Lingering in Capernaum

In Mark chapter 1, as Jesus begins his ministry at his first stop in the town of Capernaum, Jesus concludes his visit by saying to his disciples, “Let us go on to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.”

Jesus doesn’t stay a Capernaum. Jesus doesn’t stay at Simon’s house. Jesus could have stayed. The disciples were ready to stay. There were more sick people to be healed, more demons to cast out, and more folks were lined up to see him and to listen to him teach. All of these things that Jesus could have stayed to do are the things that Jesus was doing and things that he would continue to do in his ministry, the things he would send his disciples out to do, but in this passage Jesus reveals to us and his disciples that these things were not his only top priority. Another of Jesus’ top priorities was to proclaim the message of God.

Jesus must have felt the heavy weight of his decision. He was clearly considering staying. His disciples, whom Jesus had just called to him, must have assumed they would be staying. We are told that he needed to go off and pray to work it out with God. And his answer to his searching disciples highlights the equally important place that God has for spreading the message. He says to his disciples, “Let us go on to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.”

A top priority of the church is and has always been the same as Jesus’, to proclaim the message of God. Proclaiming the message is outward and active. Proclaiming the message is about reaching out to those who haven’t heard and have yet to receive the message. It was the disciples and the people of the early church who did just that and who, even in the face of persecution, proclaimed the message so that in less than 300 years the Christians became the majority in their culture.

A couple of weeks ago, I spoke to you about some of my concerns for the Anglican Church in Georgetown. I presented you with some of the “head stuff”, facts, figures, and photographs that I hoped would paint a rough picture of how we Anglican’s have struggled to proclaim the message in the Georgetown area. We Anglicans have survived, but we have not found our way to thrive and grow as other Christian denominations so clearly have.

Today, as we reflect on this story from scripture, St. George’s, and the state of the Anglican Church in Georgetown, would it be so hard to imagine a similar outcome to the situation we find ourselves in to what might have happened if Jesus and the disciples had decided to stay at Simon’s house looking after the people of Capernaum? If they had stayed, Jesus and the disciples would have continued their work healing and teaching, but I wonder if Christianity would have ever spread across the world, if Jesus had not journeyed on and reached Jerusalem.

For a time, I believe that we Anglican’s have lingered in Capernaum. We have continued to teach and heal, and show compassion for one another, but I am concerned that we are in danger of losing the balance between acting out the message and proclaiming the message to those outside our doors. When we read through our annual reports and when we reflect on all that we have accomplished in the last year, we should be proud of what we have done in Jesus’ name. 2008 has seen us take some important steps toward strengthening our proclamation. For example, the transformation happening at the 11:15 service, we believe makes it more appealing to the younger families and those looking for worship with a less formal tone. Also important in 2008 was the impact of the leadership of The Rev’d Nancy Rowe in our parish, and in particular, in her efforts to help us stay connected to our baptismal families through the “First Steps” program. These new steps show our intention to reach out with the gospel message and make it known. In 2009, St. George’s must continue to work to restore the balance what we do for ourselves to grow in our faith and what we do to proclaim Christ’s message to our growing community.

With God’s help, we will renew our proclamation of the message of Jesus Christ, and we will open up to the people of our community an Anglican way of living in Christ’s Truth. I know that the way will not be easy and some of us will find it hard to change from what we have become used to here, living in Simon’s house. It is time to leave our comfortable way of doing things here at St. George’s. Will you come with me? Can we dare take this journey together?

Let us go on to the neighbouring community, so that we may proclaim the message there also; for that is what we came out to do.