How do you spend your day? We’re just back from Disneyworld, and in the week before we left, the boys counted down the days – five days, four days, three days, two days, it’s tomorrow! We’re leaving today!
You know, there are 1,440 minutes and 86,400 seconds in a day, and as the musical “Rent” proclaims, 525,600 minutes in a year, and then asks “how do you measure a year in your life?”
Henry van Dyke once wrote:
Too Slow for those who Wait,
Too Swift for those who Fear,
Too Long for those who Grieve,
Too Short for those who Rejoice;
But for those who Love,
Time is not.
Mark’s Gospel describes a day in the life of Jesus. The healer from Nazareth teaches, preaches, heals, and eats dinner at the home of one of his disciples. The day is chockfull of activities, and yet all of them are done with intentionality and compassion – no deed is too small or too large for Jesus to undertake.
Even a case of the flu is important to the teacher. The healing of a fever doesn’t seem to be that big a deal, and you wonder why Mark includes it the day’s events. Yet, we all know that even something small can be a big deal if it prevents us from doing what’s important to us. Peter’s mother in law has a fever, and Jesus touches her and makes her well, and then she serves them. Some skeptics think this is all about women’s work, domestic tasks, and is implicitly sexist. Now, I admit that while sexism and the demeaning of women abounds, even in churches, this story is really about vocation, about fulfilling your calling at this moment in time.
On a winter day, when I’m snowed in, a case of laryngitis doesn’t bother me, but if it’s Sunday morning and I’m looking forward to preach or if I’m teaching a class or giving a public lecture, then I’m really concerned.
In the culture of the time, Peter’s mother in law was the chief woman of the house and her task was hospitality, especially hospitality to her son-in-law’s teacher. It was honor for him to be there, and she was no doubt depressed about being unable to fulfill her vocation. Jesus knew that illness and health are not just physiological – they involve our place in society, how others look at us, fulfilling our obligations, and finding meaning. So, Jesus gazes lovingly at her, lifts her up, fills her with divine energy – the energy of love – and she happily sets the table, finishes supper, and instructs her daughter about how best to make the night wonderful.
That day, wherever Jesus showed up, there was a healing, and whomever Jesus met experienced a sense of wholeness and well-being. Lives were restored when illnesses were cured, and spirits transformed when the bondage of demons, or cases of emotional and mental disease, was broken.
That day, the people saw love in action. Then, Jesus rested and got up early for a time of prayer and meditation. Like us, Jesus needed to balance action and contemplation, socializing with solitude, busyness with deep spiritual rest. In the quiet hour, Jesus refreshed his spirit and recalibrated his spiritual GPS so that he could face the demands of suffering people, knowing he had only one vocation, expressed in many ways, to bring God’s realm of healing, love, and peace to earth – one action and one moment at a time.
What will we do with the next 1,440 minutes or 86,400 seconds? Mark is giving us a model. He is telling us, in the spirit of Therese of Lisieux, to do ordinary things with love. He is reminding us that even a small act, done with lovingkindness, can change someone’s life. He is inviting us to get out of our ego and self-interest, awaken to compassion, and do something beautiful in the here and now.
Our church has “service” as key to its vision. Service takes many forms. Some of it can be intentional – a ministry to those experiencing homelessness, to children who can’t afford school supplies, or to work for justice for immigrants and preservation of the Cape and planet.
This past week, I began “reading” every Thursday to my grandson Jack’s class. I know some of you do similar things. There is no way to “serve,” service is the “way” – that is, to enter every situation with the intent to be caring and helpful and to support the freedom and creativity of those you meet.
Jewish mystics tell us that the world is saved one soul at a time. The world won’t be complete, won’t be as God intended it, until everyone realizes her or his true potential. I believe that the world is saved one moment and encounter at a time. You can make each moment an epiphany, a place where you notice God in those around you and then respond to God’s presence in them; you can make each encounter healing, sharing the best in yourself to bring out the best in the other.
That day Jesus worked hard, but he was not weary. His life was grounded in prayer and inspired by love. He ran the race, and invites us to run with him, in the spirit of the prophet Isaiah:
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless.
Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted;
but those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.