““Send Lawyers, Guns and Money” – Zevon, Sermon on Mark 1:29-39 for Epiphany 5B, Feb. 5, 2011

“Send Lawyers, Guns and Money” – Zevon

Mark 1:29-39

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As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

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

There was a pop song that I liked, written and sung by Warren Zevon back in 1990, called “Send Lawyers Guns and Money” – its’s a musical joke.  One verse says:

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“I was gambling in Havana

I took a little risk

Send lawyers, guns and money

Dad, get me out of this”

Implicit world-view

Implicit in this song is a world-view; a whole set of beliefs about the world and how it functions.  Gambling in Havana and taking unspecified risks tell us very little, but enough to get a picture of a rather self-indulgent and perhaps un-self-disciplined person.

Something happened and now he is in trouble.  But, he believes, the troubles of the world have solutions.  He asks his father to send him what he believes he needs to solve his particular trouble: “send lawyers, guns and money, Dad, get me out of this.”

The song never tells us how it turned out.  Sometimes lawyers, guns and money can fix things, sometimes not.  A bit further into the song we learn that he is “hiding in Honduras… a desperate man” – so perhaps not.

We all make assessments about what our needs are, and we all have beliefs about how to get our needs met.  We, who gather here in church, are people who have a strong sense that God is real, and we have a need to know him.  How do we know God?

Seeing God in Jesus

We Christians believe that the most reliable guide we have for knowing God, is Jesus.  We believe that what Jesus taught us about God is the truth about God.  In fact we believe that Jesus cares about what God cares about.  Jesus does what he does because that what God does.  Watching Jesus in action, we come to understand God’s nature and his will.

As we look at this text from Mark, we will be watching Jesus and asking: how does this show us God?  This is crucial for us, so let us look at the text.

It’s Still the Sabbath

Last week we saw Jesus in the synagogue on the sabbath confronting the power of evil itself – the demon-possessed man – that everyone else was apathetic about.  In the text we just read, it’s still the same day, the Sabbath.  Jesus and his disciples walk out the door of the synagogue in Capernaum over to “the house of Simon and Andrew,”

In the house we find Simon’s mother in law in bed with a fever.  If we see God when we see Jesus in action, what do we see?

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31 “He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up.”

In the ancient world, a fever was not considered a symptom; it was the disease itself.  If you cure the “fever” you are well.   Mark tells us:

“Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.” 

If it’s still the same day, that means it’s the Sabbath, and both Jesus who lifted her up and Simon’s mother-in-law, who was serving, are breaking the Sabbath laws as they were understood by the majority. The Sabbath, which ends at Sundown, is the reason the others waited until then to come for healing.

Mark is subtly showing us a theme that will become  explicit soon: that God’s will to restore, to heal, to give life knows no bounds, certainly not the bounds of man-made limitations.  In Jesus, we see God’s face of compassion for people who are suffering.  We see his response.

The After-Sabbath Crowd

But the majority of the people don’t know that  yet, so, as Mark says, they wait until sundown when the Sabbath officially ends to come to Jesus seeking healing.

32 That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons.  33 And the whole city was gathered around the door. 

The whole city”?  Was everybody sick or possessed?

Yes, in some sense they are.  How?

In the way they have been defining their needs and solutions.  It’s like they have been saying, “Send lawyers, guns, and money, Dad, get me out of this.”

Perhaps we do the same thing.

Our World-view in our Prayers

What do we ask for prayer for?  Normally for physical problems, right?  Of course I am aware that we don’t want to share personal issues publicly, so we stick

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to safe topics.  But I wonder if perhaps even in our private moments and in our personal prayers we don’t spend too much time asking God for lawyers, guns and money solutions.

Do we often pray for God’s help with our selfishness?  Our self-indulgence?  Our sense of entitlement?  Our materialism?  Our xenophobia?  Our dislike of people who are not like us?  Our unwillingness to change old habits?  And yet, is there anybody here who doesn’t struggle with all of these?  No fingers are being pointed: this is the universal human condition.  I don’t know exceptions; I know I’m included.

The Father and the Son

So, back to the story: yes, Jesus does show God’s compassionate face.  He heals sickness; he casts out demons – he overcomes evil with his goodness.  But then watch what happens.

35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.

Jesus, who we already have been told by Mark and by the voice from heaven at Jesus’ baptism is God’s beloved son, takes time to nurture his relationship with his Heavenly Father.  We don’t get to hear his prayer, so the point is simply the practice itself.

This is one of several occasions in Mark’s gospel where he shows us Jesus pulling away from the group and going off to pray.  In Jesus we see that God is available and listening.  It is this powerfully bonded relationship between Father and Son that empowers and sustains Jesus, all the way to the Garden of Gethsemane.

Mistaking the Agenda

But this is not what Peter and the others expected.  If physical conditions are the problem and healing is the solution – then Jesus shouldn’t be out of range of the cell tower; they should be able to reach him and tell him that the waiting room has more patients in it.  Peter says,

“Everyone is searching for you.”

But Jesus has defined the problem differently.  For him, it is not just physical, the problem is also spiritual.  He replies:

38 “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.”  39 And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

The Message we need

There is no doubt about what the message is that Jesus wants so badly to go proclaim.   Mark has allowed us to hear exactly one message from Jesus so far, and it is this:

1:15 “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” 

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This is exactly the message we need to hear constantly.  God’s kingdom is here.  This means changing our minds about things – which is what “repent” means.  We have to change our minds about all kinds of things that “the whole town” at the door believes.  Like the way it defines the problems, and the solutions it looks for.

The Solution Defined 

We will not be saved by any amount of lawyers, guns or money.  We will be saved by  believing the gospel – that this is God’s kingdom.  God is at work here and now.  He is looking at suffering compassionately and responding.

God is present in his kingdom, and he has open office hours.  He is available for us to come to in prayer, to draw on his strength for every day.

God is powerfully present in his kingdom, casting out demons – taking on evil that is so deeply imbedded in us.  He is here to confront our human condition: our pride, our envy, our apathy, our greed, our lust, our malice, and our gluttony.

He is present in his kingdom to save us from the evil of thinking that we will be saved by lawyers, guns and money; politics, weapons and bank accounts.  This is what the majority are chasing.

Jesus is saying,

Repent, change your thinking about your needs and their solutions: the Kingdom of God is here!  Then, Come, follow me, and get to know God.”

Follow me as I find more people to deliver the message of the kingdom to.

Follow me as I confront evil inside of people.

Follow me as I heal the sick, feed the hungry, touch the lepers, and as I connect with my Heavenly Father in prayer.

Follow me as I refuse to return evil for evil, violence for violence.

Follow me as I give my life away.

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