Saturday, February 4, 2012

A Missed Opportunity

Mark 1:29-39 “Missed Opportunity” Epiphany V Year B 2/5/12

What does it mean to be healed for service?

We can’t help but notice that the woman in this story is un-named. She is identified by her relationships; Peter’s mother-in-law. And as soon as she is healed…, she goes to work – serving!
It was typical for a woman to serve, but one who was just near death from illness? It seems unusual that she would jump up after being healed and immediately get to work.
But in Jesus’ world, things aren’t always what they seem.

Jesus has a good thing going in this town by the sea. “In just one chapter, he has dealt with the Devil in the wilderness and emerged triumphant. He has called his first disciples, been to the synagogue, and cast out demons.
Now after healing a family member of one of his staff, the “whole town” is outside the door bringing everyone to him for healing. He is one popular guy!
In today’s world, his staff would be talking about ALL the opportunity ahead. They will have to find a bigger place to meet, (maybe a building campaign is in the near future). Certainly they will have to add more service times to get all the healing in.[i]
But in Jesus’ world, things aren’t always what they seem. . .
After time alone to pray, Jesus walks away from this great opportunity for success.

It isn’t easy to put ourselves in Jesus’ time or the context of the time Mark’s gospel was written. Even in the first century tho, numbers mattered. Success meant survival. You didn’t just walk away from crowds that wanted to hear you speak OR people who needed the help and healing you could give. And yet Jesus did, he walked away.
William Loeder reminds us that “Crowds often dictate agendas; success spawns its own rules. Mark [gospel] shows Jesus acting deliberately in ways which will maximize the impact of the good news, but Jesus will not be dictated to by the rules of the game. In some sense they also belong to the powers from which he must liberate people.[ii]

Jesus didn’t stop his healing after he left Peter’s house, he just took the news he had to share and the gifts he had to give – elsewhere, to spread the word to a broader audience.
But, There were plenty of people in Capernaum who didn’t get healed that day. We don’t hear any more about the crowds at Peter’s door. Do you wonder how they felt  about their missed opportunity? – (when Jesus walked away)
If things aren’t always what they seem in Jesus’ world – what do these missed opportunities Jesus mean? . . .

We look at this text today because it is service Sunday in the Church of the Brethren. It is a day for highlighting Disaster Relief, Brethren Volunteer Service, workcamps, service projects and all kinds of volunteer work or ‘service’. Peter’s M-I-L is our entry point for this emphasis. Let me share another preacher’s look at her.
“We often talk about “waiting on the Lord” but do we understand it in its truest perspective? Do we look at it from the perspective of Peter’s Mother-in-Law? To Mark; waiting is a contact sport. The term we read as ‘serve’ [GSN1247 diakone] means to minister, administer, care, contribute support, or do the serving. How often does our response to a prayer request include impatient foot tapping kind of waiting while we look up and say to God: “I’m waiting!”     [Peter’s MIL shows us that;    Waiting means serving!
If we want a response from God we need to give God our all in service. Nine times out of ten, Rev. Goebel says that he finds that the response he receives from “waiting in service” is the realization that what he was asking for really was inconsequential in [comparison to those he serves.] “God’s answer to my prayers,” he says, “is to reveal my smallness, to liberate me with a new sense of humility before God. Peter’s mother-in-law was liberated from illness and into service.”[iii]
I have a few slides to show you. They are of people across the denomination that were caught -- in the act of service. Many are waiting for their next opportunity. They may be waiting for what the rest of their summer or even the rest of their life -will bring. I want you to focus on their expressions. Try to guess what they are feeling when they were frozen by the camera.
Some will be looking right at you, others will be harder to see and you may have to judge their body language to guess their emotion. Would you say they are, ‘waiting on the Lord?’
Keep a mental tally and after we’ve seen a few, perhaps you will tell me what emotions these folks are feeling.

What emotions did you see?

One BVSr, Dana Cassell, explained service like this,

“Volunteers often come to their year of service with an attitude of “helping,” giving out of their abundance to those who are “less fortunate.” But a transformation happens somewhere in the middle of the experience, and we often find that service isn’t just a one-way transaction. Instead, we recognize that we actually need those we’re serving just as much as they might need us. We’re ALL a part of God’s body, and we all need each other to survive.”[iv]
Mother Teresa put it like this, “I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.” — Mother Teresa

What does it mean to be “Healed for service?” Do you have a different answer now than when I first asked?
I think we have seen the face of Peter’s MIL in today’s pictures. Her response to Jesus came from being healed. She ‘got it’ because she had entered INTO Jesus’ world where success isn’t measured by numbers, and joy doesn’t come from success.

It seems there is only one way to understand the rules of Jesus’ world, and that’s to enter into it. . . and in Jesus’ upside- down way of living, ‘healed for service’  means; WE are healed WHEN WE serve.

In such an un-worldly way of thinking, I’ll bet those crowds outside of Peter’s house are standing & waiting for us.
There are always opportunities we shouldn’t miss.  Opportunities for healing others –
& opportunities for us to be healed;
healed for service – do you get it?                                           End

[i] Timothy V. Olson As Far As I Can See in Clergy Journal Preaching and Worship Resources Sept/Oct Vol. 88, no. 5 p. 32
[ii] William Loeder First Thoughts on Year B Gospel Passages from the Lectionary Epiphany 5
[iii] Copyright © 2005 Jerry Goebel. All Rights Reserved.  This study may be freely distributed, as long as it bears the following attribution: Source: Jerry Goebel: 2005 © :

[iv] Dana Cassell previously of Staff for Vocation and Community Living Brethren Volunteer Service Unit #277

1 comment:

Terri said...

have you ever read "How Can I Help" by Ram Dass? this sermon reminds me of some of what he says in that book, one that has been very formative in my life.