“When is ‘The Right Time’?”
Mark 2: 23-3:6, June 7th, 2020
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
“Hear now these words from the gospel according to Mark, chapter twenty-three thru chapter three, verse six.”
Mark 2:23 – 3:6
23 One sabbath he was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” 25 And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? 26 He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.” 27 Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; 28 so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”
3:1 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. 2 They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3 And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.” 4 Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5 He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6 The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.
“Let us now take time to reflect on the meaning of what we have read as it reflects on our time in history.”
“When is ‘The Right Time’?”
Our scripture lesson, this morning, challenges us to consider many things. In the center of our discussion is Jesus. We find him first in a field of grain with his disciples. Seems they were hungry and began picking grains of wheat. The pious Pharisees, the authority figures of that time and culture, they grumbled quoting the technicalities of their religious laws. Jesus points out the hypocrisy of their statements, as even the hungry need to eat on the Sabbath! The response from these men is to begin plotting how to get rid of Jesus. Despite this Jesus continues this historic day of teaching by displaying yet another example of his compassion and sovereignty with his disciples, this time with a miracle. Jesus, having entered the Synagogue finds a man with a withered hand, and in front of them all… he heals the man, restoring his hand to full use! Then Pharisees begin plotting to be rid of Jesus in earnest!
There is a couple of rhetorical questions our scripture seems to beg us to discuss: “When is the right time to feed the hungry?” And another: “When is the right time to heal the sick?” We can easily ask several other questions surrounding more current issues that need our attention. I am confident that we all know the questions. Perhaps, my confidence is premature. The problem being… who is willing to be a part of the answers, the solution to which the question begs us to be! Before we get into the heart of this discussion, let us look at these rhetorical questions for a moment. The essence of both point to this idea that there is a right time for things to get done. They also suggest that we get to pick the time and perhaps even the place in which the solution to our question(s) shall get answered. Shall we feed the hungry when it is convenient or when needed? Shall we work to heal the brokenness all around us, when its convenient for us, or when we are forced by circumstance to respond to this question!?
As we let this simmer for a moment in our hearts, let me tell you about this week which began with my plans; plans which suited my needs, my responsibilities and my order and priority of things! This past Sunday, the first day of my week, went well… all morning even. In the afternoon, my plans changed based on the needs of another, so I cleaned and rearranged my garage. Was not my plan but it was productive. Monday morning, however, seems a blur at this juncture, I got a couple things done as I had planned but that is all. I took my dear wife to the Wabasso beach to enjoy the children; our daughter, grandson and granddaughter and her husband and the center of attention that day – our almost two-year-old great granddaughter! As life would have it, I had plans to meet up with a few friends in Barefoot Bay. The plan was I would be back by three to pick Lois up. It was a nice plan, I thought.
On the way back across the bridge, onto the Wabasso causeway, life had its own reality. I was heading west as I drove over the waterway when my day took a sharp turn away from my plans. A large SUV (traveling east) was hit on its passenger-side back bumper, by a reckless driver in a truck. The SUV was propelled by the impact to smash into the car I was driving, my wife’s white Hyundai Sonata. The impact tore up the driver’s side of the car, and the SUV’s front end on its driver’s side – was literally ripped apart. That car was clearly totaled. When my car came to a halt it was up against the cement side of the bridge, over the waterway. As I tried to get out, I quickly realized I could not open any doors. Thankfully, I was not injured, nor was anyone else, just some sore muscles and such. As I banged on the back window a man came and after considerable effort was able to open the back door. The four vehicles involved closed the causeway for an hour and a half. Three cars were taken away in flat bed tow trucks. The fate of Lois’s car is unclear as I write this down.
