One minute sermons displayed on the Church Notice board during the COVID-19 crisis.
Mark 1; 29-39 Peter’s mother-in-law
“Boy,” I think, with some annoyance, “When that daughter and son–in-law of mine get home I’m going to show em!”
They think this is all I’m good for! Serving up a few meals when they want it. I’ll show them. When I’m better, when I get my strength back I’ll show em! But my bones ache so. I just want to lie down and rest all the time! They left me in bed this morning, that daughter and son-in-law of mine. But how can I stay in bed with all this work to do. When I’m better and get my strength back – that’s when I’ll tell em.
That son-in-law of mine, good-for-nothing if its not out fishing for all the hours God sends, he’s off following that preacher bloke to goodness knows where. What about my daughter eh! That’s what I ought to tell him. Leaving her to fend for the kids and clearing the house up and washing those filthy, fish-smelling cloths of his. That’s what I ought to tell him. When I get my strength back – that’s when I’ll tell em. That’s when I’m going to show em.
Mind you, she’s not much better! She comes home complaining about him – Peter this and Peter that! Wants my shoulder to cry on then O yes! How he ‘s always leaving her with the children, doesn’t know where he is half the time. Of course she has to wash and clear up after him – that’s her job isn’t it – don’t come winging to me. That’s not all I’m good for either. Yes that’s when I’m going to show em.
O how my bones ache so. How I am so tired. I just want to rest. Lie down and let the world go on around me, just for a while, please. It’s so hard. I feel like this, death warmed up – but I still have to get that water on the boil and get the vegetables peeled – that’s the job I hate most when I feel like this. I’ have to sit down and do it when I’m feeling this tired. And then their kids start crying and wanting to play or something to eat! I can feel myself getting irritable – and its not their fault – I know, but well you just take it out on them. What is she leaving me with their children for anyway!
How can I go on like this?
Eventually I can’t take it anymore, I just lay down, close my eyes. Just a few moments sleep, just a few moments. And I sleep!
Then I felt his hand upon me – his hand touched mine and slowly tightened. As I opened my eyes and tried to focus I saw his eyes looking into mine. I glanced just beyond him and Peter and the others were standing by the door, just watching. I briefly noticed my daughter had gone to the children. But my gaze quickly returned to the man whose hand was holding mine. He gently lifted me until I was standing.
I can tell you, usually when I’ve had a fever like this it takes sometime to shake it. Usually I’m up working again, before I’m better still tired and aching but knowing that I have to keep going. You have to don’t you? Not this time. No not this time. Once I was standing I immediately felt the strength surge through my body – I felt stronger – strong enough again and began getting them all seated around our large dinner table. I was so excited that I could again begin to do the thing I enjoyed – the thing I liked doing best, serving them all with a good meal. First with a few drinks while they sat and talked and then heating up the meal, passing the plates and making jokes. Then scooping out the food and putting onto their plates and watching them as they eat, joining in their easy talk. Getting the feel of pride as they comment on how good it is.
Then I want to tell them. To show em. This is not all I can do you know. I can do more than cook and serve up food. It’s not just all this cooking and cleaning and looking after the children that I am good at. But I wanted to tell him first – the one who had held my hand and lifted me up. So I took my moment. As the talk quietened I went to stand beside him with a bowl of fruit. I offered him the bowl and I was just about to speak and I into saw in his eyes – he knew. I didn’t need to say it. I didn’t need to him. “This is not all I am good for. Not all of who I am. You see when the greatest praise I got growing up was – “you won’t get a peep out of her” or “quiet as a mouse”. So we kept our head down and got on with the housework thinking that is all we are good for. But this cooking and cleaning doesn’t make me who I really am– I can enjoy it, sometimes, but I am so much more than all of this, and I could tell he knew. And that convinced myself!
The others well sure I’d have to tell them at some point. They think that this is all I am good for. But not yet. For now I wallow in the new found strength and confidence I have found. And I didn’t tell him. A short time later they had all left.
I heard later how so many, many more people were all finding their way to him looking themselves for strength and health. Did they understand? Was it just the curing of their diseases and ills they wanted and found? Who knows? Some must surely have looked into those eyes as I had done. I so much wanted to ask but there wasn’t the time.
Early the next morning Peter and the others were gulping down their breakfast. “He’s gone off on his own,” one said. “to be alone I expect” said another. “Doesn’t he know there will be crowds searching for him today.” “Quick, lets go to find him, get him back”. I told them! “Let him be,” I said, “he must need some time alone.” They didn’t listen. They woofed down their breakfast, grabbed their tunics and were gone. “Whose going to clear up your mess?” I shouted after them, half smiling. I have to face that one later. But for now…
The next thing I hear is that he’s moved on. He wasn’t staying around looking for favours or faint praise. He had work to do. He’d done his work here. I could understand that. He knew how I could carry on in my own small ways – and just serving others with food, although that was important. There was so much more I could do
I am not sure if Peter understood. Maybe he’ll grow up one day. But I can understand why he wants to be with him – follow him and learn from him. Whatever the future holds for them.
“Peter will be back,” I tell my daughter and I think she understands too. And she’ll keep nipping off to be with him when she gets the chance.
That means I still do lots of cooking and looking after the kids. And mostly I enjoy it. I still get tired of course. And I get fed up with the cooking and cleaning. I’m still left with the kids. And when I get ill again its still a struggle to keep going. But it is different now. I know it’s not all I’m good for. I know there is so more to me. There is more of who I am waiting to get out everyday.
And “Boy,” I think, laughing this time, “when that daughter and son–in-law of mine get home – yes then I’m going to show em.”
