Pastor Michael Frye:
Tommy and his father were walking along the road when they came across a large stone.
Tommy looked at the stone and asked his father, “do you think if I use all my strength, I can move that rock?”
His father thought for a moment and responded, “I think that if you use all your strength, you can do it.”
So Tommy eagerly ran over to the rock and began pushing it.
He pushed, and he pushed until little beads of sweat appeared on his forehead.
But the rock didn’t move an inch.
He sat on the ground with his head in his hands and said, “I can’t do it.”
His father put his arms around Tommy and said: “You can do it, Tommy.
You just didn’t use all the strength you have; you didn’t ask me to help you.”
Donald Tuttle observes that this world we live in tells us that we have to be and independent.
It tells us we shouldn’t count on anyone or anything else.
Yet, our faith tells us is that we have, in God, a resource who is ready and willing to help.
Remember the words of Psalm 46: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
Today’s Gospel lesson continues the story from last week.
After driving the evil spirit out of the man in the synagogue, Jesus went with his disciples to Peter’s house.
As they entered, they learned that Peter’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever.
This would have been devastating for this woman, who would have considered it her place to be serving her guests; but if you have ever suffered from a high fever, you will know that it saps your strength and takes away the joy of being around others.
Without hesitation, Jesus went to her, took her by the hand and lifted her up, and her fever was gone.
Instead of withdrawing and resting from her ordeal, she began serving her guests out of deep gratitude for her Lord’s kindness and care.
For Jesus, there was no rest for the weary.
People continued to come to Peter’s home to see this healer for themselves and to seek his miraculous powers for their own maladies.
Mark goes on to say that Jesus cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; but he would not allow the demons to speak his name, still choosing to not be identified as the Messiah.
By this time, however, it was beginning to dawn upon those who followed Jesus that he was far more than just a teacher, and their curiosity kept them coming back (and bringing others with them).
We must be mindful that, even though Jesus was healing all manners of diseases as a sign of his authority from God, not every disease was being wiped from the face of the earth.
It was, and still is, a world in which imperfections, sin, evil, disease, and death exists.
God sent his Son to remind us that his goodness and mercy stand in opposition to these imperfections, and that they will be overcome at the time that God’s Son, our Lord, returns to the face of the earth.
David Miller speaks of the many fevers that confront us in our own world today:
Anxieties at work and in the home; the sinking sense that we cannot get everything done; fear that the world is spinning out of control; struggling with the thought that things are never going to get better; overwhelming grief and despondency over the tragic loss of someone we love.
Healing is found in the tenderness of Jesus’ hands as he enfolds us in his arms (just as he did Peter’s mother-in-law).
He does this through the Holy Spirit’s presence in our hearts and in our minds.
Jesus calls us to be his healing hands in our churches and homes and schools and communities by loving and cherishing one another as sisters and brothers.
Healing, teaching, dealing with skeptics, virtually having people around all of the time – all this was weighing upon Jesus so that he had to go off to a deserted place and pray to his Father in heaven.
This is how he recharged; this is how he kept his focus upon his mission; but his followers didn’t recognize the need that Jesus had to go off to pray.
What about you?
How do you spend time conversing with God, being replenished, finding inspiration to get back into the world and hopefully making a difference?
This is something each of us should think about and address.
A mother took her young daughter to town to run a few errands.
When lunchtime came around, she took her daughter to a restaurant, and they ordered lunch.
When the server brought the food, the mother said, “Ginny, it’s really crowded and noisy in here today, so let’s just say a silent prayer.”
When the mother finished praying, she realized that Ginny still had her eyes closed and head bowed.
As Ginny finally looked up, her mother asked: “Ginny, what were you praying about for such a long time?”
With true sincerity, Ginny responded: ‘I don’t know, mother, it was a silent prayer.”
Mark doesn’t tell us how Jesus prayed when he slipped away from his disciples; it could have been silent and introspective; it could have been highly emotional and animated; it could have been very much like a conversation similar to one you and I might have face to face.
However Jesus prayed, it is important to know that he made a vital connection with the one he called Father so he would have the power and the authority to go about his work in the world.
Should this not also be true for us?
Think about this for a moment, and then plan to use that precious silence that is allowed during the Prayer of the Church this morning in order to connect with your Father in heaven.
Mark’s final words in the gospel today are quite telling, and they should be a sign for us, as well.
The disciples realize that Jesus is missing from the house, so they frantically search for him.
When they finally find him they gently chastise him: “Everyone is searching for you.”
But Jesus already has his mind set on moving on from there: “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.”
Ofelia Ortega comments that Jesus didn’t want to be locked into a sacred structure and rest on his laurels in one place.
He had a message to share and miracles to perform on behalf of others in both near and far-away places:
“The miracle work is extended; the disciples are those on the road, the outpost of the kingdom of love and justice.”
The same is true for us today.
As Christ’s hands in the world, we are called to reach beyond ourselves, to leave these sacred walls and touch the lives of those who may have never darkened our doors so that they, too, may know the touch of the master’s hand.
In closing, I will share with you the Myra Welch poem by that same name:
The Touch of the Master’s Hand.
Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer thought it scarcely worth his while
To waste much time on the old violin, but he held it up with a smile;
‘What am I bidden, good folks,” he cried, ‘Who’ll start the bidding for me?
‘A dollar, a dollar; then two! Only two? Two dollars, and who’ll make it three?
Three dollars twice; going for three…’ But no,
From the room, far back, a gray-haired man came forward and picked up the bow;
Then wiping the dust from the old violin, and tightening the loose strings,
He played a melody pure and sweet as caroling angel sings.
The music ceased, and the auctioneer, with a voice that was quiet and low,
Said: ‘What am I bid for the old violin?’ and he held it up with the bow.
‘A thousand dollars, and who’ll make it two?
Two thousand! And who’ll make it three?
Three thousand once, three thousand twice, and going and gone,” said he.
The people cheered, but some of them cried, ‘We do not quite understand
What changed its worth.” Swift came the reply: “The touch of a master’s hand.’
And many a man with life out of tune, and battered and scarred with sin,
Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd, much like the old violin,
A ‘mess of pottage,’ a glass of wine; a game – and he travels on.
“He is going once, and going twice, he’s going and almost gone.’
But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd never can quite understand
the worth of a soul and the change that’s wrought by the touch of the Master’s hand.”
Sisters and brothers in Christ, sense the touch of the Master’s hand; feel it in your hearts and in your souls; then, share that touch so that others may feel the love and tenderness of God.