Get back to work! the disciples seem to be saying to Jesus in the gospel reading for Sunday (Mark 1:29-39). Jesus spends a day doing extraordinary things. Then, before the first light of the next morning, he steps away from that work to pray. The disciples track him down and try to impress upon him how much he is needed by the people, for more healing. There are still sick and suffering people. They keep appearing. Jesus needs to heal, heal, heal. Drive out those demons and keep the people happy. He’s got a gift so he needs to use it! Right?
Trusting in our selves and in our ambitions, in our conclusions and in our decisions, as the final judgements on our lives is within a few short steps of what Christian theology calls sin. We’ll go over this again on Sunday. Through our faith, sin melts from our lives, and we accept our unconditional acceptance by God, all our successes and failures, work and worry notwithstanding. In other words, the Christian Gospel for you is that you are loved, as a person, prior to anything you do, think or say, or fail to do, think or say.
With this thought we come to an important Christian teaching, deep in the season of Epiphany: Your value and worth do not depend on what you do, and not on what you achieve or accomplish, and not on what you fail to do, or forget to do, or do poorly or half-heartedly. Through Christ you are forgiven, everything, even what you still want to brag about. Faith drops all claims and pretentions and accepts unconditional acceptance by God through Jesus Christ.
The “work” of our liturgy (which, paradoxically, is our “rest”) includes confession, then reception of a life-giving word that restores our inner hearts, followed by prayer in which our new selves reach out beyond our personal and immediate concerns. Through the therapy of the liturgy we are healed and restored to our true selves. Each liturgy could be the occasion of an “epiphany” or re-discovery of our true self, acceptable and accepted, loved and freed from all the world’s expectations.