Monday, March 5, 2012

A Flotilla of Love

Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great crowd followed, from Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from around Tyre and Sidon. When the great crowd heard all that he was doing, they came to him. And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him, for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him. And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” And he strictly ordered them not to make him known.
And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons. He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. Mark 3:7-19

One of my favorite movies of all times - The Russians are Coming! - tells the story of a Russian ship run a ground off a small New England sea village loaded with local characters. The cast includes comedic greats like Alan Arkin, Carl Reiner, and Jonathan Winters to name just a few. Made during the cold war era, while I was in junior high, it spoke to me of the ridiculousness of our common fears, the unique personalities that live year round in small ocean villages like this, and the triumph of love and compassion. The villagers form a flotilla hundreds of little rickety boats, surrounding the Russian ship as it makes it's way to safe waters, protecting their new friends from the fire power of the American navy. Somehow God finds ways to give us the strength to protect the truth and give love safe passage.

Jesus is overwhelmed by the response he has gotten as his ministry is taking off. The crowds crushed in upon him, aching to be healing, suffering for years with extraordinary pain, isolation and rejection. Their lives had become their disease and pain, and they pressed in on all sides to be touched and healed by Jesus. The disciples found him safe passage, and a place to rest, so that he might be renewed and find a way forward. It is in this moment that his sets aside his disciples, he forms his team and enables them to be a full part of the ministry, understanding by their demonstration of love and compassion, their willingness to give their all for God and others.

Today, there are no less people who suffer so that they ar3e identified by their disease, people who ache to reclaim their identities, their lives and their usefulness in this world. We all have a choice to shut ourselves off, our to form a flotilla of love and compassion, a moving group who serve God wherever the spirit may lead us. There is no shortage of need, simply a shortage of compassion and many are held back by fear and inadequacy. We can all feel like rickety boats, at times. But it is exactly these that God needs, exactly that motley crew of disciples he called then, and the motley crew of all of us he calls now. Let us have the courage to jump in the boat, casting off, and with lots of prayer, follow where the master leads.

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