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Related Bible reading(s): Mark 1.29-39

The week in focus

Connecting to the world right now

Three resources, published each Thursday - helping you connect the Bible passages with what's happening in the world right now.

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In touch: The first 100 days

Up-to-the-minute jumping-off points for sermons, linking the reading to the latest news and global issues

‘We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them, too.’ (Mark 1.38)

Context

  • It has become commonplace for politicians to set goals for their first 100 days in office. They will be measured against their manifesto promises by the press and public, so they need to avoid over-promising. President Biden made his 100 day commitments before his inauguration last month.
  • Who gets immunised first? The Joint Commission on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) decided an order of priority for receiving the vaccine.
  • The rolling out of vaccine programmes has come at an interesting time across the world. As well as being at the start of Joe Biden’s presidential term, it comes at the end of the transition period now that the UK has fully left the EU. Liz Truss, the UK Trade Secretary, has said that the UK could share its supplies of vaccine with the EU having previously suggested that may not happen.
  • Aung San Suu Kyi was deposed as leading political leader in Myanmar last weekend when the military seized power in a coup. Ms Suu Kyi has been detained, an experience familiar to her having been under house arrest for 15 years in the past. Her reputation had been sullied by her having defended the military’s treatment of the Rohingya people in Myanmar.
  • Christian slogans were displayed by some of those who stormed the Capitol building on 6th January. Christianity and politics have a relationship in America in a way that is not the case on this side of the Atlantic.

 

Ideas for sermons or interactive talks

Political leaders and their parties make promises in their manifestos in order to garner votes. Voters and politicians make trade-offs. Voters might hold their noses and vote for a person they may not like, but who will do what they want. Politicians may make deals to stay in power in order to fulfil some of their agenda.

Jesus set out his manifesto when he spoke after having read from the Isaiah scroll in the synagogue in Nazareth. Nazareth was a town of no significance, but it was here, Luke tells us, that Jesus ‘launched’ his ministry. Jesus quoted Isaiah and then told the synagogue gathering that what they had heard was fulfilled in him. Jesus certainly did what he said he would do – heal the sick, raise the dead and cast out demons – but did he do as much of it as we might have expected or wanted?

Let’s makes some guestimates. We know that crowds followed Jesus, but probably for only three years. If we say that on average, Jesus met 1,000 people every week, that works out at round about 150,000 over the course of his preaching and healing ministry. It is estimated that 1 million people lived in first century Palestine. That means that Jesus met 15% of the local population, and let’s assume that he healed every one of those. This means that if he was healing from, say, 9am to 5pm seven days a week – he didn’t stop for the Sabbath, let’s not forget – he would have needed to heal 50 people every hour, which makes NHS targets for GP consultation seem very generous.

If Jesus did heal all those people, perhaps he healed them more than one at a time, but you can see this would definitely have been a lot of people to heal – and that’s just 15% of all the people in Palestine. It is estimated that in the first century there were 50 million people living under the rule of the Roman Empire. But let’s not forget that Rome didn’t rule all the world. There were around 200 million people living at that time. Even healing at the rate of 50 people an hour, 8 hours a day, 365 days a year, for 3 years, Jesus didn’t heal 99.9% of the people living in the world at that time. It sounds as though there was another priority in Jesus’ coming other than universal healing of bodies and minds. God’s purpose is healing, but it is healing in a wider context. In Christ, God reconciled the world to himself – that is, God has healed creation.

 

Questions for discussion

  • What physical things are most important to you? What would you save from a burning house?
  • The Liberal Democrat Party lost all bar 8 of its 57 seats in the Parliamentary election in 2015. This may have been a reaction to the Lib Dems joining in collation with the Conservative Party and setting aside some of its core policies. Do you have any sympathy with politicians who break promises? Do you agree with Otto Von Bismarck, ‘Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable — the art of the next best thing’?
  • ‘After all this is over’, many churches will feel that they will need to relaunch. What parts of church will you decide are most important to keep and what would you let go?

Simon Carver is a Baptist Minister in St Albans and takes a particular interest in film, sport and US politics – his podcasts are available to watch/download.

 

Check-in

Connecting faith with everyday, real-life issues for young people

This week we received sad news that Captain Sir Tom Moore died in hospital, surrounded by his family. In preparation for his 100th Birthday last April, Captain Tom walked 100 laps of his garden with his walking frame, aiming to raise money for NHS charities. He had received marvellous care by the NHS for a broken hip and skin cancer. Tom was also deeply inspired by the selfless service of the NHS workers in the pandemic. His gentle humility and good cheer, combined with great resilience to complete his charity mission, inspired people all over the world. Tom raised a staggering £33 million! What is it about Captain Tom that you find inspiring?

In Mark 1.29-39 we see Jesus living by clear priorities. He knows what he must do – telling people about God and forgiveness, healing and praying. Jesus’ actions and words continue to impact millions across the world across all generations.

Captain Tom knew what he wanted to do for others and became a people’s hero bringing hope and courage – he made a difference. He knew his priorities and moved from a good intention to completing his feat on tired feet every day! To encourage others to battle loneliness, he reminded us to walk and talk more. What actions can you take in these coming weeks, which can safely bring hope to someone feeling lonely? In this last year, have you developed any new priorities? The focus this week is demonstrating priorities through action. Perhaps Jesus wants you to live out a priority with more impact – how can you do that?

By Dr. Angela Mak, a Licensed Lay Minister in the Ecumenical Partnership of West Swindon and Lydiard Tregoze. She is also an enthusiastic youth worker, and retired biology teacher at Holy Trinity Shaw.

 

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