23rd Sunday in Ordinary time

Last Friday I had to go to Glasgow for a funeral. I was worried about the condition of the roads because of the constant rain. I left early in the morning. By the time I had been on the road for 10 minutes I had been almost killed 3 times, when my car suddenly hit deep puddles. After Craigallachie the road became much safer. As I drove past the village I heard the news on the radio that Elgin had been flooded. Really disturbing news! Over the next few hours I got to know more and more detail; it just got worse and worse…

Much later that day I got back to Elgin and I started to prepare my Sunday sermon. Did you hear today’s gospel? Let me remind you. Jesus meets a man who is deaf and unable to speak. Then he heals the man, making him able to hear and speak once again. For Jesus Christ a piece of cake. Everything goes well – a short performance by Jesus and the man is happy again.

But, you know, this gospel really doesn’t fit with our everyday experience. I’m a keen documentary watcher. I remember a woman from Lockerbie, who said to a reporter after the disaster how can I believe in God after this. I know people who have lost faith in God after experiencing atrocities in war. People may stop believing when they are affected by truly awful circumstances. I wonder how many of the people flooded in recent days asked: “why did God allow this to happen”. But people who believe in God also have to struggle in order to survive. They live their lives as best they can, but their lives are not easy. There are no simple solutions for their problems big and small.

We have to remember that Saint Mark’s gospel was written for non-Jewish people; he wanted to attract them by showing Jesus as the powerful Son of God. Forgive the comparison, but some descriptions of Jesus’ miracles were like the adverts we see and here today. Adverts attract us to buy new things – new services. Adverts show us a bright side of the product. When we consider buying it we find out about the dark side: the price, the terms and conditions. At that moment we balance the “pros” and “cons”. Then we make a serious decision.

Something similar happened in the gospel. People were drawn to an attractive story; they wanted to learn more. Eventually they discovered that Christianity offers not instant, but long term solutions and answers; less attractive but more valuable.

So, I don’t have any simple answers for the flooded people in Elgin or for the families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan… I only know about my own life. Even though my life is complicated, sometimes even dangerous – I am still here and I believe that is a gift from God.