Summary: In Jesus’ life and ministry we are given priorities for our life and shared ministry.
Text Mark 1:29-39 ‘Shared ministry and Gospel priorities’
I would like to share with you today, for a few minutes, some images – pictures – of ministry that I can see arising out of the verses from Mark’s Gospel we heard a few minutes ago. Pictures that I call ‘priority pictures’: pictures of ministry that are, I believe, relevant to all of us here – church members and friends; elders / deacons and ministers – to all of us, whether younger and more ‘mature’ in age, whether working or ‘retired’ (whatever that may mean!). Images, moreover, that I believe are offered by the Gospels (in particular) to give us encouragement and stimulation as we exercise our ministry together – the ministry Jesus calls us to exercise today as surely as he called his first disciples to share.
We hear in our Gospel verses that Jesus and his new ‘recruits’ have returned to Galilee, to the home of the four disciples, and to the reassurance, no doubt, of the familiar surroundings and people of that little fishing town. They had been to the synagogue that day, and Jesus had astounded the people there with his teaching, because he taught with a new kind of authority. Jesus had now begun his ministry of teaching and healing, and the impact his ministry would have on the lives of the people he touched was made clear.
But I wonder how those four new disciples felt, as they embarked upon all the newness that would result from their decision to follow Jesus – as they began their ministry with Jesus and with one another? Perhaps when we begin a new phase of our life, we might feel overwhelmed by the task that looms-up ahead of us, and we question whether we have the strength and ability to live-up to the daunting expectations that people – the task – the church – has of us.
If this is the case, then perhaps we can relate to the feelings of the new disciples having decided, as they did, to leave everything that was familiar and secure behind and follow Jesus – to share in ministry with him and learn from him.
You know, through our verses from Mark (even though it is in it’s very early days) we see in Jesus’ ministry what the PRIORITIES of ministry were for him and for his disciples and, as his disciples today, we too may learn what OUR priorities should be for our shared ministry together. All in five ‘priority pictures’.
1. The first priority, the first ‘picture’ we are offered, it that of ‘being together’ – the disciples and Jesus – as they worship in the synagogue. Here they learn with one another, pray with one another, and grow in the love and mutual support that is so very necessary for ministry. Afterwards they leave to ‘go out into the world’ – to live out their faith. For us, being together in our learning and praying – at church and in gatherings during the week – we strive to support and share with one another in faith. All helps us to gain the strength and support and encouragement we need to exercise our shared ministry in the places we live and work / socialise.
2. As they return home, we glimpse the second priority through our second ‘picture’ – that of responding to need. Simon’s mother-in-law is ill in bed with fever. No doubt the family were concerned for her (a fever could be fatal in those times) – as concerned as we would be for an ill member of our own family. So Jesus touches her and, within a very short period of time, she is up and about and ministering to them. Our next two priorities for shared ministry come out of this responding to need.
3. There is the picture (the priority) of welcome – the giving and receiving of hospitality. As we invite people to church – and perhaps into our homes (especially if you are vulnerable, never take the risk of inviting a stranger into your home – Jesus never wants us to put ourselves in danger of physical or emotional injury as a result of burglary or abuse) and as we accept the invitation of others known to us, so we welcome – and are welcomed – to share what we have, and who we are. As Jesus accompanied the four disciples to their homes, and found a welcome, so the disciples were able to share their lives with him and Jesus was able to respond to their need. So here we have a picture that is the essence of a PASTORAL ministry – illustrating the priority of welcoming – and receiving the welcome of others.
4. Also of a pastoral nature is the picture we have of Jesus’ healing of Simon’s mother-in-law. Maybe this is an aspect / priority of ministry we find most foreboding? For how often do we find ourselves as agents of healing in this way – the miraculous cure? In my own experience, faced with times in pastoral ministry of sharing bad news or shocking diagnosis – times of crisis – with people, it is all too easy to feel inadequate – even useless. But the essence of pastoral ministry is ‘being there’ (not necessarily ‘doing’) and, where appropriate, ‘touching’ the afflicted. The inner healing that can come about (perhaps over time) through our presence with, and sharing with, people in their troubles, cannot be underestimated.