First Congregational Church
February 4, 2017
Fifth Sunday after Epiphany and Communion Sunday
“Why We Have Come….”
Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
Since our scripture passage this morning deals with healing, I thought these actual lines from doctors’ notes would serve as appropriate introductory material.
Patient has left her white blood cells at another hospital.
On the second day the knee was better and on the third day it disappeared.
The patient has been depressed since she began seeing me in 1993.
Discharge status: Alive, but without my permission.
Skin: somewhat pale, but present.
Patient has two teenage children, but no other abnormalities.
The patient was in his usual state of good health until his airplane ran out of fuel and crashed.
I know they’re bad, so may all our doctors be good note writers. We begin today where we left off last week, in terms of scripture passages. Jesus and his band of four were in Capernaum, and he was teaching in the synagogue when a man with an impure spirit challenged Jesus. Naturally, Jesus healed him and everyone went on their way.
29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. 30 Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. 31 So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.
32 That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered at the door, 34 and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.
35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”
38 Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” 39 So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
Thank you, Myra. Seeing as how we’re still in the early verses of Mark, I’ll remind all of us that Mark is the oldest of the discovered gospels, and the most terse, getting right to the point. Mark doesn’t waste any time or gives flowery descriptions. He’s really about the facts, “just the facts, ma’am,” for the Dragnet fans among us. So that means that the little things are important in Mark, and there are certainly a good number of details in this passage.
I’m glad that we have the little scene about Simon’s mother-in-law and her response. I wonder if we’ve gotten out of the habit of actually doing something for God after a prayer has been answered - not because God expects it, but because our human spirit needs to acknowledge a thank you, lest we become insensitive to the miracles that go around us each and every day. We may thank God all the time. But when the big things come along, maybe we might think of ways we can serve God, as this woman served Jesus.
It’s interesting that Jesus is still having to deal with demons. While not everyone agrees on the reality of demons and evil spirits in our modern world, they were a very real part of life in Jesus’ day. Maybe those labeled with having demons actually had Parkinson’s disease, nerve damage or were schizophrenic. And maybe the actual conditions of the people weren’t so important, because Jesus healed all of them, giving us the assurance of Jesus being in the healing business.
Going away by himself to a solitary place to pray didn’t make Jesus exceptionally holy, although that is a holy endeavor. It was probably self-care as much as anything else, giving us the example and permission to take care of our own selves, especially after we’ve gone through something that has taken out a bit of our own starch. It struck me, thinking about this idea of Jesus going off by himself to allow for the healing of his spirit is not so unlike the time needed for the healing of a concussion. He may have looked fine on the outside, but the inside was needing rest and healing, and I daresay that there are a great many people walking around with such healing needed. We can give people a break when they don’t feel up to joining in, except on Sunday mornings, of course, sic. We need to be together as much as we need alone time - just sayin’.
I would love to be able to ask each one of you why you came this morning - this snowy, very wintery morning. Was it your spouse who gave you the jab in the ribs when you wanted to stay under the covers a little longer? Maybe it’s part of the way you keep your week straight, because a week without a Sunday not only makes one weak, it makes it hard to remember if you’re on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday.
It’s interesting that Jesus suggested going to the nearby villages to preach, because “That is why I have come.” I wonder how many of us forget that part of the reason we come to church is to become better disciples. We’ve heard about Jesus calling us often enough, but without looking it up, what does Jesus call us to do? ___ Just so no one is late for the kick-off this afternoon, Jesus calls us to follow him and to be his disciples. He doesn’t call us to be admirers or faces in the crowd. In following Jesus and endeavoring to be better disciples, sometimes we experience healing, sometimes we experience restoration, sometimes we get community and sometimes we get lessons and surprises we didn’t expect.
Today, part of God’s call comes in the sharing of the cup and the loaf. In the silence of preparing our hearts and minds, there is a holiness that is unlike any other we might encounter on a week-to-week basis, because God’s presence is among us, stronger than at other times, simply because we are together. In the time of listening and holding and smelling and tasting, we are reminded of God’s provisions - for more than just food and drink.
Let us pray. Gracious, Holy Spirit, thank you for your particular presence this morning. Thank you for calling each of us to be followers and disciples of your beloved Christ. Continue to speak to each of us, that we may more clearly hear your voice, that we may know our calling to be ever more important and dear to our hearts. Thank you for your Son, who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our lives, and yet lives to join us for all the days beyond those here on earth. For all the gifts of you, God and God’s Son, all your people say, Amen.
Just the messenger. And the collector and arranger of that which has been received. References available upon request.