Faith United Methodist Church
February 4, 2018
Fifth Sunday after Epiphany
Rev. Kristabeth Atwood
Scripture: Mark 1:29-39
Prayer of Illumination:
Everlasting God, we listen, expectant, and you speak your wisdom and truth. Guide us in our search and strengthen us on our journey. Embrace us as your children, sending us forth to proclaim the news of your loving power to all the ends of the earth. Amen.
Sermon: Don’t Put Off Until Tomorrow……
Apparently Benjamin Franklin is the one credited with first saying, “Don’t put off until tomorrow…. what you can do today.” The procrastinator’s corrective. This saying has since been put on t-shirts, decorative signs you can hang in your home, coffee mugs…. In the children’s musical “Bebop with Aesop” the ants and grasshoppers sing, “Don’t put off until tomorrow all those things you know you should do. Don’t put off until tomorrow, cause they’ll all still be there waiting for you.”
Now, I appreciate the point, but the procrastinator in me questions the universality of the statement. Sure, there are times when one should get to the task at hand. For example, if it’s Saturday night, the pastor really must finish her sermon. But I can think of many other instances when it would be a good idea to put something off until tomorrow. Sometimes the inspiration for a task is just not there. Sometimes tasks need to take a back-seat to relationships. And sometimes rest must win out over productivity.
In our Scripture lesson Jesus finds himself in the midst of a very busy first day of ministry. You may recall from last week that Jesus first taught in the synagogue and then healed a man with an unclean spirit. Jesus’ first teaching and first healing in the same day! And after a day of teaching and healing one often needs some refreshment, so Jesus and the disciples headed over to Simon Peter’s house for a meal.
When they got there, though, they found that Simon’s mother-in-law was sick with a fever. Simon was concerned, so he told Jesus about her condition right away. The Scripture then tells us, “He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her and she began to serve them.” Jesus’ second healing of the day.
But that wasn’t the end of it either. Word apparently spread and by evening a crowd was gathered at the door to see Jesus the Healer. The Scripture tells us that the whole city came. I imagine there were the curiosity-seekers as well as those with real needs. Late into the night Jesus cast out unclean spirits and healed the sick.
Exhausted and resting his head on the pillow that night, Jesus would’ve had every reason to be pleased with his day. He shared the Good News. He healed the sick. He helped people in need. He seemingly didn’t put off anything until tomorrow. He did it all that day. But Jesus didn’t take that as permission to sleep in the next morning. Jesus was up and out while it was still dark to find a quiet place to pray. Perhaps he knew that if he was to continue, he needed to refresh himself, connect with the source of his power, and listen for God’s direction.
However, Jesus’s quiet time didn’t last long. Simon and the other disciples, anxious for Jesus to back to work, went out looking for him. As Katherine Huey describes it, “A blundering Simon interrupts Jesus time alone, like a modern day political handler moving a weary candidate along.” More teaching, more healing, more casting out unclean-spirits.
Fortunately we don’t have to keep Jesus’ schedule, but we all know what it feels like to be pulled in many different directions. Sometimes it seems our work is never done, and if we wait until our work is done to take care of ourselves we never will. Adrenaline can sustain us for a time, but even that eventually gives out and leaves us weary. Sometimes we have to put things off until tomorrow to take a deep breath, connect with our loved ones, align ourselves with God and rest our bodies
It helps me to know that even on his busiest days Jesus pulled himself away from the needs of the world to take care of himself. If Jesus needed prayer time, how much more important must it be for you and me. Equating our self-worth with our productivity distracts us from the truth that God loves us for who we are, not for how many tasks we complete. So what can you put off until tomorrow in order to spend time with God today? Let us pray:
Lord you are the source of our strength. You sustain us from day to day. Help us to remember to turn to you even when we are feeling pushed from every side. Especially when we are feeling pushed from every side. As Jesus found that quiet place and took time for prayer, may we claim a place and time to rest our bodies, nurture our relationships and renew our connection with you. In the name of Christ, our Light, we pray. Amen.