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  • Pastor Jim Gronbeck

“Haven’t You Heard?”

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Driving by the lakes in our part of the country it’s easy to discover where the ice fishing is good. For instance, drive by the Corner Store recently and you won’t find many fish houses. When you go into Battle Lake, and look out across from the Shoreline Restaurant, it seems that the fishing is pretty good. There are many houses clumped together. Also, there is a small lake on a bus route I’ve driven that has more fish houses than I’d expect to see. Where the fishing is hot, the word gets around and people flock to get in on the action. People talk, “Have you heard the fishing is hot on West Battle?”

When something sensational occurs, we often have conversations with others that start out, “Have you heard what happened…?” Or, “Did you hear what so-and-so said…?” I remember this vividly when the two space shuttles exploded and then on 9-11.

Isaiah is writing to the Exiles in Babylon, trying to get them to have hope that God will act to free them from slavery. “Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning?” The news is GOOD! God will act soon!

In other words, “Don’t lose hope. Don’t give up. The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary…” The Israelites had been enslaved to the Babylonians and Assyrians for over 50 years before God anointed King Cyrus of Persia to overthrow those mighty civilizations and free the Israelite slaves, sending them home to rebuild their homeland.

The word was already spreading quickly in the first chapter of Mark’s Gospel. Jesus had healed Simon’s mother-in-law and that very evening the people of Capernaum were bringing to Jesus all who were sick or possessed with demons. The whole city was gathered around the door where they were staying. One can imagine the ‘Capernaumites’ telling one another about Jesus until the whole city was buzzing with excitement.

In the midst of the excitement, Jesus must have been feeling the pressure to get away and clear His mind. He realized His need to find that place to be alone and recharge His spirit. We’re still in the first chapter of Mark’s Gospel, and Jesus has been on the go constantly: He’s been baptized and tempted in the wilderness; He called His disciples, taught in synagogues, exorcised demons; and in today’s lesson Jesus healed Simon Peter’s mother-in-law. He has spent countless time healing others who were sick and casting out demons from many people. It’s no wonder Jesus needed a little time away to spend in prayer and recharge His spirit.

It is interesting to note that Mark writes of the disciples “hunting Jesus down.” Jesus was becoming known in Capernaum as a ‘healer of diseases,’ and an ‘exorcist.’ His time in prayer must have given Jesus the answers and strength He needed to keep His focus. He could have stayed in Capernaum and been famous, but instead Jesus headed out to the neighboring towns, so that He could continue to proclaim the message of the Kingdom of God. As important as the healing was, Jesus’ main goal was to reach as many people as possible with the Good News of Salvation. Jesus was able to spend time with God and be recharged at that lonely place outside of Capernaum. He found the solid footing to keep His focus on His mission, even if His time of solitude wasn’t for as long as He would have liked.

When the pressure got intense, Jesus went away to be with God. He searched His heart and opened Himself up to God. What do you do when the pressures of life become intense? In the midst of the Covid pandemic crisis we are facing worldwide, people in other areas are struggling with job cuts, layoffs, loss of income, hardships of many kinds. We are struggling with keeping our focus and being vigilant during the long haul. We know that the vaccines are getting around, maybe slower than we’d like, but there is hope that this will slowly end. We’re waiting for that strange thing called ‘herd immunity’ to help slow things down. Maybe you’re not one of the ones who are struggling. or maybe you know someone who is struggling economically, spiritually, emotionally, with health concerns, or for any number of reasons.

Sometimes we just need to get away. I know that my time in Jamaica has always been a time of rejuvenation mentally and spiritually. But we can’t always go to Jamaica. This year we can’t make the trip, so we have to find other ways to rejuvenate ourselves. Changes in routine are important, even though it is nearly impossible with the pandemic.

At times, like Jesus, we just have a few moments to be alone with God in prayer, in silence, in reading the Bible. Sometimes all we need to do is take a walk, or sit down with a good book, or spend a few minutes with a friend who understands and listens. (Here’s a plug for Stephen Ministry! If you or anyone you know needs someone to help them through a difficult time, contact me or Susan Thompson, and we will find a caring Stephen Minister who can help.)

Sometimes things pile up on us and we find life a bit overwhelming. We may not even realize it at the time; it may take someone close to us to help us understand what is going on.

One of the special aspects of Sunday worship is getting away from things—even for just a short time—and spending time with Jesus and with caring Christian friends. It can be a time of refreshment, renewal, refocusing, or simply a change of pace. Hopefully, we will soon be able to welcome everyone back to church! We miss you, and are looking forward to everyone’s return. But remember, you can always share your burdens with Jesus. Whatever you’re dealing with, give them to Jesus and let His love enfold you and bring peace and renewal of your spirit.

Jesus came out of His prayer time with God refreshed and with a clear focus. “Come on,” Jesus said to His disciples, “Let’s go on to the next towns, so that I may proclaim my message there also…”

Where are you going? Are you spinning your wheels, a little afraid to change your course, or reach out for help? We are all faced with difficult times and a bit of confusion over our directions from time to time. We need to let Jesus speak to us and get us back on solid ground again. We can trust His promise to lead and guide us in all circumstances.

AMEN

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