A Reflection on Sunday – Mark 4:26-34

This last Sunday, after a four week interlude to focus on our vision as a church, we returned to our series in the gospel of Mark. Our discussion this week was on Jesus’ invitation toward experiencing a “New-Normal” in his Kingdom. Here’s a couple thoughts for us to ponder this week…

What is Normal?

Sunday we talked about the Kingdom of God and its’ effect on our lives. A Kingdom is “the realm over which a sovereign has authority”. Don’t think countries and castes. Rather, think ANY sphere of life over which there is a figure with authority. Our work, our relationships, etc. These are all sorts of “kingdoms”. The sense of “normal” you grew accustomed to in your family of origin when growing up was dictated by the “rulers” of that “Kingdom” (your parent/s). We become so used to these authority structures and “Kingdom” interactions in our lives that we easily adopt an attitude of complacency toward them. Again, we settle into, “that’s just the way that area of life goes”. Jesus caused a real stir by arriving on the scene and both claiming and demonstrating that his Kingdom had the power to confront and transform ANY other kingdom in our lives. Another way to understand this is that Jesus offers to come and exchange our version of “normal”, in any area, for his. What we call a “miracle” is simply God bringing his version of normal into ours. Can you think of any areas that stand out in your life as simply “just the way it goes”? Jesus would challenge that and offer to bring his Kingdom leadership into that area and transform your idea of normal. How does he do this?

Being Led

It’s clear in the gospels that Jesus offered a very clear understanding of just how we were to move from our version of normal to his. We do this by following. The word that we translate “follow” in the gospels means in its’ original language “to stand behind, to watch and to respond”. The repeated invitation of Jesus is that the way we move from normal life as we know it into his version of normal is by “following”. Jesus modeled this by saying in John 5, “the son can do nothing by himself, but does only what he sees his Father doing”. Jesus wasn’t hopeless about life nor did he have his own plan on how to change things. Rather, he modeled for us a posture of asking his Father what he wanted him to do. He was able to powerfully effect people’s experience of “normal” because he was watching for what God was doing rather than driving his own agenda. His life was led, instructed, sovereignly interacted with. He wasn’t going it alone or subject to the authority of the other kingdoms around him. He stepped confidently into each area with a firm sense of what the Father was specifically instructing him to do. He was never guessing, never making it up as he went, never assuming “well, this is just how this area normally goes”. He was being led, and as he stepped into that leading he modeled just how powerful the Kingdom of God was compared to every other kingdom it encountered. In any area of life that feels stuck, or any arena of normal that seems discouraging or less than it should be, what might happen if you moved from praying “God, fix this!” or “God, bless what I’m trying in this area”, to “God, what would you specifically have me do in this area in which I want to see change?” This is taking the posture of “Follower”. God can freely and powerfully lead us when we heed his call to follow.

A New Sense of Possible

Again, what we call a “miracle” is simply God’s “normal” breaking into our own. One of the realities about God that we must acknowledge is that he will never force anything upon us. He deeply desires to come in and effect our reality in transformative ways, but we hold him at arms-length if we assign him a role in our plans, rather than seeking out his. As we are willing to take steps of real risk, into areas that have “just been that way for years”, we enter a new arena of “possible”. We begin exchanging our understanding of “possible” for his. Time and again in the gospels Jesus modeled that his idea of “possible” was radically different than ours. From raising the dead, to healing the sick, to treating the condemned with compassion and gentleness, Jesus showed us that his Kingdom simply operates according to a different economy. It has a different idea of normal or possible. Are you stuck in areas of life that feel hopeless? Are you mired in routines that feel like they just are what they are no matter what you try? What would happen if you began asking God specifically for his insight in those areas? What if you were willing to risk by trying whatever he suggests to you? What if you were willing to dare to believe that your “normal” could look different than it does? He claims it’s possible. Are you willing to try him out on that?

Have a great week friends!
Mike Safford