So there’s the old joke:
Q. Why doesn’t a fire chief look out the window in the morning?
A. Because then he wouldn’t have anything to do in the afternoon.
Usually that’s pretty funny, except that you guys have been running like crazy over the last 18 months or so. It’s been a busy time in the fire and emergency medical service in Bordentown, and you all deserve a huge thank you, so I hope that this service, this time here at Christ Church, shows a little bit of the appreciation we have for you all.
We heard about some rather appreciative people today in the Gospel lesson from St. Mark. By the time we catch up with Jesus in this story, He has spent a couple of years traveling around Israel teaching and performing miracles, and He has made quite a name for Himself. Some people had gone as far as to attach significance to Jesus, to call Him things like Lord or Master or even Messiah, Christ, Savior even. Jesus had become, essentially, upwardly mobile, a rising star.
Jesus’ reputation proceeded Him as He made His way through the Decapolis, a cluster of ten cities in the eastern section of Roman Palestine, and a group of people brought to Jesus a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, problems which, in those days (and really up until not so long ago), rendered this poor man useless. Most guys in that situation would have ended up begging at the city gates, but this man had some family and friends who looked after Him. Jesus, in a strangely intimate and somewhat gross display of sticking His fingers in the man’s ears and rubbing His own spit on the man’s tongue, heals the man, he can now hear and speak without issue. The rising star did it again! “He has done all things well,” the man’s friends say of Jesus, “he even makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.”
What I find interesting here is what we don’t find, that is, the victory lap. Jesus didn’t send out His P.R. guy to capture the news cycle, He didn’t stop to sign autographs, He didn’t watch the replay of the healing on the Jumbotron. Instead, St. Mark tells us, Jesus “charged them to tell no one; but the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.” The more Jesus told them to keep the wonders to themselves, all the more they sang it out from the rooftops. And so Jesus did begin to take a victory lap of sorts.
But this was the least likely victory lap in history. The upwardly mobile, rising star Jesus quite literally began to take a lap, walking a lap out of the Decapolis and back toward Jerusalem, that is, toward the Cross. Jesus’ response to the world, to both need and praise, was to quite literally walk toward more humility, more sacrifice, more love.
Today’s Gospel lesson puts the spotlight on how it is that we respond to the world. You can tell a lot about how a person or a group responds to the world by looking at what they spend their time doing. I’ve had a pager for a few months now, and so I know how you guys, our firefighters and EMTs, I know how you guys respond to the world, and that would be constantly. For problems big and small, for structure fires and alarm activations, for pediatric seizures and, let’s face it, taxi service to the hospital, you guys respond. Here at the church we do a lot of responding as well, we respond to the love that God has shown us by taking every opportunity we can to show that same love to each other, to Bordentown, and beyond.
Some may call what we all do an ethic of service, and they would be right. I would also call it striving to be like Jesus, striving to be Christ-like. To be Christ-like in all that we do, in who we are, is the practice of Christianity; it’s taking the love and strength that God gives to us at the altar and then walking toward the Cross of Christ, responding to the world with more humility, more sacrifice, more love. May the love, hope, strength and protection found in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all as we respond to the needs of the world.