A Day in the Life
Some days are easier than others. Monday morning I got an early call that the church basement classrooms were flooded with water. Turns out the water heater ruptured during the night. With the help of the teachers, the water was pushed down the drains, and the cleaners mopped it up in the evening. By the next morning, a new water heater was installed. On Tuesday, the urinal in the upstairs restroom started overflowing…and so it goes! I’ll bet your life can be like that too!
Today’s Gospel lesson struck me as presenting a day – perhaps a fairly typical day – in the life of Jesus. And that day wasn’t so different in many respects from a day in my life, or in your life. The same joys, tensions, and challenging moments are there – we all face them, day in and day out. So maybe we can learn something about how to live, and live well, in the present moment, this day that we are in, with all its highs and lows.
In Mark’s Gospel (the Gospel we are reading from most this year in church), Jesus is a man on a mission, and often a man in a hurry. It’s still chapter one, and Jesus has already been baptized by John, tempted by Satan, started a preaching ministry, recruited at least a few disciples, taught in the synagogue, and healed a man with an unclean spirit. Wow!
Now, he goes to Simon Peter’s house in Capernaum, I assume to have a bit of a rest and maybe a meal. But Simon’s mother-in-law was there and quite ill. Alas, no rest for the weary. Jesus does what we all would do – he adjusts his plans and refocuses on the immediate need. Being Jesus, he is able to heal the woman in no time. Wish I could do that!
Then we are told, interestingly, that Mrs. Simon’s-mother-in-law got up and began to serve them – so maybe Jesus got his meal finally. The point seems to be that she was fully recovered, and the word for “serve” is diakoneo – our word for deacon. (Eugene, take note: meal prep is important work!)
I’m hoping Jesus got a bit of a nap in, because that evening at sundown, the crowds figured out where he was, and they started coming for help and healing. “The whole city was gathered around the door.” So how did Jesus respond?
Well, again, he did what most of us would do: he tried to help. He healed many who were sick, and cast out many demons. Jesus knew that was his Father’s will for that moment. But Jesus also knew that he had other things to do – a long-term plan to work on. So early in the morning, he went to a deserted place to pray, think, plan, and focus. We all know that need (introverts more than extroverts, perhaps). Without some time apart from the noise and demands of social intercourse, we’ll soon go off course, and never achieve the big goals we set. Good for Jesus to find an empty Dunkin Donuts at the crack of dawn.
But that didn’t last too long. Simon and his companions hunted him down and found him. They relayed the anxiety of the crowd: “Everyone is searching for you!” Jesus responded by deflecting their anxiety and defining his mission: “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also, for that is what I came out to do.”
This is an important moment, and we should take note. Jesus knew his mission was to spread the message of God’s Kingdom widely, so he couldn’t stay in one place and become a permanent dispenser of good deeds. He had the wisdom and the courage to define himself. He would do this again and again in his life. He was generous and helped countless people, but he also insisted on time apart to pray. He also carved out time with his disciples, to teach and guide them. Why? So that the message could spread with 12 more messengers, not just one.
Any life of ministry resembles this day in the life of Jesus. Various people have needs and demands, and we try to respond. A mother stops what she’s doing when her baby fusses; she picks him up and soothes him. But when he’s napping, she’s wise to take time for herself – to read, or rest, and rejuvenate herself. She may need time alone, or she may need to talk to a friend, get some advice, or just visit or vent.
So, what can we learn from Jesus’ busy day? First, he was generous – with his time, teaching, and healing. He responded cheerfully to the needs of others. He modeled the service of a deacon, we might say. Second, he defined himself: his purpose and goals, his own needs. He was not just reactive to the situations around him. Third, he took care of himself – found time for himself, and stayed connected with his God, the source of his mission and his strength to do it.
I can imagine the moment when his disciples found him in the Dunkin Donuts that morning. They brought a rush of anxiety into the shop: “Everybody’s looking for you!” I envision Jesus smiling broadly and suggesting, “Why don’t you all just sit down for a little while; I’ll buy you a coffee. Let’s talk about this mission we have, about how do minister to God’s people, and not get burned out. And remind me next time to find a better place to hide out from you people!”
So, what does a day in your life look like? Do your days feel balanced, representing your life’s priorities and values? Are you finding ways to reach out and help or heal others, expecting nothing in return? If you have a job, is your work a reasonable part of your day? Do you feel balanced among the demands of others, and your own needs for rest, quiet time, and, (dare I use a now-hackneyed phrase), self-care?
This day in Jesus’ life shows us he knows the heavy demands on people in need, his own need and desire for some quiet time to rest and pray, and his compelling mission to spread the word of love from God. We can look to Jesus as a model for our own lives. AMEN.