john davies
notes from a small curate

updated regularly
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Mark 1 - Where would Jesus go?

    Good Shepherd 5/2/2006

    1 Corinthians 9.16-23, Mark 1.29-39

    What would Jesus do? - a well-known phrase which many Christians find helpful when faced with questions and decisions in their lives.

    I'd like to introduce another phrase which could be just as useful to us as we consider how we can best live the Christian life, day-to-day: Where would Jesus go?

    There is a TV programme called Location Location Location in which the presenters Kirstie and Phil help people to find their dream home - which is all well and good for the couples who are lucky enough to afford a new home and to get the help of these TV experts; it's not so helpful for the rest of us for whom Location Location Location means the same old place we've got used to being in on our more modest budgets and with our smaller and perhaps more realistic ambitions.

    But today's talk is all about Location Location Location. Because in the gospel story we heard, Jesus is pictured in three different places:

    Location 1 - The house;
    Location 2 - A quiet place;
    Location 3 - In town.

    These seem like three very ordinary sorts of places, the sorts of places we often go ourselves.

    Where would Jesus go? He'd go where we go.

    He'd go where we go because though fully God, when he walked the earth he was fully human, just like you or me.

    He'd go where we go because now he is with us not in flesh but in spirit, and, loving us, he wants to share in our lives, just like any lover does.

    He'd go where we go because he wants us to follow him, to walk with him if you like, and he's there to help us to do that - every place we go, every step of the way.

    Let's look at the gospel story and try to relate it to our own experiences.

    Location 1 - The house

    As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.

    Jesus liked being at home with his friends and family. We often find him inside the homes of his disciples, sharing food around the tables of religious leaders and ordinary folk, enjoying the hospitality of others.

    This might remind us of something very simple but very profound: that Jesus likes being welcomed into our homes. That's why hospitality is important in the Christian life: just as the disciples welcomed Jesus into their homes so should we welcome people into our homes - because in a mysterious way by doing that we may also be welcomiung Jesus in. I was a stranger and you welcomed me, he says in Matthew 26.

    Mark's story tells us that if we welcome Jesus into our home he will tend to our needs.

    Now Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

    Before sitting down to eat Jesus was up in the bedroom, tending to the needs of Simon's mother-in-law, restoring her to health.

    This is a reminder that we can invite Jesus anywhere in our house: even the bedroom. The ancient Christians of this country understood this. Their old prayers teach us how we can pray today. An old Scottish prayer, said for centuries by many families by the bedside, goes like this:

    I make this bed
    In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
    In the name of the night we were conceived.
    In the name of the night we were born,
    In the name of the day we were baptized,
    In the name of each night, each day,
    Each angel that is in the heavens.

    [Detail each line ....]
    [... might also include sick bed ... etc ...]

    They recognised that God was with them in the bedroom, in every intimate detail of their lives, and the prayer they said welcomed him there.

    Mark's story also tells us that if we welcome Jesus into our home he will help us to face the world outside.

    That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

    Here is Jesus in another part of the house - at the doorstep. The outside world was at the door, he was there to answer them.

    This is a reminder to us that when we open the front door and prepare to face the outside world, when we open the front door to a neighbour in need perhaps, or when we open the door preparing to step out on a difficult journey maybe, Jesus is there too, well-equipped to help us face the world, help the neighbour, take that difficult step.

    Again the old Celts had prayers which recognised this, prayers which we might still use at our own doorsteps today.

    Let us go forth
    In the goodness of our merciful Father,
    In the gentleness of our brother Jesus,
    In the radiance of his Holy Spirit,
    In the faith of the apostles,
    In the joyful praise of the angels,
    In the holiness of the saints,
    In the courage of the martyrs.

    Let us go forth
    In the wisdom of our all-seeing Father,
    In the patience of our all-loving brother,
    In the learning of the apostles,
    In the gracious guidance of the angels,
    In the patience of the saints,
    In the self-control of the martyrs.

    Such is the path for all servants of Christ,
    The path from death to eternal life.

    Recently on a visit to a part of a town where many Muslims live I noticed that many of their homes have prayers written over their doors, presumably asking God to bless their home and those who pass through the doorway. It may be that we could put a prayer on the inside of our door, asking God to be with us as we open our door and go forth into the world outside.

    Location 2 - A quiet place;

    In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, [and there he prayed]

    Here I would like to throw open the floor to the questions,

    Why would Jesus want to go and find a quiet place?

    Do you, like him, feel the need to find a quiet place from time to time?

    What places have you found which help you to pray?

    .... In your search for quiet, and in your prayers, Jesus is there with you ...

    Location 3 - In town.

    When they found him, they said to him, 'Everyone is searching for you.' He answered, 'Let us go on to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.' And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

    Town is where Jesus made his message public. And so we can assume that town is where we should profess our faith.

    What do I mean by that? I can sense that you might be thinking that what's coming next is an appeal for volunteers to hand out tracts on Broadway, hold up banners on Church Street saying PREPARE TO MEET THY GOD. Some people do choose to profess their faith like that. But it's not for everyone. And looking again at Mark's gospel, it wasn't for Jesus too.

    What Mark says is that Jesus went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues. He taught and proclaimed the message of the Kingdom of God in church.

    This is a comfort to us because that's exactly what we do too. Sunday by Sunday, in our singing hymns and reciting the creed, in our celebration together of the meal in which Jesus asks us to remember him, we, gently, but firmly, proclaim the message.

    You may be surprised to think of yourself as a proclaimer. But that's what you are. Your being here is a sign to everyone else here and outside that the mesaage of Jesus means something to you.

    You may be surprised to think of yourself as a teacher of the faith. But that's what you are. Because you are here others know that if they want to know something about Jesus then they can learn something from you.

    Of course we can assume that when Jesus proclaimed the message he was bold, he would have preached it loud and clear. We may think that's quite different from our fumbling attempts to follow him, our gentle, faithful churchgoing week by week. And it is. Except for this: Location Location Location.

    Let us rejoice that where we are, Jesus is with us. Let us rejoice at how that affirms us and might make us bolder to live out the gospel and proclaim it to those around us. Let us seek him out as our companion at all times and all places. Because where would Jesus go? He'd go with us.


    [1] I owe the title and some of the structure of this sermon to Helen Bennett. When you're stuck, ask your colleagues what they're preaching, sometimes gems like this emerge.
    [2] Carmina Gadelica prayers as used in previous sermons but always bear repeating