With all our progress, life remains for many people that of a ‘conscript’ who feels the ‘futility’ of their lives. What kind of life is it to stand at street corners hoping someone will stop and buy a juice card or a balloon or a Zimbabwe flag? Or to sit all day at a ‘growth point’ whiling the time away? These are young energetic people ready to engage with life and the world – if only they could find a way. And there are others – the lucky ones – who are in employment in offices and government service, who still manage to make their lives a drudgery. How often have I entered an office where the lady at the desk does not even look at me and seems bored by my request? A climate of futility and corruption can settle over a nation and eat into it like a cancer. On the other hand you can have a ‘great day’ where you really enjoyed meeting some new people and you had some marvellous new experiences. Mark wrote the shortest of the gospels but he kicks off in chapter one with the description of a whole day in the life of Jesus. In the morning he was in the synagogue and then James and John took him to their friend’s house. ‘That evening after sunset’ something else happened and again next morning ‘long before dawn.’ Mark peppers all this with the frequent use of ‘at once’. There is an energy and urgency in the whole day and you can sense the disciples are caught up in it.
When we say the gospel is ‘good news’ we mean that this energy is also there for us. Our life is not supposed to be futile ‘conscript service’ but filled with experiences that nourish us by drawing us to devote ourselves to others. We can decide to ‘take charge’ of our life and not be forever under the influence of others. We can transform our own job by pushing out the boundaries of our ‘job description’ to include a concern for other people. I once observed a bus conductor who was on a regular route enabling him to get to know some of the passengers. I was astonished how he had a word for everyone; ‘How is the wife?’ ‘How is the brother in hospital?’ He turned his bus into a community meeting place. Whether he knew it or not, he was doing just what Jesus did on that first day of his ministry.