At daybreak he departed and went into a deserted place. And the crowds were looking for him; and when they reached him, they wanted to prevent him from leaving them. But he said to them, ‘I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.’ So he continued proclaiming the message in the synagogues of Judea.
“Not for ever in green pastures do we ask our way to be; but the steep and rugged pathway may we tread rejoicingly.”
Perhaps we mean the words of Rejoice & Sing 495 as we sing them, but how enthusiastic are we to act upon them?
Jesus had felt at home in Capernaum, a far more welcoming, interesting and cosmopolitan town than Nazareth which was tucked away in the hills, and where people had rejected him: at the crossroads town on the Lake people responded positively to him and his ministry had been so effective that they wanted him to stay. Surely Jesus could have found good reasons to prolong his time in Capernaum and build on success, with a witness not only to the local inhabitants but to all the traders and merchants who passed through on a major trading route.
But the response of Jesus was, “‘I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.” No matter how sincere we are in our congregations about reaching out to people in the wider community, how much more comfortable it is to pray for them rather than reach out to them.
But would our local churches have come into existence if those who founded them had stayed put, conducting their ministry in known situations? Our church in Verwood was founded by “missionaries” from a town some five miles away who were concerned about the lawless, heathen people on the heath where there was no Christian community: are we as concerned? We may be less lawless but there are still plenty of heathen! Are you as concerned as Jesus was? He knew that he was sent for this purpose: is that also our purpose?
Father, hear the prayer we offer: not for ease that prayer shall be, but for strength that we may ever live our lives courageously.
Be our strength in hours of weakness, in our wanderings be our guide; through endeavour, failure, danger, Father, be thou at our side. Amen
Love Maria Willis
The Rev’d Julian Macro, retired minister, member of Verwood United Reformed Church