Called to Heal – Feb. 7, 2021

Called to Heal

A Communion Meditation by Rev. Karen A. Mendes

Mark 1:29-39

February 7, 2021

Main Idea: Jesus heals us.

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts, be acceptable in thy sight O Lord our strength and our redeemer.  Amen.

For much of this year we have talked about all that has gone wrong in our world; the pandemic, the political division, the economic collapse, the racism, the fear and vitriol.  This week the difficulties of the past year were added to by the horror of the violence and coup in Burma.  For our friends in the Karen Community, this past week has been traumatizing.  The reason all of them are here in Vermont is because they and their families were forced out of their homes by the Burmese government.  They still have family and friends in harm’s way in Burma.  So today, on this Communion Sunday, we will take a deep breath and welcome the gifts that God gives to us when we are in need.  We will acknowledge God’s sovereign power, we will explore what it means to be healed, and we will be invited to accept the gift of healing that Christ offers us.

Our text from the prophet Isaiah is great comfort during difficult times.  Our God of infinite power, “who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to live in; who brings princes to naught, and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing” (Is 40:22-23). Our Lord, the everlasting God, creator of the ends of the earth, who does not faint or grow weary, whose understanding is unsearchable.  Our God gives power to the faint and strengthens the powerless.  (Is 40:28-29) In the face of evil power, our God gives real power to us and to all who are suffering and vulnerable.

In the lectionary, this affirmation of God’s power and God’s care for the hurt and exhausted is paired with Jesus’ healing of Peter’s mother-in- law.  It is through God’s infinite, loving power that Jesus brings healing to those in need.

What does it mean to be healed?  Healing and wholeness are experiences that we long for, that we pray for; for ourselves, for our loved ones, for our communities, and for our world.  When we look around, we see so many who are sick, so much that is broken, and so much in need of healing. To be honest, while of course we know physical healing; we get a cut, it scabs over, it heals, sometimes we are skeptical about the concept of spiritual healing; healing through the power of prayer.  We conjure up images of faith healing charlatans, who make people’s money disappear, or we remember those for whom we prayed who were not cured of their disease or condition.  Healing is a complicated issue and yet it was central to Jesus’ ministry.  Especially in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus’ healing and preaching are intertwined.   Our Gospel text for today is composed of three sections which each illumine a different aspect of healing.  

Today’s text follows directly after last week’s story of Jesus casting out the unclean spirit in the synagogue.  From that public place of worship, Jesus’s disciples bring him to Simon and Andrew’s house where they discover that Simon’s mother-in-law is sick with a fever. Jesus immediately goes to her, takes her hand and lifts her up out of bed.  The fever breaks and she bustles into the kitchen to serve them.  This story is problematic for those who remember it being used to keep women in their place (oh, he healed her so she could cook for them) but with a deeper look, we see that this is a story of resurrection and discipleship.  Jesus lifts her, raises her up to new life, just as he will be raised on Easter morning.  Mark uses this term frequently in healing stories for each healing is a resurrection and rebirth, and Simon’s mother-in-law is the first.  The other key term in this story is “serve”.  Yes, it means to make lunch and bring it out for others to eat.  But the Greek word is Diakoneo which means both to serve at a table and to do ministry.   Mark uses the term to describe the angels serving Jesus in the wilderness (1:14), and the women who served Jesus and remained with him at the crucifixion when the male disciples had fled (15:41). Jesus uses the same word to describe his own ministry.  “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (10:45). (Cynthia Briggs Kittredge,  Simon’s mother-in-law was the first Deacon and the first Disciple to serve as Jesus taught.  Her healing restored her and empowered her to serve Jesus.  The healing that we receive empowers us to share healing with others.

The next section of the text reveals that healing occurs when attention is paid to those in need.  When Jesus stepped out of Simon’s house he found that the whole city had gathered there.  All the sick and all those possessed by demons had come to him for healing and Jesus healed them.  Jesus was not afraid to touch them or to hear their heartbreaking stories.  He saw them. He paid attention to them. He served them.  Much that is broken in the world can be healed by giving loving attention to it. We can care for our Karen brothers and sisters by learning about Burma and by listening to their stories.  It is only by recognizing the brokenness, our brokenness, that healing can even hope to occur. 

The final section of the text shows us that healing is part of the Kingdom of God.  After that extraordinary day, Jesus goes out to the wilderness by himself to pray. Jesus understands that all that he does and all that he is comes from God. He rests in the knowledge of God as expressed by 2nd Isaiah.  He recognizes the need to step back and reconnect with his source of comfort and power.  And from that prayer he receives guidance and strength to keep moving forward.  Simon and the rest come for him and want him to go back to the village so that they can set up shop as a healing and wholeness center.  But Jesus says No, ‘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.’ (1:38).  The healing that Jesus brings was not just for that little town, or just for us.  Jesus brings healing for the whole world.

Jesus calls us to share this healing message.  Jesus empowers us to bring love, and truth, and healing to others, as individuals and as a faith community. 

But before we can share it, we need to believe it.  For ourselves.

So this morning, let us affirm that God is sovereign over all creation and that there is no power on earth that is stronger than God.  Let us affirm that God pays attention and is with us in the hardest moments of our lives.  In our moments of deepest suffering and need, God is with us.  In our grief, in our pain, in our confusion, God is with us, paying attention, providing us comfort and strength and guidance. God is not afraid of messy situations.  If Jesus can go nose to nose with demons, he can be with us in whatever circumstances arise.  There is nothing that is outside of God’s love and attention.   Jesus sees us and heals us.

Healing is not the same as curing.  Our prayers are not magic as though if we knew the right words to say we could have anything we want. Jesus does not decide that some are worth saving and some are not.  Healing brings restoration to relationships and to life.  Jesus heals us so that we can live authentically as beloved children of God. Jesus heals our brokenness so that we can be who God calls us to be. Each one of us has some aspect of our lives in need of healing, which Jesus knows. And each one of us has a gift and blessing to share with the world, which Jesus also knows.  Just like Simon’s mother-in-law, we are healed and empowered to serve Jesus, to share his healing message with the world.

Jesus heals us as individuals and Jesus heals us as a community.  Jesus empowers us to speak the truth to each other and to repair the bonds which have been strained or broken. Jesus heals us so that we can live and work together with joy and peace, focused on sharing the loving and healing message of Jesus with the world.

In our broken world so deeply in need of healing, our healing and reconciling community can serve as an example and beacon of hope and healing. Resting in God’s sovereign power and having received Jesus’ healing message, we can offer healing to others and to the world.  As we prepare to celebrate the Lord’s Supper let us open our hearts and minds to the healing offered to us. 

Let us pray,

Healing God, we thank you for the grace and mercy of Jesus who see us and loves us and heals us.  Help us to accept this gift of healing and empower us to share this healing with others.  Amen.

Our hymn of preparation for communion is As We Gather at Your Table