God sends us into the darkness as agents of God’s wholeness and healing, having experienced it ourselves, to reach all God’s children.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, Lect. 5 B
Texts: Isaiah 40:21-31; Psalm 147:1-11, 20c; Mark 1:29-39
Beloved in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
That was a really long night for Jesus.
After a long day, as we heard last week, ending with an exorcism in the synagogue, today we hear that as soon as Jesus and the others left the synagogue and went to Peter and Andrew’s house, he had another person to heal, Peter’s mother-in-law.
And then the sun went down, Mark says, and people started lining up. Word was out. “The whole city” gathered outside the door, Mark says. So Jesus healed “many” who were sick, and cast out demons. You have to wonder how late into the night he went, and if he slept.
Then, in the morning when it was “still very dark,” Jesus got up to go to a quiet place to pray and re-center. But the disciples thoughtlessly searched him out in the dark and told him the crowds were back.
It was still very dark. Jesus had been working most of the night. And they still wanted more.
And what of all those waiting in the darkness with sick loved ones?
It was a long night for them, too, ending in deep disappointment. Because Jesus didn’t go back to heal the others. He went to the next town, leaving behind a huge, sad crowd, still in the dark, waiting for God’s healing.
Isaiah asks, “Have you not known? Have you not heard? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? God is the great one who made all things. Don’t you trust that?”
And a lot of people today say, “No, I haven’t heard. I haven’t seen God. I don’t know where God is in the mess of this world. I’m in the dark, wondering if light will come. I’m at the back of the crowd hoping for healing and no one’s there to help me,” many would say to Isaiah.
Isaiah asks, “Why do you say ‘my way is hidden from God, and my right is disregarded by God?” “Because,” many, many people today would answer, “it sure feels that way to me.”
It might even feel that way to you. That it’s still awfully dark out there. And you know what it is to wonder where God is and what God is doing.
That’s why today’s readings are important.
They do what the Bible does so often: re-focus us on what God cares about and whom God wants to help. God gives power to the faint and strengthens the powerless, Isaiah says. God’s not impressed by success, the psalmist sings but rebuilds broken cities, gathers exiles, heals the brokenhearted and binds their wounds. And Jesus embodied this care, bringing healing when he saw suffering, proclaiming God’s desire for a new creation of love and justice.
Today’s Scripture reminds us that the reason we care about ending racism, or eliminating poverty, or cleaning up and restoring the environment, the reason we want to rebuild and heal our broken society until all are treated justly and given the chance to thrive, is because God cares deeply about these things. And God – as we know well from Jesus – will deal with them through you and me. We are God’s answer to those who cry in the darkness for God’s wholeness and healing, who don’t see or hear where God is.
So the most important person in today’s Gospel might be Peter’s mother-in-law.
Jesus healed her of a fever, and she got up and served them. That might feel awfully sexist, but this was her gift to give.
I only remember a handful of times in over 50 years of going to my Grandma’s house where anyone used the front door. You went into that house – family or friend – through the kitchen door. And Grandma always had food ready. You’d be invited in, and she’d put things in front of you. If she’d been lying in bed with a fever, and Jesus came to the house and healed her, I guarantee she’d have gotten up and said, “You need something to eat.”
You see? If you’re waiting all night in the dark for healing, hoping for God to act, and you experience in any way God’s healing grace in mind, body, or spirit, this woman says, “well, get up from your healing and see what you can do for others.”
That means for the second week in a row, our Prayer of the Day reveals our path.
Last week we prayed “God, bring wholeness to all that is broken, and speak truth into our confusion.” This week we prayed what’s next: “Make us agents of your healing and wholeness, that your good news may be known to the ends of your creation.”
Today we hear God’s priorities, and are re-focused. And, as ones who’ve been given wholeness and healing from God, we’re asked to work on those priorities. God’s care for the faint and powerless, the brokenhearted and wounded, comes through those whose faintness and powerlessness and woundedness have found God’s healing.
And you’re only asked to do what you can do. Peter’s mother-in-law knew how to do hospitality. As our vicar preached a couple weeks ago, the four Galilean fishermen somehow had skills as fishermen that Jesus needed for God’s work.
You, too, have what you need to be an agent of God’s wholeness and healing, if you’ve ever experienced it yourself. No matter how isolated you feel right now, or how incompetent you think you are to serve Christ, in every interaction you have with someone you could be a sign of God’s wholeness and healing. You can be grace. And love. You can help those who feel exiled by being God’s home for them, bind up the brokenhearted and wounded by being God’s healing presence for them, maybe only for a moment. But that’s enough.
Because it’s still awfully dark out there, isn’t it?
There are so many daunting things, we can’t even count them, so many people hurting, sometimes even we ourselves, so many systems that need to be dismantled, we can’t imagine how to help or start.
But God counts the number of the stars, sings the psalmist, and calls them by their names. God knows all the faint and powerless, all the people of the world by name, Isaiah says. All the broken cities and exiles, all the brokenhearted and wounded, all of these God sees. Even in the dark.
And what God needs to reach them all is you, and me, and many more, as agents of God’s wholeness and healing to whomever we are with.
Don’t worry you’re not enough. You’ve got what God needs to bring wholeness in your place, and so do all God’s children, so that God’s good news can, as we prayed, finally reach the ends of God’s creation.
In the name of Jesus. Amen