“MOVING ON” was the theme of Café Church at Crediton Methodist Church on Sunday, February 4, led by Professor Stephen Lea.
Stephen asked if we had started something new recently, maybe a New Year’s Resolution or some new hobby we had taken up.
If we had followed the lectionary readings we would have been working through the first chapter of Mark’s Gospel.
Mark didn’t think of it as the first chapter – books of the Bible were not split up into chapters until the 13th century and verses came even later!
It was the beginning and Mark was doing a new thing – no-one had written a gospel before.
The first chapter of Mark feels as though he was trying to crowd one example of everything Jesus did into it, as though he wasn’t sure he’d be able to finish the book or how long he’d be able to make it.
We hear of John the Baptist, Jesus’s own baptism, the temptations, Jesus’s announcement of His mission, His calling of the first disciples, His first preaching in a synagogue and His first exorcisms. Now, in today’s gospel reading we had His first healings. We are only on verse 39 of the first chapter!
The disciples want Jesus to stay in Capernaum (their home village) but He refuses and answers “Let us go on”. That is my text and my challenge to us all – we need to “move on” in our Christian lives.
We have just had our annual Covenant service when we make awe-inspiring promises to commit ourselves to God’s work. How will we ever live up to them?
I have two answers to that question. First is very simple – Lent. Lent is approaching and is a time when we are traditionally used to making some change in our lives. Let us use this coming Lent to plan some moving on.
My second answer is “a bit at a time”. Most of us are not in a situation where we can make huge changes or of an age where we can do huge new things for God. We can all make some change … do something to make following Jesus more real in our lives.
So, instead of giving something up for Lent, let’s try to make some change in our Christian life for good. Maybe we could make a few extra minutes daily to pray or maybe read through a hymn we don’t know.
Perhaps we could read one chapter of a book in the Bible we don’t know. We could phone a friend or write a letter to someone we’ve not been in touch with for years. We could make an extra effort to exchange a few friendly words with the people who serve us in shops or our neighbours.
None of the above is hard. What is hard though is sticking to them. We don’t have to do any of them in our own strength.
We are heirs to the promise that was given to the exiled Jewish people by Isaiah – that even though “youths will faint and be weary, those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint”.
So, with each of my small suggestions come a second one – regularly, unfailingly, ask God for the strength to serve Him better and rely on His promise that His Spirit will not desert us.
So here, in a nutshell, is our challenge: Try to decide on one thing you can work on each week this coming Lent to move your Christian life on – recognising the limitations imposed by who we are and what our situation is.