Good Morning! Welcome to this morning's service.
Worship today is led by Jim Hewitt and our preacher is Richard Collins.
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Message - Richard Collins
The phone rang the other day and it was my son-in-law Michael. "Hello Richard, the girls and I are just about to go out and build a snowman. Do you want to come and join us?" Well, here was a problem, I'd got a sermon to write. Surely my grand-daughters and their dad could manage without me. So what did I choose? (You guessed right.) Afterwards, over a mug of tea, Michael said, "Helen (my daughter out at work) will know you've been here, because she says no one else I know builds things like you." I do tend to overdo things a bit. On the beach in summer my sandcastles are rather large. (Open cast mining - my family calls them.) indeed on one occasion we spent all afternoon on one. At teatime we were the only folk left on the beach, with the tide racing in, when my son said, "Dad, look up on the Prom." A large crowd were hanging over the railings, staring at the tides approach to the sandcastle and us. We grabbed the little flags and scarpered, leaving them to watch the inevitable. People are always drawn to the spectacular.
Jesus came to bring God's good news of salvation to all people - preaching, teaching and healing the sick wherever he went. The trouble was people were much more interested in his miracles. He even has to explain the primary function of his being there to his disciples; which meant not getting bogged down in the exciting part - miracles only. Rudyard Kipling got it right in his poem "If". - "If you can meet with triumph and disaster, and treat those two imposters both the same --"You see, it’s important not to get sidetracked by the glory bits.
"Let’s go to the nearby villages so that I can preach there. That’s why I've come."
There are three features in our Gospel reading this morning, you remember, they are -
· The private healing of Peter's Mother - in - law
· The public healing of the towns sick outside Peter's house that afternoon and evening
· Jesus slipping away early next morning to a quiet spot outside the town to pray.
Jesus was fulfilling what his Father expects; preaching , healing and communicating with Him. Perhaps you recall Jesus preaching in the Synagogue when a man with an unclean spirit calls out "What do you want of us Jesus? We know who you are, the Son of God." and Jesus replied first, "Be quiet." And second, "Come out of him." The first then was stopping the spirit’s impressive outburst, which might cause people to revel in who he is and what he's doing, rather than listen to his message. The second, curing the man of his ailment. Jesus didn't want folk to be distracted from his message, which was much more important.
Our lesson is a continuation of that same day. Going to Peter's home for a meal to find Peter's mother - in - law ill with a fever. Now, Jesus doesn't say "Oh dear, if I don't do something, we'll never get our dinner!" He saw a real need and out of compassion, dealt with it. Caring for one individual privately. The trouble is, the town’s folk have seen where he went - to Peter's house. So they gather their sick people and bring them to Peter's door. And so Jesus spends the afternoon and evening healing and cleansing those in need. Which was all the crowd wanted to see and get from him.
As a consequence, to get some peace and quiet while praying to his Father, Jesus slips away early in the morning to a spot out of town. So when the people come back for more, he's not there and they're disappointed. Peter and the other disciples set out in search of him, eventually finding him alone. "Here you are. Come on, let’s go back into town where the people are waiting for you. They were very impressed yesterday. They want more. You'll soon be famous!"
Well, wouldn't you and I say something like that? I'm sure I'd want to be part of that sort of fame and glory. But we know that isn't why Jesus came - to be the Miracle Man of Capernaum, great in the eyes of the few, keeping them happy and healthy. He came to invite everyone into the Kingdom of God; which even for us with all our accumulated knowledge, books to read about it and clever people to explain it to us, isn't an easy concept to grasp. --- I want it to be for me! -- er, and you. OK, and for our community (well, some of them)
But I definitely don't want it available freely for all people. They don't deserve it! (Do they?) Surely Jesus doesn't mean to make so great an offer. Can't he see that’s not what I want?!
We can see parallels around us; in clubs, societies, local government, parliament, the church. We put people into positions where they run things for us. Those special people make decisions on what they think is best. We may disagree with their choices, but they might be party to information we don't know, won't understand. We must accept their decisions.
The same was true of Jesus. It wasn't that he didn't want to go back to Capernaum; (indeed he did later) it wasn't that he didn't care for the people there. But the message of God's love had to be proclaimed, explained to as many folk as possible. So he needed to move on; to invite everyone he could meet, to turn from their old ways of life and receive God's offer He must make the invitation to all who might listen. To the learned and wise, like Nicodemus, from the Jewish Council in Jerusalem; to the Pharisees who invited him into their homes for a meal, or came to warn him about King Herod's threats; to good God fearing Jews who attended their Synagogues and were amazed by the authority of his words; to ordinary folk who listened in the open air, town squares and hill sides; to the despised, tax collectors, thieves, publicans, prostitutes, all of whom he befriended. He even offered God's love and care to foreigners; non - Jews, like the SyroPhoenician woman who asked for help for her sick daughter, and had enough faith to remind Jesus that God cares for all; and the Centurion who pleaded for his sick servant's return to health even though he felt unworthy to ask Jesus to come to his home. Jesus befriended, helped, cured, loved, taught, and shared his Father's love with them all. He couldn't do that staying where he was in Capernaum. He had to move on to find them and be found; to get alongside everyone where they were and on their own level, or in their situation; so that they might feel he understood their need and could accept his offer.
As St. Paul put it in his letter to the Corinthians, which we read earlier, "I make myself a slave, free, a Jew, a non - Jew, weak - I have become all things to all men, so that by all means I might save some." Exactly as Jesus did, and does today. He continues that work in and through us. How? A month ago in our Covenant Service we offered our lives for his service. By making us what he wants, by all means our Lord wants to use us in the salvation of lost mankind. Are we letting him? Amen.