February 4, 2018
5th Sunday after Epiphany
Psalm 147:1-11, 20c
1 Corinthians 9:16-23
Please pray with me,
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable and suitable in your sight O God, our rock, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
As we read through our gospel lesson this past week at text study, we had fun reading through it. The beginning of the passage sounded something like this…
As soon as Jesus and the disciples left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, yup, she was another one who had come down with the flu, and they told him about her at once. Jesus came and after putting on rubber gloves, protective smock and mask, he then took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them. (after everyone washed their hands, of course.)
In this season where the flu is getting worse and worse, it’s hard to comprehend Jesus walking into the homes and spaces of people who are sick without any way to protect himself from the germs.
Now granted, Jesus has that divinity piece that we do not, but it still piques our interest. It sheds lights on Jesus’ mission, what he could call upon the disciples to do, and what we, in turn, are called to do as we respond to his call in our day to day lives.
This passage contains lots of hands in action….or hands on ministry, as I talked about in the children’s sermon.
Jesus reaches out his hand to heal Simon’s mother-in-law. She reaches out her hand to Jesus to get his help and then uses her hands to feed Jesus and the disciples and to welcome her neighbors who are bringing the sick to her door for Jesus to heal them by laying his hands on them.
Jesus folds his hands in prayer, and finally, points to the next village where he is going.
Jesus’ mission is seen clearly in this short passage from Mark. He is seen coming out of the synagogue. Coming out of the house of worship where there has been a time to gather and to celebrate one’s faith.
Immediately, following worship, Jesus gets to work. He heals Simon’s mother-in-law. And immediately, after being raised she begins to serve them.
Now don’t get tripped up at this spot by thinking, oh, the mother-in-law is healed, she will now serve those around her. It’s more than that, it’s deeper than that.
The word – served is the verb is diakoneo, the same verb Jesus uses to describe the essence of his own ministry later in the gospel of Mark when he says, “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve.” (Mark 10:45)
It is "to serve" rather than "to be served" that characterizes the Christ of God. It is also "to serve" that characterizes his disciples.
Simon’s mother-in-law is far from being an example of an un-liberated woman for whom serving men is her whole life. Rather, she is the first character in Mark’s gospel who exemplifies true discipleship. (Sarah Henrich)
Think about that, the first character in Mark’s gospel who exemplifies true discipleship is this woman.
And here’s where it really hits home, the situation starts with her being sick with a fever, with the touch of Jesus, she is healed, she is raised, and her response to this glorious gift is living out the life of a disciple, sharing and showing a life of service, a life that will serve others.
And isn’t that the case for us as well, I’ve talked before about being ‘wounded healers.’ That each of us is broken in some way, shape or form, and we are all in need of Jesus healing touch. We are all sinners in need of forgiveness and grace. We have all fallen short of the glory of God, yet in that brokenness, in that sinfulness, Jesus reaches out to us to heal us, forgive us and raise us up into a life of discipleship.
What does that life of discipleship look like to you?
Knowing that you are healed, forgiven and raised up, how will a life of service take shape for you?
Last week 22 youth and 8 adults had a fun, inspiring, exhausting weekend at the Harrisburg YouthQuake. In the midst of singing, dancing, laughing, praying, playing games, packaging food and of course eating, too, we were able to see how our lives can and are transformed by the love and forgiveness of God.
We were told repeatedly, that as we go through awesome things and tough, challenging situations that God says to us, I got you! We were reminded that each and every one of us is going through something….and whatever that thing is, God has us.
Each night as we gathered for family time, the time when church groups end the day together, we shared highs and lows, talked about the day and prayed together.
While so many amazing God moments infiltrated the weekend, as we gathered on Saturday night, so many highs were about having the opportunity to participate in the food packaging trek. All hands were on deck to put together meals for the hungry, in the community of Harrisburg and around the world. At the same time, many lows were the realization that there are hungry people in our community and world who we are called to serve.
And so, through the opportunity to serve others, the light of Christ was seen in our midst, and lives were shaped to follow Christ in a life of service for others.
As we wrapped up that evening time together, we prayed around the circle out loud.
All 30 of us…prayed out loud…sharing our thanks, our worries and our wow moments with God. It. Was. Holy.
As the voices were heard around the circle, you could have heard a pin drop as one person prayed, “Thank you God for feet that dance, voices that sing and hearts that love.”
Yeah, just rest in that for a moment…
Thank you God for feet that dance, voices that sing and hearts that love.
As you go about your way this coming week, think about the amazing grace of God that continues to forgive you, heal you and call you to service.
What does that call to service look like for you?
Is it speaking aloud in a time of prayer?
Is it volunteering at the food pantry or helping with a shelter meal?
Is it in sharing out of the abundance in your life so that hundreds of Easter baskets are filled for the youth in our community?
What does that call to service look like for you?
What work will your hands do in service to others?
Let us pray,*
God you created our hands beautiful and capable but…
Too often we use them to grab what we want
We ball them up into fists to hit.
We use them to hug only ourselves.
We hide them behind our backs pretending there is nothing we could do to help when we know there is.
So, we turn our hands up to you asking for forgiveness. Forgive all the bad we have done with our hands. Wash our hands and make them clean. Lead us to use our hands well.
Teach us to open our hands to share with others.
Give us the power to shake hands with our neighbors.
Show us how to join hands with our neighbors to build your kingdom of love.
We pray in Jesus’ name and remembering his loving hands. And all God’s people say, amen.
*Thank you to Carolyn Brown, who shared this prayer on her website Worshiping with Children. Thank you, Carolyn, for sharing your thoughts, ideas and inspiration. Hands were seen, prayed for and blessed for service.