Is 40:21-31, 1 Cor 9:16-23, Mark 1:29-39 (Proper 1, year B)
Some questions for discussion (or to provoke thought)
1 It seems that in Isaiah (v27) people are either saying that God doesn’t see what is happening, or doesn’t care. How does Isaiah answer this? Is the same attitude around today? – and would the same answer be helpful?
2 Paul has been set free by the gospel, yet feels under obligation to make it known and spread it. Are there still questions about what “Christian freedom” involves? (What are we free to do? What can we not do without losing our freedom – and what does that mean for the freedom?)
3 Mark tells us how Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law, effectively – for she was able to get up and serve (or is that a theological comment, about proper use of energy?). Then, as the Sabbath ends at sunset, a lot more healing and exorcism. Do we still value these activities? How?
4 Jesus’ early morning prayer is disturbed by the disciples. What is their plan for him? Jesus insists on moving on, to preach around Galilee – though he continues to heal and exorcise. What is the most important of these activities? How does he balance them?
A sample Dialogue Sketch, for 3 voices:
A takes the part of a parent
B her/his child – perhaps a teenager
C might be a grandparent, or a friend of that generation.
It doesn’t matter if the people taking these parts are actually related (though it could be an advantage) as long as the age differences look right. (Simple “props”, like a middle aged hat and a teenage hairstyle, could help create the effect)
A Come on, we’ve got to get home. You’ve homework to do, and there’s your room to tidy and clean.
B What! That’s not fair, all my friends are going to watch this new programme on television and then . .
A Maybe they are, but you are going to do your homework first.
B (grumbles) It’s like being a slave! – no time to do the things you want, always work, and usually the things you hate most. (sees C walking up to them) Don’t you think we should be free, Gran (or uses her name) – not tied down to homework and chores and things like that?
C That’s an interesting question (B’s name). Yes, I do think we should be free, and I’ve just been listening to what Paul said about his freedom. But I’m not sure that it would work out quite the way you hope.
B What do you mean?
C Well, were you thinking that if you were free, you could sit on the beach all day, or laze in front of the telly eating ice-cream?
B something like that, yes.
C and what would happen then?
A you’d get fat, selfish and lazy, fail your exams, and be miserable!
B not straight away! but, I suppose if I went on like that . . yes.
A I suppose I’d like to wake up in the morning without a list of things to remember and do. The freedom to wander, like when we’re on holiday.
C Holidays are good. But would you want to wake up all on your own, with nothing to do, nobody to care for?
A Oh no! That would be aweful! But is freedom all about choosing what to do? You said something about Paul, and I don’t think I understand.
C We’re free in this way: We don’t have some violent thug chasing us to recover some enormous debt; we are not so addicted to a drug that the only thing we can think about is the next fix – and we’re ready to steal, lie, murder to get it?
B oh no, that would be hell; we’re free in that way!
A and I suppose we can thank God for that!
C Yes. We read about Jesus setting free some people who were ill, and others who were tied down by evil. He changed their lives for the better.
A So he gave them back a free choice about what to do, but he didn’t force them to make one decision or another. For many of the people he healed, we don’t know whether they used the chance well, or not.
B but didn’t Simon’s mother-in-law get up and serve Jesus when she was healed?
C good point! Given her freedom, she used it positively. Freedom doesn’t mean you can always do just what you like, it means that you can choose. You then have to take responsibility for what you choose and its consequences.
A a good choice has the sort of results you want, and opens up more choices.
B and a bad choice gets you into trouble, and you have to work hard to get back to the same freedom again. I suppose I’ll have to do that homework. But why wasn’t it like that for Jesus?
C Perhaps it was. When he started healing people he was popular, but did you notice what he did next?
A You mean, when the disciples came and found him praying, and told him about all the people looking for him?
C Yes, he could have set up as a healer and wonder worker – made a nice little business and comfortable life for himself and the disciples. But he wouldn’t do it. He moved on that day, leaving lots of people behind, to go and preach in the other villages.
B Why did he do that?
C I think he wanted to give people more than a temporary healing and a quick thrill. To be free they needed to be close to God, and free of guilt, hatred and other things.
B Is that why he kept moving on and preaching, instead of settling in one place?
C I think so. And because he did that, he still has an effect on us, two thousand years later.
A So are we saying that Jesus still sets people free?
C Yes, but you have to explain what “freedom” means
B It’s a freedom we have to use carefully if we are going to keep it.
A But it’s a freedom from guilt, hatred, and from evil. I don’t think I’ve thought about that much. Perhaps we need to talk more about how it works – how we get it, keep it, and share it.
C That could be really helpful! It’s not all telly and ice-cream! Paul used his freedom to tell people about Jesus. It was often difficult, but he found it worthwhile. And the people he went to worked hard at their faith – but enjoyed it, and understood a new freedom they had never known before.
(846 words about 9 minutes) (Click here to return to the Index of Sketches)