No, it was not convenient the way the reality of my Monday unfolded. I finally got a ride from a friend and got home. No, the police do not give you a ride home. Perhaps, I ought to have allowed the EMT’s to take me to the hospital. Eventually, Lois got me to Urgent Care, were they examined me and declared that I had survived. The next day was all about going to the tow yard, signing a release allowing the vehicle to be towed to a repair shop. Renting a car etc. and working with my insurance company. It is now Friday morning and I am just writing this message. As I reflect, back at the week, I realize how extremely fortunate I am. I had a car to drive. I have insurance to deal with the situation. My wife and friends have been there for me. My church has been tolerant of my needs. I am truly grateful for all of this. And my adventure has given me a vehicle to discuss the depth of the message in our scripture today.
Life, on life’s terms, is frequently inconvenient and sometimes downright hard! I like to write my sermons on Tuesday. Today is Friday and here I am working on this message. When is the right time to get a sermon written? Before our Sunday morning service, for sure! Planning to do it sooner is a nice plan, yet the necessity is often not the same as a plan. I planned to visit with friends on Monday afternoon; instead, I got to meet members of the fire department, three Emergence medical technicians, talked with two offices of the Indian River Sheriff’s office, and watched several others manage an accident scene. Also got to talk with the couple who waited with me as our cars were towed away. And I had time to pray and wonder who the good Semaritan was that was able to pry open the back door of my car – so I could get out of the car!
Back in the time of Jesus, the social order of things was very difficult for the Hebrew nation, the Israelites, they had been under the oppression of the Roman Empire for some time. The religious order, the High Priests, the Sadducees, and Pharisees, they were coping with the new order of things, yet had become distant from the spirit of the teachings of Moses and the leadership of the great prophets, such as Alijah. They became jaded, weary, and tired, and they began to take the easier routes when dealing with their Roman conquerors. The Romans offered them favors and good treatment if they would keep their people in line and passive. It was a difficult time. The coming of Jesus was ‘seen as’ a disruption to the order of things, in the eyes of these leaders, who had lost their focus as religious leaders of and for their people. Ultimately, it had become inconvenient, and troublesome to do the next right thing.
We currently are living in a very difficult, upsetting, and trying time. Due to our social structure, some are having a more demanding and grimmer time of it than others. We have the divide between the rich and the poor, leaving some facing the immediate crises, the predicament of their inability to pay the rent or their mortgage. Others are without funds to buy the food and necessities of life. Over one hundred thousand in these United States have died of the COVID-19 virus. They have paid the full price! First responders are exhausted, and many have laid down their very lives for the sake of others. We as a people have been socially distancing for going on three months and over forty million have lost their jobs. As the restrictions have begun to ease, it is still very inconvenient to take on yet another systemic crisis! Yet, it is upon us!
Last week we spoke of the disease within our society. We opened-up the conversation about racism, discrimination, and prejudice, bigotry, bias, and intolerance are also in this list of words that help us hear what the issues are. But, just like getting in a car accident, some things cannot wait until it fits in yours and my plans or schedule to deal with. People have died. A man has been killed in the process of being arrested, over a complaint about a twenty-dollar bill! Protestors across the country have taken to the streets to raise up a voice asking for justice and change, real change in how things currently are. Change that will stop what is obviously an imbalance in the belief that we are all equal in the eyes of God. Therefore, we all need to be treated equally by our government, our institutions, at every level of society. In the midst of all this, we clearly are seeing opportunists, those that rally against institutional structure creating violence, widespread looting and people are getting killed in the process. As in all violence it is the innocent who are being hurt the most!
Today, is the first Sunday, in three months, in which we have had a live worship service; it is not convenient to take on a new cause. Likewise, it was not the right time to feed the hungry, or to heal a man, according to the leadership back in the time of Jesus. Why, because it would be disruptive and the inequality of some would become the burden of all! It was not expedient to be involved in a car accident this past Monday. This current crisis which in its end needs to cause us to find the answer to – long standing injustice and inequality – needs our attention and focus. Inevitably, making changes in our society will not be easy or done overnight! But, you and me, we cannot turn a blind eye on this issue! The least we can do, on this day, is lift-up all our brothers and sisters who are marginalized and profiled for the color of their skin, in prayer.