In a lonely place

Mark 1:35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37 When they found him, they said to him, "Everyone is searching for you." 38 He answered, "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." 39 And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

Let's begin by following on from my last comments. Evil is everywhere in Mark. In my lifetime these has been an assault on evil. In many ways it has been successful. These are actually less wars, although we see more reported in the media. But much of the assault on evil has been fanciful. It has been the pretension of a culture still imbued with too much confidence in its own power despite the shattering of confidence which came with the two great Wars. Despite these demonstrations of the power of evil, we seem to have imagined that our greater scientific knowledge, and our material successes economically, have somehow negated evil. Bad things happen, to be sure, but there is a sense in which ultimately we are in control. The depth and power of evil is underestimated, denied, or ignored.

The church has assisted this by remaining resistant to much good modern insight, so that its insights about evil can easily be ignored along with its other superstitions. Indeed, much of the church has been comfortable to discount evil; it is easier to enjoy the fruits of evil that way. And too many who have cried "evil,'' have trivialised evil. What they have called evil has really been threats to their own narrow would view, while evil has gone unrecognised nearby. So it is little wonder Jesus goes around casting out demons. The gospel is a challenge to recognise the evil among us.

But in this urgency, "in the morning he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed." We cannot live the gospel effectively, if we are exhausted. Too busy means too little thinking and reflection. Business and burnout are the enemy of good health The very word busi-ness should warn us of the nature of business. It is always frantic. If business is slow, then business is bad. Working "in business", I constantly struggle not to be over-whelmed, and exhausted, and not to cease thinking. Sitting on the train, writing this little commentary interferes with business! This is good- not that the business thinks so!

Being in a deserted place means the fax, the phone, the mobile, the email and the SMS cannot intrude. We will have time to be, and re-gain perspective on what is really important.

Jesus withdrew immediately after a moment of triumph. At the very time the corporate world, and our own business instincts, would have us build on the momentum we had gained, Jesus withdraws and prays. He reflects and reconsiders. Such "vacillation'' is not good for business. You do have to strike while the iron is hot . Jesus forces me to question just how important the concerns of our busi-nesses are.

Despite his stopping to pray, Mark's gospel is not a slow gospel. It is full of urgency. Jesus is a figure of action. He goes on to villages throughout Galilee. Yet he was, I suspect, not busy.

Direct Biblical quotations in this page are taken from The New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.



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