Who Touched My Clothes?

AutzenA few weeks ago, our family attended our first Oregon game together at Autzen Stadium. It was a lot of fun and incredibly loud, but there was one thing that had a big impact on the game and the experience: the crowd. We learned quickly that although the stadium was built to seat over 50,000 people, it’s difficult to get around when a lot of those people are trying to leave at the same time. It’s even more difficult to try to keep a family of four together during that mass exodus.

In Mark 5, we encounter Jesus in the middle of a crowd on his way to help the dying daughter of Jairus. One woman within that crowd is sick and just wants to make physical contact with the edge of His clothes. She is so convinced of His power that she believes she can be healed through that contact. When she touches the edge of his cloak Jesus asked, “Who touched my clothes?” When I hear the question, I imagine myself back in the concourse of the stadium trying to follow the flow of the crowd toward the exit. What if I had stopped and said, “Who touched my clothes?” What kind of responses would I get? I would expect sarcasm or laughter or something like the response given by the disciples. So why did He ask the question?

Jesus did not let the important teaching moments pass by unnoticed. Whether it’s a question with an obvious answer or drawing in the sand, Jesus has a way of making people pause and listen. He could have healed the woman without a word, or He could have ignored her and hurried on to his life saving task with the daughter of Jairus. He had just driven a demon out and was on his way to heal a sick girl. Clearly it was a very busy day, yet he stopped and shared this moment with the woman and the entire crowd. She had amazing faith. He had compassion, both on the woman through healing and on the crowd through sharing an unforgettable moment with them. And amazingly it all happens along the way between the two miracles that seem like the point of the story.

Planting the Seed

SeedIn Mark 4 we are introduced to a teaching technique that Jesus will use frequently throughout the gospels: parables. Since childhood, I’ve heard parables defined as “an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.” For thousands of years people have told stories to illustrate points that might otherwise be too complex for most to understand. Jesus uses this same tool, and his illustrations often involve agriculture.

Clearly, the church here in Eugene knows a thing or two about gardening. Each week when we come to the building, someone shows up with bags full of the extras from their garden. We’ve only been here for a month and have already been offered squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, plums, berries and a whole lot more. Personally, I don’t know much about gardening and agriculture. What little I do know, I have learned from my wife’s family who have a farm in Nebraska.

From them I’ve learned that farming can be hard work. It involves long days. It necessitates intentional planning. It demands adaptation of techniques. Some things about it have been the same for centuries, and other things change over time. I saw a video recently of a combine from the early 1900’s being pulled by a team of mules. My brother-in-law, Steve, doesn’t use one of those. He uses a combine that requires a ladder on the side to climb into, has a GPS built in and enough horsepower to thrill any muscle car enthusiast. But his goal is still the same as it was for the farmers driving those mules. His goal is a good crop.

The crop is always uncertain. Some years it’s amazing; some years it’s sparse. Some years it’s the best looking crop ever, and it’s taken out by a hail storm the evening before harvest is planned. There are some variables of the crop that are under the planter’s control, but there are many that are not. And Jesus tells us in Mark 4, that spreading the gospel works the same way. Our job is to plant. Not everyone will respond in the same way, but our job is to plant. Not everyone will grow at the same rate, but our job is to plant. And as with farming, it might require hard work, long days, intentional planning and using the new technology available to us today. How are you planting the seed this week?

What Are You Looking For?

Seeking Salvation Website SidebarAs Jesus enters the synagogue in Mark 3, we learn that some “were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus.” This is one of the many times that I appreciate the patience of Jesus. Patience is one fruit of the Spirit that I consider to be a work in progress in my life. Jesus exemplifies it daily in the gospels. He walks into a situation where people are watching His every move waiting for the first misstep. Still he continues to teach the lesson he wants them to learn through his actions. It’s a little more difficult for us to do things without be changed by being under the microscope.

One of my favorite teachers in high school was Alvin Simmons. He was in his 70’s and not much more than five feet tall. He was a World War II veteran and taught Chemistry and Physics for decades after returning home from the Pacific. As we sat at our lab tables working through problems, he would pace around the room. Occasionally, he would look over one of the student’s shoulders and start to laugh. Then he would say something like, “That’s a good answer, but I hope no one agrees with you.” It was either unnerving or hilarious, depending on whose shoulder he was looking over. The thing that made it O.K. was that we knew he wanted us to do well. We knew he wanted us to learn to think. He was looking for us to succeed.

What are we looking for this week? Are we assuming the best about each other or looking through the lens of cynicism? Are we looking for opportunities to glorify God? Are we looking for situations to show His love to those around us?

Take Your Mat and Walk

Christ Healing the ParalyticIn Mark 2 we learn that Jesus has become well known. The crowds are great. There is a paralytic seeking healing, and his friends are determined enough to lower him through the roof of the house where Jesus is. Jesus takes note of their faith, tells the man his sins are forgiven then heals him. There are several things we can learn from this story, but I would like you to think about two things specifically.

First, isn’t it a wonderful thing to have good friends? So many people would have seen the crowd surrounding the house where Jesus was and said it just would not be possible to reach Him. These friends were not content with that option. They wanted to get their friend to Jesus no matter what length (or height) they had to go to. I hope that we all have friends like that and even more that we can all BE friends like that.

Second, even though we tend to focus on our physical needs and wants, Jesus has a way of refocusing us on our spiritual needs. I doubt the man was thinking much about his sins as he was being carried to the roof and lowered down. He wanted to walk. Jesus knew he had a greater need and gave him so much more. That same Jesus understands what we really need too. He knows we have a hard time seeing past medical, financial or relationship issues to spiritual ones, and he wants us to bring them all to him.

On the surface this story is about healing, but it also has a lot to do with relationships. It is about this man’s relationship with his friends and about his relationship with God. Let’s strive this week to make our relationships better.


Preparing the Way

For those who may be visiting this site for the first time, the Eugene Church is in the midst of a Bible reading program. Each week, members are encouraged to get together with someone and read a chapter. We have just finished the gospel of John and John’s letters and have begun reading the gospel of Mark. This week in Mark 1, we learn about someone who came up briefly in the sermon last Sunday morning, John the Baptist. According to Mark, John the Baptist’s role was to “prepare the way”.

ID-10039220It’s not a very glamorous job preparing the way. John made it even less so by his choice of wardrobe and diet. Even today we find people in our culture whose job is to prepare the way. We don’t often give them much thought. On our trip across Oregon, we were stopped by a highway worker rotating a sign that either told us to slow down or stop completely. Construction caused a one lane road ahead, and he was there to warn us. This weekend, college football begins. If you’re a football fan, you will watch 5 huge, slow athletes whose names most people will not remember prepare the way for a smaller, faster athlete whose name people will not forget.

There are countless examples of those who have taken on the task of preparing the way for someone who would overshadow them as a result. John the Baptist welcomes the task. He understands his role and describes Jesus as one that “the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.” I pray that each of us can be willing to point others toward Jesus with that same spirit and dedication. Let’s take every opportunity to lift up Jesus to those we encounter this week.