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Epiphany 5B RCL February 8, 2015

Isaiah 40:21-31
Psalm 147:1-12, 41c
1 Corinthians 9:16-23
Mark 1:29-39

Our first reading today dates back to the time of the Exile in Babylon. The powerful Babylonian Empire swept in, attacked, and eventually leveled the temple in Jerusalem. Then they deported the people to a foreign land where they somehow had to survive for several decades.

During the Exile, the people studied the scriptures and prayed and tried to keep their faith and their community together. But, after a while, they began to feel that God has abandoned them. God no longer cared about them. God had forgotten them.

Today’s reading is God’s response. The captives are going to return home. God reminds them and us of God’s majesty and power. God does not grow faint or weary. but God gives strength to those whose energy is flagging. How many times have we gone through a tough time in our lives and wondered where is God in all of this? Then, after we have journeyed through the difficult time, we realize that God was there leading and helping us all the time. As the poem Footprints says, God never leaves us, but sometimes there is only one set of footprints because God is carrying us.

God gives us the power to fly on eagles’ wings.

In our epistle, Paul is under attack. He feels free to eat food that has been sacrificed to idols if, by doing so, he can bring someone into the community of the faithful. He says, “I have become all things to all people that I night by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel….”

Paul is a Jew, a Pharisee, yet he has become the apostle to the gentiles. He is able to walk in the shoes of the people he meets. He shares meals with them, and, if they are eating meat sacrificed to idols, he is not going to make a big fuss over that. For him, God is the only God and every gift comes from God. So he eats and talks with folks and shares about Jesus, and the next thing you know, they want to join the community of faith. He has a right to receive financial support from the community, but he continues to work as a tentmaker because this helps him to meet people and spread the good news. Everything he does is to build up the Body of Christ. Paul gives us a powerful example to follow.

In our gospel, Jesus has just been in the synagogue, where he taught and then freed a man from a demon. Now he goes to the home of Peter and Andrew. He goes from a public space into a private space among friends where , we think, he might get a few moments of rest.But that is not going to happen. Peter’s mother-in-law is in bed with a fever. There is a need for healing.

He takes her by the hand and lifts her up. Let us just imagine this for a moment. We are in bed feeling feverish and unwell and unable to do our normal work, and Jesus comes in and stretches out his hand and lifts us up, What an image. Think of the touch of his hand, the love, the healing power that flows into us.

How difficult it is for us when we are feeling weak or ill or discouraged or maybe even abandoned by God to realize that God is right here with us. Jesus is stretching out his hand to heal us, to give us strength, to lift us up.

Yet we feel we have to do it ourselves, or we feel that we are on our own, that God has more important things to do, or that God has wound up the universe like a clock and has walked off and left it to operate on its own. But no, there is Jesus, reaching out to us. There is his hand, ready to heal us and lift us up.

She gets up. The fever leaves her and she begins to serve them. She gets back to her ministry, The Greek work used here is diakonia, service. We do not know her name, but Peter’s mother-in-law is a disciple and a deacon.

Then the scene changes. At sundown, they bring many people to him who need healing and wholeness. And he touches them all and heals them. The whole city is gathered at the door. He must be very tired after all this. But in the morning when it is still dark, he goes to a deserted place to pray. Jesus is constantly doing this—going apart where he can be quiet and pray. He needs to be renewed and re-energized. He needs to be in the presence of God.

And then Peter wants him to go back because even more people have come to be healed. And healing is a good thing to do, but it is not the core of his mission. William Barclay says that the people are in away using Jesus. They want that quick fix—the healing—but they are not making a commitment to follow Jesus and help him build his kingdom. Barclay writes, “God is not someone to be used in the day of misfortune; he is someone to be loved and remembered every day of our lives.” (William Barclay, The Gospel of Mark, p. 40.)

Jesus does not stay and continue to heal, as important as that is. He is called to go to new places and spread the good news of the kingdom, the shalom of God. He tells the people that the kingdom of

God is in their midst. And he invites them and us to offer ourselves to be transformed and to bring his vision of shalom to reality.

May we follow him, May we build his shalom. Amen.

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