God is Calling

Jesus had sent the disciples out to teach and to heal.  They are having successes, and creating more believers.

But in the middle of all this, they get word that King Herod has arrested John the Baptist. This story of the disciples being sent out becomes another inclusio – another story within a story – and the inside story is this one of Herod and John.  Not an inspirational story like the one we heard a few weeks ago about the woman with the flow of blood, whose faith made her whole, but a story of capture, arrest, and death.

Herod’s arrest of John had been because John called him out for marrying his brother’s wife – whom Herod had murdered.  Herod’s wife Herodias, wanted John dead – to protect her position.  Herod himself feared John, but also liked to listen him.  He was stuck.

But then there was that party and Herodias saw her opportunity.  After her daughter danced, she told the girl to ask for John’s head.  Herod was stuck again, but he had to give in.

Now this is a rather grim story and one wonders what it has to do with proclaiming the good news.

But think about this.  Yes, John was murdered.  Yes, his followers were left without a leader. And yet, all the while this was going on, Jesus and the disciples continued to teach, heal and proclaim the good news!  God was still at work through them, and evil had not conquered the world.

The apostles gathered together to Jesus and they told him all the things whatever they had done, and whatever they had taught. They had done the work they were sent out to do. Yes, they had this horrible story in the background, but they did the work they were sent to do.

When Mark’s Gospel was written and then shared, people needed to hear this kind of story.  At that time Christians were being persecuted and imprisoned and killed.  This story in Mark’s Gospel was intended to reassure them that God had not abandoned them and that all would work together in Gods will and time.

That no matter what was going on around them, God was present and active and loving.

Just like today.

Last week the world held its breath as the members of a soccer team were pulled one by one from a cave.  The team was safe, but a diver lost his life. In this one instance we were rejoicing and mourning at the same time.  God was present for it all.

Our world and our nation has become a much less inclusive and welcoming place, in spite of Gods commands to welcome the stranger as you would your own tribe and kin.

And yet we find people going out of their way to find ways to care for others as we have been commanded to do. God’s work, our hands.

There is anger, frustration, fear, resentment.

And yet God calls us to reach out, to work to heal divisions, to care for all Gods children as we care for our own.  God is still present.

When we are faced with fear or pain, it’s hard to believe that God is present and cares and works for the good of all.  This inclusio story of both the death of John and the work of the apostles going on at the same time reminds us that God is always at work, and when we work with God, our faith will be rewarded – maybe not in the way we wish, but in the way God intends.

A man named Chuck Colson had been a big part of the Nixon White House.  He had not been a nice guy.  But he became a Christian and his life changed. He became someone whose message as hope and peace, not hurt and anger.  Then he discovered he had cancer. He said at the time, “I thought I would be shattered.”  He shared how his doctor told him of the disease and the pain associated with the treatment.

Then he said, “As many have discovered before me, I saw in my confrontation with fear and suffering that there is nothing for which God does not pour out his grace abundantly.”

No matter what we go through in life, God’s grace goes with us, and carries us when we falter.

We all know the story of Helen Keller. Her childhood illness leaving her blind and deaf, and her teacher Annie Sullivan who spelled word after word into Helens hand until she understood the word water, while her hand was under a pump with splashing water onto it.  Helen struggled with things most of us cannot imagine. But once she caught that word, her life changed – became a life filled with service to others, teaching them as she had been taught.  Her story became one of the earliest examples of how people can overcome in order to lead productive lives.  As an adult Helen Keller spoke all over the world encouraging others in their struggles.

She said, “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.”

God is present.  God is at work.

Through hands and feet and hearts just like yours and mine.  God’s love for all creation has not changed. God’s love for all people has not changed.

God is calling your hands and your feet and your heart to be at work in bringing the kingdom to this time and place in the middle of all that is going on around us. While each of us individually isn’t expected to change the world, we are expected to do our part.  To change that one heart, that one life to be able to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ over the noise and babble and evil going on around us.

We have been called.  We have been sent.  We have Good News to share.