by Rev. Dr. Helen Svoboda-Barber
Jesus has been having a busy day this first day of his ministry in Mark’s gospel.
It began with teaching in the synagogue. Everyone was amazed with his authority as he taught.
Then, right there inside the sanctuary, he removed an unclean spirit from a man.
And in today’s reading, Jesus and his new disciples go to Simon’s house after worship and Jesus heals Simon’s mother.
So in this single day, Jesus already:
taught with authority,
cast out unclean spirits,
and healed a woman seriously ill with fever.
Word was getting around about this miracle worker.
By evening, it was as if every sick or possessed person was brought to their door so that they, too, could experience the power and presence of Jesus for themselves. So they, too, could leave healed and wholly themselves.
After a long evening and everyone had gone to sleep, we hear that Jesus went out to pray while it was still dark. (Hm. Sounds like Jesus is a bit like me, and that sometimes he has trouble sleeping.) Jesus quietly leaves the house and goes out to a lonely area to think and pray.
I wonder what he prayed about.
It seems likely to me that Jesus couldn’t sleep that night because he wasn’t sure what to do next.
It seems likely that Jesus went off alone to pray in the dark of night to get clear on what God’s call to him really was.
Obviously, there was great need right where he already was.
But also, he understood his call to spread the Good News to other places.
What would God have him do, right now, in this moment?
One of the prayers I have prayed most often in the past few years is some version of this, “Dear God, please help me to be clear about what is mine, and what is for now. Help me let go of what is not mine, and what is not for now.”
I believe Jesus was praying some version of that prayer in todays’ Gospel reading:
What is mine?
What is for now?
Give me the strength to set down all that is not for me, not for now.
Jesus, in his time alone in the dark talking to God, was able to get clarity about what was his, and what was for now. Although “everyone” in that town was searching for Jesus, and had things they would like Jesus to do, he was clear:
The task that was for him, for now, was the task of moving on. Going to other villages to spread Good News.
There was still important work for Jesus to do right where he was. In fact, it is likely work that no one else could do.
And yet, Jesus spent time in prayer with God and got clear about what was his, for now. His work was to SPREAD the good news, not stay where he was.
Jesus left the work unfinished in Simon’s neighborhood so that he and his disciples could continue to carry the Good News to other towns and villages.
Today’s Gospel reading matters to us today. When we look at the enormity of the need of the world, it can easily be overwhelming. There are so many things we could be doing to work towards the Dream of God.
It is difficult to know how best to spend our time, energy, and finances. Sometimes we end up focusing on the thing that is right in front of us, or the issue that is making the most noise, rather than the thing God most needs for us to do. We end up continually dealing with the “urgent” and never get to the “important” tasks of life.
Knowing what God most needs from us — and focusing on that — is a skill we all can learn from Jesus.
Make this prayer your prayer. Pray it regularly in good times and pray it many times a day in when things get intense:
Holy God, help me know what is mine, and what is for now. Strengthen me for this work, and help me to set down those things that are not mine, not for now. Amen.