Epiphany 5b, (February 8, 2015)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
TITLE: “Freed to Serve”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. Mark chapter one.
In our text Jesus goes to the house of Simon’s mother-in-law. She was ill with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about it. People love to talk about the sick. It’s kind of what we do as human beings. And Jesus’ disciples are no different. But when they talk to Jesus about the sick, they are actually getting to the one person who can truly help. He takes her by the hand, she gets up, and immediately began to serve them.
It would be easy to kind of make fun of this. Why is it that as soon as this poor woman is healed from her sickness, she has to go take care of this group of men who have invaded her house? In order to answer that question, we have to think for a moment about the nature of sickness.
Sickness is the result of sin. It is a part of the Fall, and points us constantly to how we are broken and in need of help. When we are sick, we are unable to do what God has given us to do. We are unable to be who we are. You know the saying about how when someone is sick they really aren’t themselves. Well, there is some very real truth to that. Sickness of any kind points us to the fact that things, well, that things are messed up. We try drugs, physical therapy, time, acupuncture, something you find on the Internet, we try everything we can to undo the forces of chaos that sickness brings.
But still it comes. No one can avoid it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a cold or cancer or a canker sore, sickness comes to us all. Why? Because we are all sinners, we are all broken and in need, beyond the ability to help ourselves.
So what Christ does for the woman is restore her humanity. He heals her so that she can be whom God has given her to be. And in this case, it is as a host to those at her house. It is what Isaiah prophesied about in chapter forty of his book:
“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:28–31 ESV)
God is about renewal and restoration. He is about fixing what was broken, healing what has been shattered, mending what has been torn. What Jesus does for her he also does for you. He forgives you, he heals you of your sin. He lifts you up from the despair that encompasses us all.
But that is not the end. He lifts you up for a purpose. When Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law, He did so and restored her place in their family, in the community, in the body. So when Peter’s mother-in-law was well, she did what God had given her to do in her own home: she cared for those who were there, yes, even Jesus Himself.
So here's the question: what has God healed you from, and what has God healed you to do and to be? For make no mistake: God has healed you, given you new life, forgiven your sins, and drawn you up to His side. And He has great and mighty things for you to do and to be. Now I don’t mean this in a cheesy way. “God has great plans for you if only you believe hard enough.” That is nonsense. The great things God has planned for you may, like Peter’s mother-in-law, look ordinary, very ordinary. Serving, caring, providing, loving your neighbor wherever you may be.
But underneath all of that is something amazing. Underneath all of that is the simple, beautiful reality that you are God’s child and heir. That you have a place in this world, a holy purpose as His instruments and co-creators. And because of that, even the littleist thing that you do in His name becomes, well, it becomes something else altogether.
Do you remember those words from St. Paul in 1 Corinthians? Hear them again:
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:24–27 ESV)
God has freed you from your bondage to sin, death and the devil Himself. He has freed you to be His children. He washes you, preaches to you, forgives you, and feeds you. And He does all this and more only out of His Fatherly divine, goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in us. Be free of your bondage and live as free men and women in Christ. Serve your neighbor, not because you must, but because you can, for He has served you in all things.
Believe it for Jesus' sake. Amen.
And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.