If evidence was needed to prove how the bothers of life can so easily entrap us and become a barrier to hearing the Lord’s words as he tries to travel with us, then this Sunday’s OLD TESTAMENT EXTRACT [JOB 7: 1 – 4. 6 – 7] provides it. Well, I never! Too many folk make a habit of living their faith with a resigned and joyless approach. We know, of course, that Job eventually recovered his equilibrium. Much later on {40:7} the Lord challenges Job: “brace yourself and stand up like a man.”

In addition we should be aware of the fact that in Chapter 14 (7 – 9), Job proclaims something of inestimable value for avoiding the pressed service approach.

If a tree is cut down,

there is hope it will sprout again

and fresh shoots will not fail.

Though its roots grow old in the earth,

and its stump is dying in the ground.

if it scents water it may break into bud

and make new growth like a young plant.

{The Book of Job should be regarded as COMPULSORY reading for all disciples of Jesus Christ!}

Now, take a good look at our GOSPEL READING [MARK 1: 29 – 39]. Do not overlook the fact that Jesus is obviously busy, and allowed himself to be ‘bothered’. Even at the end of a day’s activity he bothered with Simon’s mother-in-law, and after a while “the whole town came crowding round the door.”

Yet, there is more then at first reading our Gospel might reveal. In the first place, the mother-in-law gets up and commences, herself, to be bothered with the guests. The old stump made new growth like a young plant? Do not overlook the fact that the Lord had gone to her straightaway. Once Jesus was allowed (the woman must have permitted him to enter into her privacy) to take a hand everything changed.

Secondly, we will recognise that among the many who were cured, there must have existed a good few who had resigned themselves to an existence of drudgery as described in our reading from Job. However, the scent of water became powerful. There was an acceptance that urgent action was needed. They had to crowd around the door. Have we forgotten how to crowd around his door? Do we sink into a state of pessimistic resignation too easily? Do we procrastinate, and not call on him when we should – as soon as he arrives?

Thirdly, and perhaps what is more important, we see not only that Jesus did not harden his heart to those who wanted him to be WITH them, but he also MADE THE TIME(in the face of tiredness)“long before dawn” to listen to God’s voice. On a personal level it may help some of you to know that before dawn is a much better time for me. At night I am too tired – and brevity becomes the order of the day!

In all of this there is a real value in focussing on words from today’s PSALM [146 or 147].

The Lord builds up … heals … binds up …

he calls by name …

raises the lowly.

However, we must want him to be with us!

I repeat the questions:

Have we forgotten how to crowd around his door? Do we sink into a state of pessimistic resignation too easily? Do we procrastinate in calling on him?

It is interesting that in the NEW TESTAMENT READING [1 CORINTHIANS 9: 16 – 19. 22 – 23] Paul introduces another aspect to his remarks (made last week) about being unencumbered by the demands of life.

Lo and behold, he has made himself a slave of everyone! In many ways the bothered disciple becomes a slave as well – not only a slave to those involved in our primary commitments (which include the Lord and our discipleship) but to everyone who may require us to understand their weaknesses as well as strengths.

Here we come face to face with “the responsibility which has been put into (our) hands.” There is to be no hardening of our hearts …. “for the sake of the Gospel.”

This is not drudgery or pressed service!