In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, ‘Everyone is searching for you.’ He answered, ‘Let us go on to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.’ And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons. A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, ‘If you choose, you can make me clean.’ Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’ Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him, ‘See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.’ But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.
As I’m writing this daily devotion, the second lockdown has begun in England. Our churches have been told not to gather for worship. Many congregations feel frail and vulnerable. Some doors may never re-open. As you are reading this, 2021 is less than two weeks’ old, but it’s hard to imagine that the new year has yet brought great clarity about the future: life may still seem very dark. In the midst of the uncertainties of world politics, climate emergency, and pandemic, local churches up and down the land are wondering how to be church, when so much of life feels to be built on shifting sand. So I’m grateful for this section of Mark’s gospel, which reminds us of so many different elements of Jesus’ life. Jesus, our rock, is shown taking time away to pray, responding to those in need through preaching and healing, proclaiming love and grace to all, and in all this he does not seek fame, but serves the kingdom of God. That seems to me like a pretty good agenda for any Christian fellowship seeking to be Walking the Way and living the life of Jesus today. And did you notice that although the leper is told not to tell anyone about his healing, he can’t help himself – he makes the whole story public. The Good News embodied in Jesus is unstoppable; people are drawn to Jesus from all quarters. Where there is prayer and preaching, proclamation of God’s love and grace, healing and service of those most in need, the world will notice. Where God’s love is known, fear and uncertainty can be conquered. Whatever 2021 holds in store, God the Father is with us, Jesus shows us the way, and the Spirit fills us with the ability to be servants of God’s kingdom.
God whose love is greater than our fear, help us to see your path, to follow Jesus’ way and to know your Spirit of grace. Amen.
The Rev’d Ruth Whitehead, Moderator of South Western Synod & member of Taunton URC