February 4, 2018

Many years ago I read a short story titled “The Lady or the Tiger”. The story was set in a time long ago, perhaps during the era when the Romans ruled the entire Mediterranean area. A king of a small community ruled with an iron fist. His way to determine the guilt or innocence of someone was to offer a test. The accused party would go to the center of the arena. The accused would choose one of two doors. Behind one door was a tiger who would kill the man. Behind the other door was a lady who would be the accused man’s wife. It seems that the daughter of the king had fallen in love with a young man who was not deemed to be a satisfactory partner. The king decided to put the young man to the test. Now, the daughter of the king had learned which door held the lady and which held the tiger. The young man looked to his loved one and she indicated that he should choose the door to his right. The author of the story, Frank Stockton, wrote that the daughter of the king had struggled with her decision. Should she allow her loved one to marry another lady or did she want him to die instead? The author doesn’t give us the answer, only asks us to decided for ourselves whether the young daughter had sent her loved one to death or allowed him to marry another woman. The reader decides. When I read the story, I wished that the author had given us the answer, rather than to suggest that we should figure it out for ourselves. I sometimes feel that way about Scripture as well. Each of us may need to do some soul searching when scripture is not totally clear. Mark’s gospel is the shortest and most straight forward . When I read it I sometimes want more. It would be helpful if Jesus had told us why he did certain things. What does the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law mean to us? Why did Jesus leave the crowds to pray? Why did Jesus decide to leave the town of Capernaum? I will share my ideas and hope that you might share yours with me later. This passage from Mark is about a miracle, actually several miracles. Jesus healed Simon’s mother-in-law and she immediately began to serve them. Let me point out that the words we actually read say Jesus “lifted her up”. It is the same Greek verb that is used in other parts of the New Testament to refer to Jesus’ resurrection. I would say that Mark wants us to understand that the healing Jesus performed was more than physical healing. This must have been a healing of body, mind and spirit. I think the serving that the mother-in-law did afterward had little to do with the household chores. This healing did not create the opportunity for a woman to be placed in a position of caring for the men. Rather, she was healed in a way that allowed her to serve God. It is the calling that each of us receives to spread the word of God through the service we provide to others. We follow in Jesus’ footsteps when we serve. Later in Mark we find this passage, ““For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45). We are thankful for the healing that Jesus gave to the people he was with. We ask Jesus to heal us of all of our ills. The healing that we receive may be physical or as our collect suggests it might be healing us from our sins. Whatever we need, God heals us. Once we are healed we are ready to serve God and to serve others. Isn’t that what Paul wrote about? After all, Jesus healed Paul. Jesus got Paul to see that persecuting Christians was wrong and instead Paul was called to convert people to Christianity. Paul knew that his calling didn’t make him someone special. He was just doing his job, serving the Lord by sharing the good news of Jesus. Even more, Paul understood that he was called to meet people where they were. For the Jewish people, Paul helped them find Jesus in the law which was part of their life. For the Gentiles, Paul could explain that his relationship with God through Jesus did not depend on any law. By doing so, Paul made it as easy as possible for people to hear the words of Jesus and to understand that Jesus was their savior as well. Paul wrote that living and preaching the gospel was a reward in itself. Preaching the gospel was compelling and liberating. (James Childs) I found some helpful words about today’s gospel in a commentary by Eleonore Stump. “The whole town hears of her healing and rushes all their sick to Peter’s house. The Gospel says that by the evening the whole city was gathered at the door of Peter’s house (Mark 1:33)! Now, all of a sudden, Jesus seems to have become a one-man hospital. The Gospel says that Jesus healed most of them”. But soon Jesus left the crowds in Capernaum and Jesus decided to go to another town to give the good news to other people. What might we learn from all of his actions? On the surface, it seems that Jesus didn’t care for all of the people who came to see him and needed his help. What happened to his compassion? We all want people to be healed and I am sure that Jesus wanted to heal everyone who came to see him. One way to think about this is to remember that the healing Jesus provided was that resurrection healing, preparing them for service in the kingdom of God. I believe that Jesus concluded that some in the crowd were just there for the physical healing. They had no interest in becoming disciples. They were not willing to live the rest of their lives following Jesus. They were using him for their needs and not listening to the rest of the message that Jesus had to offer. Another thought is that Jesus needed a break. Although we are called to serve others, we cannot always be there for every person who needs our help. We must find some time to rejuvenate, to refresh. Jesus knew that self-care was important. Any of you who are involved in the daily care of another person must find some time for yourself, some time to rest. When Jesus left the crowds in Capernaum, he went off by himself to pray. There were too many people in the town for him to pray there. He went to ask God to restore him to his full strength and Jesus went and asked God to help him decide what he should do next. That may be the most important message we take from today’s scripture. Our prayer life is a time to find comfort, solitude, inspiration and renewal. Once again, I turn to Eleonore Stump, “And yet how absurd it is to suppose that prayer should take second-place to work, no matter what the work is! And how sadly and understandably absurd it is to suppose that the mission of Jesus is to be a ‘Doctor Without Borders.’” And so maybe it isn’t hard to figure out what Jesus was praying about in the early morning in the countryside. Each healing Jesus does is a good thing. But good things can actually get in the way of serving God well. To serve God well, a person has to do not just any good things that others want him to do. He has to do those good things that God has called him to do. It may take prayer to figure out which good things to turn down. In prayer and reflection, Jesus realized that he needed to go to another place, to another town. Jesus came to be the redeemer of every person, not just the people of Capernaum. Jesus knew that he came not just as an extraordinary healer but also to proclaim the good news that the kingdom of God had arrived. In our prayers, we turn to God and ask for insight. Yes, we ask God for healing, for all of us need healing of one kind or another. We also pray that God will help us to know what actions we should take, to understand what we are called to do, who we are called to help. Let us pray not just for ourselves but also for this church that our community may know how we might follow God’s will. Amen.

Last modified on Wednesday, 28 February 2018 22:51

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