John 20; verses 19-31 Think you know me…well I’m Thomas?
You think you know me don’t you? You think you’ve got me sussed. We like to think that about others don’t we? Sum people up by one thing that they have said or done. Well I thought it was about time I set the record straight. Think you know me?– I don’t think you know me at all. All these years you’ve using my name in some derogatory fashion, or worse still with some kind of patronising humour.
“Doubting Thomas” and then snigger. Or “doubting Thomas” and a shake of the head, “poor ol’ doubting Thomas”. Well I don’t want your sympathy. I don’t even need your sympathy. In fact I didn’t do anything wrong. True I questioned the other disciples. True I said I wanted to see Jesus for myself. True I even said wanted to touch his wounds. But, I am telling you now it was nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it’s a shame a few more people don’t ask a few more questions. Yes, challenge a few of the people telling us what to believe. Not just take everything because it says it here or there or so and so told me that! No I am here to let you know, you need to ask some of the difficult questions. People won’t like it of course. They’ll think you causing trouble, being difficult, probably call you a “doubting Thomas” or “doubting Theresa”. But don’t worry. You know, Jesus didn’t!
No I am here to put the record straight. I wasn’t doubting Jesus or questioning God, NO! I was doing exactly what Jesus had been teaching – trying to see and believe!
Now think about me for a minute! May be you think I was frightened, scared at the thought that Jesus was alive again and all ready to run a mile from a ghost! Or, frightened that if, we started talking about Jesus being alive again, then the Romans or religious authorities would come and get us. Well you can think again. Remember when Jesus said, “lets go back to Bethany to Lazarus”? All the rest said to him, “Ooo, no it was too dangerous”, “they tried to stone you there Jesus, you don’t want to walk back in to that again” Who was who said, “let us go with him and face the music by his side”. Yep, yours truly! I wasn’t frightened then and, for your information, I was not frightened in that room!
If you said the others were frightened, well I might not argue. Remember when Jesus first appeared to the disciples. They were all frightened and had locked themselves away. And me! Well I wasn’t there was I? If I had have been there I have seen him with the others. No, when they were all hidden and locked away, I was out, walking the streets, trying to find out what was going on. That is not the action of a frightened man. That is the action of a….an “action man” if you ASK ME! No I wasn’t frightened. It wasn’t fear that led me to question the others when they said they had seen Jesus.
I wasn’t scared of a ghost or goolies ( I could watch your DrWho with out going behind the couch anyday) and I wasn’t scared of the authorities either. NO you had better try again if you think that that was the reason I would not believe until I saw the marks on his hands and his side. Incidentally how did I know he had the wound in his side? I’ll tell you I was there when Jesus was being crucified. The others were hiding, apart from the women of course, and I didn’t get as close to him as they. They’ve got more guts the rest of us put together. But I did go and I saw him die. That wasn’t the action of a frightened man either.
I suppose I was always asking questions. Like…when… we were all sitting around the dinner table that last night. Jesus told us we would not be able to follow him where he was going. Well, I asked him straight out. “ How can we follow you if we don’t where you are going”. I didn’t really understand what he was saying. No I grant you that. Some of those things he was saying were a bit confusing. But Jesus was telling us to ask questions and think for ourselves- even be ourselves. I loved his stories – you know – those ones when he didn’t tell us all the answers to! He just left us hanging on the punch line. He was wanting us to go away and think about what he had just said. Not to just believe with unquestioning acceptance.
You know, I get quite exasperated sometimes with all those people who just accept what is said to them, “because you must to have faith”. They hear things about God and blindly accept without wondering and exploring what God might really be saying and doing. Some really clever people too! It’s like they leave their brains at home when they start speaking about God. I mean lets face it, when you think about the awesome claims that Jesus made about faith, you have to…well think about it don’t you.
You see I wasn’t about to rely blindly on what others were saying about Jesus. Or more importantly even, I just couldn’t believe that after all those awful events that previous week, that faith could be so trivial. My heart wanted to believe of course it did, but my mind would not allow it. and from what I remembered about what Jesus had said and did, faith was no trivial for him either. The God that Jesus showed to me demanded that I use my heart and my mind, the way Jesus had taught us. Jesus had taught us about a God who was concerned about my heart and my feelings, but also about my mind and my real experience too. So there I was. I wasn’t about to believe just because others said so. Or because it simply felt good and I wanted to believe it. That was too easy and faith is not that easy. And asking to see his hands and touch his wounds? That wasn’t about wanting proof, or signs or miracles. It wasn’t about seeing to believe. It was about seeing and believing.
When eventually it happened. When Jesus was there in front of me. Sharing his own peace with us, well… I knew about his wounds sure. He invited me to prove it to myself, by touching those wounds. I think he knew I wouldn’t touch him. He knew that the moment I attempted to touch his hands or his side for proof, he would just disappear, because it would no longer be an act of faith. All I could do at the moment was recognise Jesus as the Lord we had known on earth, and then recognise the very God in whom I could have faith. I actually said it didn’t I. “My Lord and my God”.
So I just want to put the record straight. You see I am a lot like you really. I wasn’t there at the beginning when Jesus first appeared after the crucifixion. And I couldn’t have faith from signs and miracles or see them as proof. That wouldn’t be any faith at all.
But I did want my faith to be real. That is not going to make me frightened to face to the world. Is not going to rely signs and miracles. The kind of faith stands up to questions and challenges and deepens when I ask the questions and make the challenges.
So when you think about me again. When you snigger and say “poor o’ doubting Thomas”. You think about yourself. And ask your questions and face your doubts. You see I’ve put the record straight now. See how your faith can deepen just like mine!