O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Based on Mark 1:29-39
February 05, 2012
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Fellow baptized saints, have you ever heard of the Toronto International Film Festival? It is quite the prestigious event. Celebrities from all over the world come to promote their latest films. You could see producers, actors, actresses - you name it. Well, a couple of years ago I took my wife to see one of the films for her birthday. The screening happened to end right before the scheduled arrival of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. I can remember standing in a large crowd, a great distance away from where they were expected to arrive. There was a nice red carpet laid out, sort of like this one, and there was a red velvet rope that separated their walkway from our "waitway." The word on the street was that they would arrive, pose for photographs for two or three seconds, and that would be all we would be lucky enough to see. Some of the "fans" were hoping for an autograph, and others were just happy to know they would make an appearance. So there we were, waiting. Well, the scheduled arrival time came and went, but there was no sign of Brad or Angelina. Eventually, after about ten minutes, we decided we would rather spend time with each other, so we flitted off into the Toronto scene. There would be no celebrity viewing that day.
Now, our Gospel readings for the last three weeks have followed Jesus in the first chapter of Mark. They record the span of about two days at the very beginning of His ministry. Imagine if we viewed our Lord Jesus in a way that those "fans" at the Film Festival might understand. Through their eyes, we might start to wonder if Jesus is turning into some kind of celebrity. Picture it. First, He is baptized by John, who is "like totally the most popular prophet" right now. Then, the heavenly Father announces that Jesus is His Son. Then Jesus starts building His posse, you know His disciples, who are gonna fish for more men to make an even bigger posse with more bodyguards. Then, as we heard last week, He and His entourage roll into the synagogue where He casts out a demon, and then we hear this week, that immediately His disciples whisked him out of there, protected Him from the paparazzi and took Him back to their pad. But when they get there, "celebrity Jesus" is hungry, so He heals ‘some sick woman' there so she can serve them food. Wow, this Jesus is for shizzle!
But this "celebrity Jesus" is totally wrong. Jesus is not a celebrity in this way, for this is a worldly way of looking at what the Son of God came from heaven to do.
Jesus was not healing the sick and casting out demons for popularity. His compassion compelled Him to help those poor people. In fact, He was trying to prevent Himself from becoming popular. He did not want to be a celebrity. He forbid the unclean spirits from revealing who He really was. He knew that once He became popular, it would be harder for the weak and the poor to reach Him through the crowds. His compassion was far greater than His pride.
And Jesus was not giving out some trivial excitement like an autograph. He was personally giving out healing, deliverance, release, freedom, peace, security, certainty, life. The mark of His hand was worth immeasurably more.
He was not simply making appearances that might further His career, He was engaging individuals, as He took Peter's mother-in-law by the hand. He was seeking the lost, searching for those who would hear Him, just as you sit hearing Him right now - Hearing Him call you to eternal health and freedom. He wants to engage you, to take you by the hand with His Word and lift you up from the fevered life you endure. Take His hand by hearing His Words.
Jesus did not come to pose for photographs, spending just enough time with people to be recognized for it. He had His sleeves rolled up, His hands "dirty", handling all of our sin and contagious sickness and unclean spirits. There was no glamour in it, no makeup, flashing lights and red velvet carpet. Yet He does the same for you. He does not shy away from your guilt or your failures. It doesn't matter how unclean you feel. He wants to hold you. He wants to clean you. He wants to carry you.
Jesus was not separated from the people by red velvet tape, He was down in the trenches with them. He was close, near - just as He is here. He wants to be with us. He wants to spend time with us here on this quiet Sunday morning. Quality time where He can be with us, and we are not rushing off and worrying about what's next. There is no velvet tape - no curtain separating us from God's throne of grace - from His eternal presence. Let us be with Him, and learn to be with Him.
And Jesus was not feigning interest, you know, "oh my another group of people who are swarming me." No, He specifically woke up early that next morning to go and pray for these people. To plead before His Father that His ministering to them would be fruitful. He was not pulling back from the crowds, He was searching for them, even insisting, "Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out." Christ pleads for you before His Father in the same way. He wants His Words to take root in you, that you may also go out and share them.
And Jesus was not a celebrity because He donated large amounts of money to feeding the poor, but instead He gave us His precious, innocent blood, the only thing valuable enough to cover the cost of our sin, the only currency powerful enough to free us from the death that will come one day. He gave us unending riches, eternal wealth, the likes of which every celebrity on earth need bow down to receive.
Christ does not care about money, or fame, or power. He cares about people. He cares about you. And He cares about the person beside you. Why would I ever talk about Brad Pitt with someone, when I can talk about Jesus? He is the real celebrity - the real one worth celebrating. He is the one who wants to be with me, no matter what I've done in the past.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us tell each other what Christ has done for us - and let us do it for one another. Do you want to see our congregation grow? Do you want to feel like this is a place you should bring your friends and family? Then let us truly be family - brothers and sisters with God as our Father. Let us be with one another, get to know one another, spend time with one another. Let us get our hands dirty with one another - pray for one another - but not for glory as the world would - but because our Lord cares for us, and He cares for the person beside us. Let us do this so that when that day of fever comes - when the demon days come - then Christ can heal through us - speak through us - spend time through us with all those He cares for. We have a real celebrity in our midst, one that the world does not understand, and He has come to save us at just the right time. I may not have seen a worldly celebrity in Toronto, but a heavenly One has spoken His Word to you today. May it change your life. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr