McDowell Presbyterian Church

      

                                    


                                                                                                       BETH'S SERMON - FEBRUARY 4, 2018


MARK 1.29-34: 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 sunset, 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.

Real Proclamation = Real Change in Real Time

Jesus ‘proclaims’, that is, Jesus makes known, something of great importance – Jesus proclaims God’s good news for all people by his words and his deeds – by what he says and what he does.

Jesus’ new followers, as soon as they get to Peter’s house, tell Jesus that Peter’s mother is sick. As soon as he hears, Jesus goes to her, and there is healing in a mere touch, as he takes her hand and lifts her up. So too with the people who come to the house in the evening time – they come sick and broken and lost and leave whole and restored and found.

This is the enacting of what it means to ‘repent and believe’ – to turn towards this healing Jesus and act on what he says and does. Belief, for Jesus, is about getting out of bed once you’re healed.

Jesus is not a theoretician. He isn’t talking about change; rather he brings, he enacts, change – change to the good, change to the whole.

For every person, every testimony, about the saving work of Christ in a life, whether by miracle (an immediate and outside-the-laws-of-nature change) or by a slow evolution over time, the change moment is just that – but a moment.

The miracle or means of change is just a part of the story, not the point of the story. The point of the story is always what happens next – that is, what the person does with the change wrought in his/her life.

"God saved me and then . . ." is how it goes.

The point is this: Jesus is a proclamation – a statement, a declaration, a means of making known the things of God. He is both messenger and message.

And encounter with Jesus goes something like this:

Me. Me+Jesus = Me changed.

Jesus comes to us where we are – sick, broken, hurt and hurting . . . but Jesus never leaves us where we are.

Real proclamation equals real change in real time.

This change of encounter is something that can be seen as well as experienced. It is observed by others as well as by the one met. Jesus encounter is an observable phenomena.

Usually, I suspect, such change happens in the most ordinary of ways, as with Simon Peter’s own mother: she was so sick she couldn’t get out of bed and then suddenly, she was up walking around doing what she couldn’t do a moment before – fixing supper.

In the very first book of the bible, in Genesis, we are given the most important instruction we will ever receive about what it means to be on the receiving end of God’s grace: speaking to Abraham about the divine promise to establish Abraham as the father of nations, in Genesis 12, God tells Abraham, I will bless you . . . so that you will be a blessing.

Every blessing we receive into our lives is to be transmitted to others. That’s the very reason we receive the blessing in the first place – so that it may be shared with, bestowed upon, others.

The first step is encounter, meeting Jesus. The next step is grasping hold of the change he brings. Consider Simon’s mother when thinking of the changes Jesus has brought to you. Who, after all, healed of their sickness, stays in bed?

That wouldn’t make any sense at all, would it? But isn’t that what we do much of the time? Think not?

Consider forgiveness. Having been graced with forgiveness – both forgiveness for ourselves and with the grace and ability to bestow it upon others, how many of us refuse to forgive someone else? Refuse to extend this grace to others? Or even ourselves?

Did it never occur to us that to refuse to allow ourselves or others to be forgiven is like being healed as Simon’s mother was healed but refusing to get out of bed?

Or consider: how many of us, perfectly fine today, worry about tomorrow? Did it never occur to us that to worry about a tomorrow that may never come when we’re perfectly fine today is like being given the wings of an eagle yet refusing to fly?

God will allow us to wallow in our imaginary sick beds all we want. Yet surely even heaven itself must wonder why we would.

When Jesus said the kingdom of heaven is at hand, he wasn’t being theoretical. He wasn’t talking about the sweet by and by. He was talking about the hard, grubby here and now. We live in God’s kingdom today – not someday. And today and today and today, God’s own self has reached down and reached out to us, with a grand grace moved by a divine love.

In the words of Presbyterian clergyman and poet Henry VanDyke, Time is too slow for those who wait . . . too swift for those who fear . . . too short for those who rejoice . . . but for those who love, time is eternity.

Today and today and today God has taken our hand and lifted us up. And there is time and time enough for all we have to do. But first, we must recognize that we are healed and get out of bed!