Getting in the Way

This is my radio devotion for Wednesday, August 26, 2020, aired on KBBN/KCNI, who graciously airs devotions from the pastors of the Custer County Ministerial Association.

Have you ever made a mess of things for others?

Good morning, I’m Pastor Matt Fowler of Broken Bow United Methodist Church. This week, I’m turning to the Gospel of Mark to hear and share some good news, because my spirit needs it. Maybe yours does too. Incidentally, I’ve also be preaching on Mark for the past few weeks if you want check out BBUMC.org.

We have a dog, Albie, that’s about to turn two years old. We take Albie walking, running, biking, and skateboarding. And I guess this is confusing for him, because he doesn’t quite know where “heel” should be in relation to my body, especially while biking or skating. This becomes a problem when I want to turn left and he’s near my front wheel. So far, we’ve avoided crashing, but if you see a pile of middle-aged man, dog, and bike, you’ll know what happened: Albie got in the way, and as his owner, I guess I’m mostly to blame.

A similar thing happened with a man with a skin disease and Jesus in the first chapter of Mark. The man came to Jesus begging to be healed. Jesus healed him and sent the man away with this message: “Don’t say anything to anyone. Instead, go and show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifice for your cleansing that Moses commanded. This will be a testimony to them!” (Mk 1:44). Perhaps there’s more at play here, but at the very least, I think Jesus was trying to follow the cultural and religious rules of his day. He knew that someone with a skin disease needed to be proclaimed healed by the priests in order to be welcomed back into the community. He wanted the man to experience the fullness of his healing, not just physical, but also social and spiritual.

But, instead of following Jesus’s command, the man “went out and started talking freely and spreading the news so that Jesus wasn’t able to enter a town openly” (Mk 1:45). His actions, whether willful or just ignorant, made Jesus’s healing ministry more complicated. Perhaps it even shifted his plans.

I’d like to think I and we are better than this, but I think there are probably times we get in Jesus’s way. Here’s what I mean. I fully believe that God is at work in each and every person’s life, seeking to reveal Godself, to reveal Jesus, to them, so that they can experience the wholeness of life that we call salvation. And God’s chosen way to reveal Jesus to others is through us, as individuals and as the church. In this, how we act, the words we say, and how we treat others, especially those in need, are always opportunities for Jesus to shine through us. But when we fail to act and speak with love of God and love of neighbor as the center of our motivation, we can get in the way of Jesus’s mission to reveal himself to others. And then, Jesus has to try again, a new way, a new time, with new people.

But, here’s the good news. Jesus is creative. This is chapter one. Jesus shifts his location, but Jesus keeps on healing, teaching, and leading people into the way that leads to life, in Mark, and in our lives. And, while we don’t see this man in Mark again, I suspect that Jesus would welcome him back, forgive him for getting in his way, and call him again to follow faithfully. So too does he call us back with forgiveness and grace. May it be so.

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