I have been pondering the very first words of our gospel lesson for this coming Sunday (Mark 1: 29-39), “As soon as they left the synagogue…
They have been interesting words to mull over as I have made my way down to a handful of our churches in the southern part of our presbytery. It wouldn’t surprise you that on a few (okay, most) of my visits I heard what has become our most common refrain in the church these days, “How are we going to get young people into our church again?”
There is nothing wrong with the question. But I was struck that just about every day this week I read the lectionary text which starts with Jesus and his disciples “going out” while many of my conversations were rooted in questions about getting people to “come in.”
If the point had not already been driven home enough Jesus decides he needs some space. He has already left the synagogue. But now that he is out ministering to the people on the streets he feels the need to pray. Does he return to the synagogue to get away from the crowds? No. The text tells us that early in the morning while it was still very dark he went out to a deserted place to pray.
The text is permeated with images of going out while my conversations this week were rooted in getting people to come in. Jesus leaves the synagogue to minister and even doesn’t return to the synagogue when it’s time to pray. It seems just backwards of what we expect and want. Wouldn’t it be better if Jesus invited people to the synagogue to be healed and set a good example by praying in the front of the synagogue?
Of course, Jesus had it easier than us, right? He didn’t own a building. He didn’t have budgets to worry about. He didn’t have to fund raise for a capital campaign. And he was too young to worry about a pension plan. All he seemed to care about was proclaiming the reign of God, healing those he encountered, casting out the demons who feared him, and looking for deserted places to get away and pray.
Idealistic young dreamer he was.