Epiphany 5b – Sunday 5th February 2012
Mark 1: 29-39
I recently read a fine introduction to a blog on Mark 1: 29-39.
There is an old and not terribly funny joke about a sea captain who was at the top of his profession. He had earned a reputation as one who could make excellent decisions in times of crisis. People did notice, though, that just before it was time to give his orders to the crew, he would go down to his stateroom, open his safe, and pull out a slip of paper and read it. Then he would stride on deck and make the right call. Naturally, curiosity was high. It was no surprise, that, when he died, one of the first things the crew did after his funeral service, was to gather in his stateroom and watch while the first mate opened the safe and pulled out the well worn slip of paper. He read it aloud:
Port left, Starboard right.
In difficult times, the captain knew to remind himself repeatedly of the basics. The captain’s little slip of paper held information that everyone already knows. But it was his secret, the basic source of his ability to act.
Now I have a confession to make. Not long after I committed that story to my clipboard the web browser I was using crashed. And that was quickly followed by the blue screen of death. When normal service was resumed – following a particularly slow hard drive scan – I couldn’t find the website that I gleaned that story from. So, whoever you are, I apologise for not attributing that quote to you at the beginning of my blog.
I also must admit to you a dilemma I’ve just resolved. At first, I wasn’t going to write that last paragraph. I was going to pass that story off as my own research. It was going to be my little secret. You’d think I’d been harbouring that joke for a number of weeks and saw the connection with the story from Mark’s gospel and you’d immediately think what an insightful preacher I must be. My little secret.
But it’s not a secret. Because I’ve just read about the keeper of secrets. The man who swore demons to secrecy. The man who instructed us to pray in secret. The man who knows what we do in secret. The man who knows what secrets lay buried in our hearts.
And this man of secrets calls us to boldly proclaim who he is. Of what he has done for us. Not to be deceitful, or arrogant, or self-seeking. But to point to the man of grace, the God of glory.
As Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount:
You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! – Matthew 5: 14
It’s a humbling life. I know, I’ve met the man who touched my demons.