Mark 1:29-39 (click for full reading)
“In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.”
(click on the title above to listen to the sermon)
What if every time you went to church you had to carefully hide the fact that you were going to worship? What if we had to use secret codes and messages to communicate when our worship service would take place and enter only through side doors. What if we couldn’t all show up at 9am or 10:30am, but had to scatter our arrival over many hours?
Being identified as a follower of Jesus has been a dangerous thing in some parts of the world. This is still true today. So here’s the question for us, what can we do to remain faithful followers of Jesus during a place and time when it is perfectly safe to be identified as a Christian?
Even in this first chapter of Mark’s gospel, Jesus provides a pattern that can support Christians living in freedom as well as those suffering persecution for their faith. Using the cross as a metaphor, we can live faithfully in all circumstances.
First, we are encouraged to stay connected to the promises of our gracious God. Using the vertical beam of the cross as a reminder, you recall your baptism when God declared you to be His beloved child. At his own baptism, Jesus heard the voice of God say “you are my beloved son.” God said the same thing to you at your baptism.
The horizontal beam of the cross can remind us of what Jesus does before he even starts preaching, teaching and healing. Jesus reaches out to create community. He begins calling people to be part of his mission in the world. The community of faith in Christ, the church, is central to our lives as Christians.
In the morning, while it was still very dark, Jesus got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” Jesus answered, “Let us go… (Mk 1:35-38a)
Let’s go church, let’s go!
Questions to Ponder/Discuss
1. Many people say they believe in God but they do not need the church to live out their faith. What might you say to such a person?
2. How has the community of the church impacted your own journey as a follower of Jesus?
3. What are some things your church could do to help people understand and appreciate Christian community?
The Lutheran church in Nigeria is the companion synod to our Minneapolis area synod. Our Lutheran brothers and sisters in Nigeria are currently living out their faith in a place where it is dangerous to be identified as Christians.
As you consider the ways you live out your own faith by staying connected to God and community, take time to pray for those doing the same in Nigeria even under the threat of terrorism and persecution.