My dog, Annie, loves to chase a stick or a ball.
She is a Kelpie/Blue Heeler cross, the product of an unplanned tryst between her Blue Heeler mother, living in the town of Colbinabbin, and a Kelpie farmdog visiting town on the back of its owner’s ute, who saw opportunity while his master was occupied at the hardware store.
So Annie is smart, fit and active. Boy, is she active! And did I say that she likes to chase sticks? She will drop a stick at your feet then step back and look intently at you and the stick. If you are too slow to pick up on the game or ignore her she will pick up the stick and drop it on your foot. It you continue to ignore her she will make whimpering noises. The whole time she never takes her eyes off the stick or the person she believes should be throwing it. Annie doesn’t believe that you don’t want to throw the stick. How could anyone not enjoy this game? She believes that you are just distracted or too stupid to understand her doggy ways. And so she persists. Annie loves children because they are obviously smarter than adults. They seem to understand and respond much quicker. And when you do finally throw the stick her joy is complete. She will now bring the stick back to you time and again.
All this I can understand but I am always amazed with the urgency and vigour with which she chases and retrieves the stick. She takes off at full pelt, seizes the stick with a guttural growl, and then trots back for you to do it all again.
So why the urgency? Why doesn’t she just trot off after the stick at a leisurely pace, find it, then bring it back? The stick isn’t going anywhere. It isn’t going to escape. There are no other dogs competing to get the stick first. What’s the hurry?
I don’t know how many times I read sagely advice urging people who are passionate about life to slow down. Advising against hurrying. “There’s no hurry, take your time”, has been the constant advice of the older generation to the young. This ‘Don’t rock the boat’ message as an approach to faith can be summed up as: “God exists, and he wants us to be nice to each other, and to be happy and successful.”
But the Gospels present us with a Jesus who is in a hurry. The term which occurs with great frequency in Mark’s Gospel is the word “immediately or straight away”. In the first chapter alone we read “immediately” eight times in Mark’s opening chapter and in all, this word is found forty times in Mark’s Gospel. It is a strong and expressive term, which brings Jesus into direct conflict with all the conservative elements of society who say, “What’s the hurry? Wait?”
On one occasion Jesus heals a woman on the Sabbath. The leader of the synagogue is indignant and says to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the Sabbath day.” In other words, “There is no hurry, wait.”
But for Jesus there was no holding back, no reluctance, no slackness, but a blessed “immediateness” about all his work. He is not in a hurry. He is entering fully into the moment. This is not work. This is not a burden to be carried. This is doing God’s work. It should be done with the same passion and energy with which my dog Annie chases a stick.
This is the gospel, and it’s good news.
Brian Spencer, Minister