Reset Purpose

Mark 1:32-39

Jesus’ ministry spreads
32 That evening, at sunset, people brought to Jesus those who were sick or demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered near the door. 34 He healed many who were sick with all kinds of diseases, and he threw out many demons. But he didn’t let the demons speak, because they recognized him.
35 Early in the morning, well before sunrise, Jesus rose and went to a deserted place where he could be alone in prayer. 36 Simon and those with him tracked him down. 37 When they found him, they told him, “Everyone’s looking for you!”
38 He replied, “Let’s head in the other direction, to the nearby villages, so that I can preach there too. That’s why I’ve come.” 39 He traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and throwing out demons.


It was the end of a long day. The day began at the synagogue in Capernaum where Jesus and the first four disciples went for worship. Jesus just called Peter Andrew James and John the day before; he was walking along the sea of Galilee, they were fishermen, and Jesus called out to them to follow him and become disciples. The next day they went to worship; Jesus was teaching and in the middle of his teaching he was interrupted by a person possessed by a demon. Jesus called the demon out, tells the demon to be quiet, and the person is healed. Following the service Peter invites Jesus over to his mother in law's house where Jesus learns that she has fallen ill and she's been in bed all day sick. The disciples tell Jesus about this, he goes upstairs, takes her by the hand and heals her. She gets up out of bed and begins to serve her guests.

Now word has spread all over Capernaum and surrounding area about this travelling teacher who has some kind of miracle making power. People from all over are coming to the house. Mark tells us they're pushing into the house, bringing people that are sick or possessed or in need of some kind of healing touch from Jesus. He ministers to the whole community so that the end of that long day they retire for the evening with the hope of having some rest. Mark then tells us the Jesus awoke early the next day before dawn and left the city of Capernaum went out into the wilderness to pray. Mark uses the same word to describe where Jesus goes as where Jesus was tempted by Satan- the wilderness out in the middle of nowhere in the rough places. This time Jesus isn't there to be tempted; this time Jesus is there to be in prayer. 

We're told that Jesus is praying silently, resting in God's presence in the spirit of prayer out here in the wilderness. We don't know what he's praying for we don't know- if he's using words at all- or just abiding in God's presence in silence. Sometimes we associate prayer with speaking, but the truth is God has already gone before us in all things. Same in prayer- God his already speaking to us before we retreat to the wilderness or bow our heads in church. Prayer is about communing with God, about tuning in to God's voice. Sometimes in our prayer life we spend the whole time filling the space with our words and our needs. Those are of course important and vital and intercessory prayer and prayers of petition are certainly important. There's a lot of benefit and just coming to God in the silence and being aware of God's presence.

When I was in college I had a black 1979 Ford Ltd. It was 19 feet, 8 inches long. It had two doors, a Gray vinyl type interior, had an AM radio and a V8 engine. If you grew up in the time of AM radio you know if you're driving from one town to another you got to seek out the radio stations on the dial. You've got to constantly tune it. 

Tuning is a really helpful metaphor for me to think about what happens in prayer. As we tune ourselves to God's will through listening and not through speaking we become aware of God's love for us. As we are surrounded by God's presence, God's love for us and all the sudden our purpose can become clearer. Now we have the freedom and the ability to say no to some things and say yes to other things. This is what Jesus does- the disciples want him to go back to Capernaum where all the crowds are. Jesus doesn't want to do that; he has been called elsewhere to the surrounding towns. He has clarity his mission; his purpose is to go out away from Capernaum for now. He'll eventually come back there- it becomes his hometown. But for this day his purpose is to go into the surrounding neighborhoods. Let's go to where more people who don't yet know him find them and bring God's power into their life.

Two decades ago, I was serving as the associate pastor at Oak Lawn UMC in Dallas. One summer the senior pastor took off to Colorado for about 10 weeks, leaving me and our retired Associate pastor, Rev Patsy Brundige, in charge. This was a major mistake, because Patsy and I are disruptors. Having some freedom, we began to have radical conversations about what we could we be doing to better minister to our community. Back then a prayer book was catching fire in every church: The Prayer of Jabez. So we offered a study. Jabez is an obscure priest in 1 Chronicles; his prayer says something about “increase my territory.” So we started praying this prayer. And things began to happen! New people started showing up, new ideas for ministry were flourishing.. we even cleaned out a beautiful room upstairs that had been relegated to storage and made a prayer room. It got so busy and out of control we asked people to stop praying the prayer. When the senior pastor returned from Colorado, and this is true, he forbade Patsy and me from meeting together outside of his presence.

Things began happening at Oak Lawn because we had clarity; we were tuned in to God, and therefore our purpose became clear. So the question becomes what is causing us so many distractions that we're not able to clearly tune in to God's will for our life? What are the demands on our time that may be really important but are taking over so much of our energy that we feel like we don't have time to pray? Are we out of touch with God through prayer we've just lost any sense of purpose for our lives? What we learned from the life of Jesus here is that it's OK to say no to some things so that we can say yes to godly things that's what resetting purposes about what can we say no to so that there are things to say yes to things of God? 

Do you know the story Eli and Samuel from 1 Samuel? The boy Samuel is being raised in the tabernacle of the Lord by Eli the priest. One night Samuel keeps hearing a voice, waking him up. He goes to Eli over and over asking if he was calling him. No, go back to bed, the aged priest says. After the third time, Eli realizes something is going on. “The Lord may be calling you. Next time you hear the voice, say ‘Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.’” The kid goes back to bed. “Samuel?” he hears. “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” God was calling Samuel to serve. Because Samuel was tuned in, his life now has clarity and purpose. God never stops speaking to us. Are we listening? “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”