Mark 1:29-39 As soon as they 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, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them. That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, "Everyone is searching for you." He answered, "Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do." And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons. *************************************************************************************************** This is part 3 in our Backyard Basics series. In Part 1, we spoke about Believing; how coming to believe is a process, and that faith formation is a journey that each of us travel individually, and as a group. We spoke about belief being a process of letting go, of allowing the Spirit to teach us new things, widening and expanding our thoughts of God, and doing it while in community with one another. Last week, in Part 2, Breathe, we talked about the Spirit moving in and through us, surprising and encouraging us; knowing, accepting and cleansing every part of us, and calling us to more than we ever thought possible in love. This week we begin Part 3, Balance, with a very simple passage, and a pretty straightforward illustration of balance. I mean, just look back at the passage. Its easy to see all the components of the Christian life; healing, service, and prayer.
The passage from Mark picks up right after the temple scene from last week; Jesus had been preaching in the temple, and the man with the unclean spirit called out, and Jesus healed him.But now, Jesus has put in a full day, and he wants to go relax.So Peter says to him “Come to my house- kick back, get some food, My mother in law always makes pasta on the Sabbath- and there's always enough for an army! And we can relax and watch the game.”
But when they reach the house its quiet; no gravy cooking, no music on, no wine open, so Peter goess to check things out. In a few minutes, he returns; a little apologetic, and say… “Look, my mother-in-law is sick.She can’t cook tonight.Sorry... she hasn’t been out of bed all day.”
But Jesus interrupts... “Where is she Peter?Let me seeher.” And when they get to his mother in law’s room, Jesus looks at her- smiles- and "takes her by the hand and lifts her up” and the fever leaves her... and she gets up and starts chopping garlic!
Now women- don’t freak out.I know that the first several hundred times I read this passage I thought to myself…. 'Of course Jesus healed her- they needed someone to make them some dinner!As if Jesus is saying… "What do you mean she’s sick?… where is she Pete?I’ll have her up and cooking in no time… I’m starved!”'
But let's remove the gender issues for today, and take a look at what happened in the bedroom and ring it back to the first part of that balance triad of healing, serving, and praying:healing. Jesus takes Peter's Mother in Law by the hand and lifts her up- In the Greek- he raises her. Notice Peter's MIL doesn’t get healed because of her faith- there is no mention that she 'believed.' She was just lying there, 'breathing.' She is raised and healed, or in the Greek, 'made whole.'
And while it's easy to stop there, gazing in awe at the woman who was healed, take a moment to look around the rest of the house. Where are the other disciples? I've read this passage hundreds of times over the years, but it only just occurred to me that in order for Jesus to have healed this woman, the disciples, and especially Peter, needed to stand aside and let Jesus close enough to the patient to heal her. Only then could she get up and begin to serve. WOW! This is no easy feat for most of us, or I'll say, many of us. We have areas of our lives, or ourselves, that we've kept quarantined in our 'back room,' out of sight, out of reach, and we've closed the door and padlocked it. Ain't nobody gettin near that! Just like the darkest parts of us we talked about last week that cry out to God, these parts of us we've got on lock down keep us lying still... motionless... and stop us from living out our greatest potential. That's why its so important to stand aside, and make a path for Jesus to enter that back room; we need to allow Jesus near enough to be healed. And what happens when that intimate touch of Jesus lifts us to wholeness? Look back at the text- we get up and begin to serve. (hmmmm... you mean we have to work now? maybe i'll just keep m stuff locked up) But let's look again- Peter's MIL gets up and begins to serve them- it doesn't specify how, even though we take it to mean make a big meal. And there's no hesitation- again mark uses that sense of urgency, immediacy- which tells me that she began doing something she was well acquainted with; something within her skill set, something she was gifted at that she was unable to do until she was healed.
I wonder what it is inside of each of us that could come that easily to us; what potential, skills, gifts, just need unlocking? And how might they move and serve in our backyard, or in the community? It's a staggering thought... I'll leave that there for each of us to think about... but notice that once the disciples moved aside and let Jesus near enough to heal Peter's mother in law, they kept doing it! The door was open now, and, the text says, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. Woah... hold up, Pastor... I'm ok with that first part, where Jesus heals US... I mean, our backyard can always use sprucing up... but do you mean to tell me that we're to go out and round up people with problems and bring them,,, here? Don't we have enough demons on our own without going out to round up more? I was hoping our church would grow more like... well... with people who have it a little more together, who already have their demons unlocked, who can step into some of the roles we want filled- we need workers! And givers! (Preferably tithers) And people who can be strong leaders!
Well, where do you think strong leaders come from?
My friends, as the church of Jesus Christ we are to be about the work of Jesus Christ- that means bringing people to Christ who are in need of healing and reconciliation- that is the work of Christ in the world. The very words of Jesus, in the next chapter of Mark say,"Healthy people don't need a doctor--sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners." Right???
And now that that's out of the way, and everyone is thinking of at least five people who they probably should have invited to church by now, lets move on to the last part of that balance triad... healing, serving, and the last part, prayer. After healing and serving, Jesus goes off on his own to pray. And... This is where we all need to take a breath.
We can get very hung up on prayer. Jesus models this perfect prayer life, of going off alone every day and having that one on one communication with God, that no doubt we picture in our minds as something profound and almost agonizing. And I won't argue that. I have no doubt that every word and thought Jesus uttered to God was both important and necessary. What I will argue, is that your thoughts and words to God are just as important, and just as necessary. We often have this way of thinking about our prayers as not good enough, or may be aren't doing it right, or saying the right words, or maybe our prayers are too self centered, and whiney or as wordy as this sermon... Or maybe we don't pray enough, or as often as we should. Or maybe we haven't set aside a prayer time every day like Jesus, or maybe it's been so long since we really prayed, we just feel like there is this distance from God, and even some guilt mixed in there...
Listen, for as many items as we can come up with for the ways we fall short in prayer, God has an even longer list for the ways you are loved. Without fancy words, without a daily prayer time, without prostrating yourself and beating yourself up for not having this right- you are loved. If you never said another prayer, you would be loved. The reason we pray, is so that we can spend time with love, in love, surrounded by love.
If you begin to pray and you don't feel love, I get that. We've been made to feel that we ned to grovel sometimes on all fours to approach such goodness, and that our sins dirty and taint us, and that we go in prayer to a God who not just expects more of us, but is disappointed that we don't yet have it right. I'm sorry- on behalf of the church, and everyone in your past who ever taught you that God looks at you that way, I take that on as part of the institution of church and apologize... that is not how God sees you. in God's eyes, you are everything that you "could" be... beautiful, holy, good, pure... and accepted. We spend time in prayer with God so that we can learn to see ourselves the way God does. To learn who we are created to be, we need to return to the creator!
That's prayer. Learning who we are in God's eyes, and learning to see our lives, each other, and all of creation the way God does. Healing, serving, praying... balance.