred to was the new name of Jacob, who was well-known as a deceitful trickster who fooled both his father and brother).  Startled–this wasn’t what he expected–Nathanael looked up and blurted out, “When did you get to know me?”  When Jesus answered that he saw him under the fig tree before Philip called him, Nathanael let go of all his sarcasm and hostile defenses, and believed that what Philip said was true.  “Rabbi, you are the son of God! You are the king of Israel!”  Jesus must have laughed pretty hard before he answered him, almost saying “you ain’t seen nothing yet!”  Jesus adds to the image of God’s son and Israel’s king, a description of the ladder from Jacob’s (Israel’s) dream on which angels descended and ascended.  Perhaps he was saying that he is also the ladder which links heaven and earth.  These images helped the new disciples (and us) begin to see who Jesus is.

In this season after Epiphany, we will be hearing many stories, and bringing to mind many images, that help us see who Jesus is.  Epiphany comes from the ancient Greek: epiphaneia, is a noun, meaning literally, “a shining forth: it was used of the appearance of a god to men,” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary.)

Questions to think about:

  • When you hear good news, who is the first person you want to tell?
  • Do you usually expect good things to happen? Or do you worry that whatever happens will be bad?
  • What helps you to believe something is true?
  • How would you describe Jesus?  How would you tell someone about Jesus?

Children’s activities for this story are here.

Blessings, Mother Anne+

 

The Baptism of Jesus

Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River, by John the Baptist.

The Baptism of Christ

 We read in Mark that John was in the wilderness, miles and miles from the city of Jerusalem, yet many people came out to hear him preach about how they should change their lives and live the way God wanted them to.  This was good news to the people, and they stepped forward into the river to wash away the past, and to dedicate themselves to this new life.  Jesus was one of the people who came to be baptized, and at that moment the Holy Spirit descended upon him like a dove, and he heard God’s voice name him his son, the beloved.  This was the beginning of the ministry of Jesus, the ministry that led him to preach and teach, feed and heal.

This story tells us why we are baptized today.  No matter how old we are, we begin a new life with the special blessing of God calling us his children, and the Holy Spirit descending upon us.  Even if we don’t hear God’s voice, or see a dove, all of that is still happening in a sacred way.  Baptism is a sacrament of the church.  A sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace. (From the Book of Common Prayer, page 857).  So our Baptism is a special connection with Jesus, because he experienced the very same thing.

Food for thought:

  • What happens when someone is baptized?
  • Do you remember your own baptism?  What do you remember?
  • Why was John the Baptist so important?

Children’s activities (coloring and word puzzles) and, if age-appropriate, you might cut out dove shapes for the children to write their names on and wear as nametags, showing that God knows their name and the Holy Spirit is present.

Blessings,

Mother Anne+