Pentecost +6b – Sunday 8th July 2012
Mark 5: 21-43
Not so long ago, a local retailer updated and modernised its premises, doubling the size of their operation and expanding beyond all recognition. To help make possible this growth at the rear of their premises they built a large entrance to enable the huge HGV lorries to deliver all their stock. This entrance is a sea of reinforced concrete, specially designed to withstand the weight of these 40 tonne vehicles.
For the first time in three years I walked past this entrance last week. Whilst looking in awe upon this modern edifice of amazing architectural design I noticed right at the entrance in the pristine concrete driveway there is a set of small footprints! I imagine that once the constructors had poured the concrete and carefully smoothed it all out, before it had the chance to set some child or teenager – they are not big footprints! – walked right across it!
It reminded me of when I was a child. British Telecom were renewing a manhole just across the road from my house during the summer holidays. They dug it out in the morning, set it all out, laid the manhole box in its place and pointed it up beautifully – and then left for their lunch. As their van pulled around the corner a friend and I wandered across the road to admire their craft and workmanship, and in a moment of pure spontaneity we decided to add to their design. On either side of the manhole box we carefully and neatly added our initials! And if you ever walk past my old house, go and look at the manhole and you’ll see ‘NC’ on one side and ‘AK’ on the other! Immortality is ours!
Now I don’t know about a prophet not being welcome in his home town, I’m sure a vandal and reprobate isn’t either. But if I could do a hundredth of what Jesus was able to do then I’d be happy. Everyone wants to make a mark in this life – you know, like a set of concrete footprints to mark where you went and what you did in life. And to have touched the lives of people with grace and compassion, to have lived a flavour of the gospel, that’s what I’d like to see.
And my one template, my one example that I do my best to follow is Jesus himself. He provides the inspiration and encouragement, and I do my best to replicate it.
In this passage from Mark’s gospel I gain a sense of the uphill journey we walk. Life is good, but sometimes it’s a very hard slog, so be prepared – is what I hear Jesus saying here.
I love the way that Mark records that because of all the bad vibes in Nazareth:
Jesus wasn’t able to do much of anything there — he laid hands on a few sick people and healed them, that’s all.
For Jesus that was a bad day at the office? I wish my bad days were like that! But sometimes we set such high standards and expectations for ourselves that we are disappointed when we don’t achieve much. And I guess it was so for Jesus. When I experience my bad days I want to be disappointed, but not discouraged, for often the two go hand in hand. If we can take some encouragement from our disappointment then that can make the uphill journey easier.
And I like the encouragement that Jesus gives us for the work he has planned for us:
Don’t think you need a lot of extra equipment for this. You are the equipment.
We are the means of his grace. We are the voice of his message. We are the healing of his hands. We are his ambassadors. And so we need to start living up to his calling. We need to start living the Kingdom life that marks us out as his disciples, his servants, his children. And what will life be like?
Then they were on the road. They preached with joyful urgency that life can be radically different; right and left they sent the demons packing; they brought wellness to the sick, anointing their bodies, healing their spirits.
A wonderful vision of God’s Kingdom alive, vibrant, dynamic and exciting wherever we see his footprints – concrete or otherwise.