What Are Your Flashlights? A Sermon, 2/12/12

6th Epiphany – B

1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Mark 1:40-45

 Imagine you’ve heard a rumor of a new, totally clean, amazingly efficient, absolutely free energy source that is infinitely renewable. It could readily replace all oil, coal, natural gas, solar, wind, nuclear, and any other kind of energy supply you can think of. It is clean, reliable, and safe.

Too good to be true, right? You think so? Imagine it anyway.

You hear that a representative of this energy source is coming to share information. Though she does well, but most of us can’t really comprehend the scope of what she’s trying to tell us. So she brings a small sample of this energy so we can have a little bit of an idea as to what it can do.

As a quick example, she takes the batteries out of a flashlight, waves the empty flashlight near the energy source, and immediately it works! The flashlight is brighter than ever, and according to the rep, will never go dead again. It will never need recharging. That’s nothing, she says.

But before she can say any more, one of the people gathered hands her their flashlight, saying the batteries have died, I can’t afford new ones. Will this energy source work on it? Sure, she says, and it does. Then someone else with another flashlight. Then another person. Soon everyone is running home to get their flashlights and bring them to this energy rep so they won’t need batteries again.

Wait! She cries out. This isn’t all that this energy is about! It will change transportation, housing, business, heating and lighting. Cars will be safer, cheaper. Planes will be faster and there will be no cost to fuel. All the money you’ve been spending on gas, oil, electricity will stay in your pockets! – But no one is hearing her, as she’s being overrun with broken flashlights.

She fixes many of these flashlights with this new energy. After all, that’s a small part of what it can do. But word has spread that she can make flashlights work indefinitely, and so they keep coming.

She needs to explain the bigger picture. She needs to show other examples that might help people realize what this energy really means. She needs to be able to show them how it will change agriculture, housing and development, communication, transportation. Not only will it change all that we know and experience now, but new things will be created that we can’t even imagine now.

Finally she realizes this she won’t get past flashlights here, and so she leaves. She’s on her way to another city, another energy convention, when she meets yet one more man with a broken flashlight. He begs her to fix it, saying it’s the only light he has, the only way his daughter can do her homework after dark. Help me, he pleads.

OK, she says. She waves his flashlight near the energy source and it works. Please, she says to him, Don’t be telling people this is about flashlights, OK? Go show your flashlight to the head of Research and Development at Exxon and British Petroleum.

But he’s already run off, shouting to everyone about his flashlight.

If you haven’t caught on yet, this is a grossly inadequate parable of this text in Mark 1 of Jesus healing the leper. Healing was part of Jesus’ work.

But it makes me wonder—what are our flashlights? What small part of the reign of God do you cling to—maybe even at the expense of the fullness of what Jesus is doing?

All people have really seen from Jesus so far is healing. They keep bringing sick people to him. Now wholeness is part of the reign of God, so Jesus does heal many, but he gets so overwhelmed with people wanting healing that he can’t proclaim the whole picture of what God has in store for us. He can’t invite us to join the fullness of God’s vision for all people. He can’t even move around anymore. He has to stay in the back country, away from towns. And people are still finding him. Rumors are spreading, but not about the new age of God’s rule coming among us, about forgiveness for all, life that death can’t even touch, those shoved aside being included, but rather about a guy who can cure sickness. Though Jesus brings that, he is bringing much more than new energy for flashlights.

So what’s your flashlight? What part of Jesus do you cling to? Have you seen Jesus at work in a particular way, and then quit looking beyond that? Have you experienced God in one part of your life and keep trying to relive that one experience over and over? Perhaps you’ve found significance in his teachings, and don’t consider any more than that. Perhaps Jesus has spoken to you through scripture and now you will only hear him there—even if that means using distorted interpretations. Or maybe you see Jesus caring for the poor, people in the inner city, the homeless, and don’t think about what he’s doing in the suburbs. How many of you consider yourselves financially blessed by God, but don’t hear Jesus inviting  you to primarily use those finances to help others? All of this is of Jesus, but each is only a part.

As we slowly make our way through the first chapter of Mark, I’m sensing the frustration Jesus is feeling. He’s come to bring comfort to those who are living in terror, justice to those who’ve been pushed down, forgiveness to those who are far from God, mercy to those who don’t deserve it, life to those who are dead, and, yes, wholeness to those who are broken. And more.

He comes, inviting us to take part in this new creation that he brings. All of it. It centers on him. It comes in him. Not just in our perceptions of him or experiences of him or even our beliefs in him. The kingdom of God, the hope of creation, comes in him.

So bring broken flashlights to him, sure. But know that Jesus is about more than merely our hope for what he can do. He is the hope of all creation. And he has called us, of all people, to bear witness to that to all the world.

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