Epiphany 5B/Candlemas’24
4 February 2024
Mark 1.29-39
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
North Little Rock, Arkansas
The Rev. Carey Stone <+>

“In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed;” In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. –  From Mark 1.35


Folks I have to confess I’ve had an emotionally taxing week that’s been filled with grief, and bad news. I lost one of my best friends from college, Danny, to the menacing, degenerative disease called ALS. Another dear friend and former roommate, Eric, also have ALS and is now confined to a wheelchair and can barely speak – he’s dying.  My brother Scott, who had heart bypass surgery this past fall, and has a liver that’s functioning at about 30%; he’s hoping to be put on a waiting list for a liver transplant.  I’ve had powerful and fresh reminders that not one of us is going to make it out of here alive, life is short, our time on earth is limited.


A former bishop of Arkansas, the Rt. Rev. Larry Maze used to ask, “What is the Good News the Church has to share for all the bad news we are surrounded by?” The Good News is that there is a Savior, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, who has come to heal diseases of the body, mind, and spirit, and to forgive us, restore us, to destroy the power of eternal death, and ultimately redeem us. Another part of this Good News is that we are invited to both experience it ourselves and to share it with those around us, and more Good News – Jesus shows us how! Jesus was only given 33 years to live on earth, with his public ministry lasting a short span of only three years, he didn’t have time to live life by accident, he had to live life on purpose. Jesus shows us how to live life on purpose.


In today’s Gospel reading from Mark, we find the secret of how! It’s right here in front of us – in the span of just under 24 hours.


He begins the day by attending with some of his disciples, a Morning Prayer service at the local synagogue, followed by his accepting an invitation to go to the house of Simon and Andrew. Simon’s mother-in-law needed healing and Jesus heals her. She immediately starts making lunch for them. Through the early afternoon the word was getting out that Jesus was in town and was staying at Simon and Andrew’s house. At sunset, literally the whole town shows up bringing with them all the diseased of body, mind, and spirit. It says that he healed “Many” but not “all.” The folks are dismissed and Jesus and his friends get some much-needed rest. Then the secret of Jesus’ life and ministry is revealed: “In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed;” Jesus get ups up and gets with God before everybody tries to get with him. He wants the first voice he hears to be the whisper of his heavenly Father before all the clamoring voices of his disciples and the needy. Here he would pour out his soul (all of his pain suffering, and to lift his praises to the One who loved him unconditionally, and has a purpose for his life). As followers of Jesus, we are invited to insert our names into this sentence: Here Carey, Julie, Travis, (your name) pours out our souls, all our pain and suffering and to lift our praises to the One who loves us unconditionally, and has a purpose for our life. In the quiet Jesus listened for the still, small Voice and here he could review his day and discover his marching orders. Why was this so important to Jesus? Why is this so important for us?


The answer to that question is found in the next couple of sentences: And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, ‘Everyone is searching for you.’ We see that having this time alone with God won’t just happen all by itself – we have to commit to it by setting aside time and guarding that time because it is our lifeline. Otherwise we will be driven about with spiritual ADD trying to complete everyone elses agendas. Jesus was literally hiding! As the morning gets going the disciples are driven by the urgent demands of townspeople who didn’t get healed the day before. “Where’s Jesus? We need him? We need to be healed he didn’t get to us last night!” “Alright, alright, ok, ok, we don’t know where he went off to, but we’ll find him for you!” They find Jesus and are only too glad to dump all this anxious energy onto him, “Everyone is looking for you!” And then, another secret is revealed, ‘Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.’ 


What?! Wait a minute! Jesus – no!!! There are plenty of people right here that didn’t get healed last night they are back and are waiting for you at Simon’s house. Jesus reveals that he was marching to the beat of a different drummer, his Father, who had a bigger vision and a greater plan and in that deserted place of prayer is where Jesus was given his direction: ‘Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.’ He left unhealed people behind, he disappointed many in that town, including his own disciples because he wouldn’t do what they thought he should do. As with Jesus, so it will be with us, there will always be competing loyalties, external demands and agendas and in order for us to do the will of God we will need to find our own secret place, to commune with our God through the Holy Spirit in order that we accomplish what we have been sent to do, and to be who we were created to be.


Today I would like to close with the final blessing that was given by Fr. Kevin Gore at the funeral of my friend, Danny Kee:


Life is short,
And we do not have much time
to gladden the hearts of those who
make the journey with us.
So… be swift to love,
and make haste to be kind.
And the blessing of God,
who made us,
who loves us,
and who travels with us
be with you now and forever.[1]




The all-important aim of Christian meditation is to allow God’s mysterious and silent presence within us to become more and more not only a reality, but the reality which gives meaning and shape and purpose to everything we are. – John Main, English Benedictine monk


Let your light so shine in front of others, that they may see your good works and glorify our Father in Heaven. Amen.  – from Matthew 5.16


“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson





[1] based on the words of Henri Frederic Amiel (1821-1881).