Sunday, February 9, 2003

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

He healeth the broken in heart, And bindeth up their wounds.

Peter's mother-in-law was ill with a fever. While that may not seem like much of a problem to us in today's world, fevers were often fatal to those who lived before modern medicine. She could not take a couple of Tylenol and call the doctor in the morning. When Jesus heard of her illness, He went to her, took her hand and helped her up. For Jesus, the healing was that simple. She was well enough to be a mom again, to serve the disciples a meal after their visit to the synagogue.

Many women respond to this story with the same thoughts. "The woman just got over being sick. Can't they make their own dinner and let her rest?" Just goes to show you how we put ourselves into these stories. How many moms have dealt with the same thing? No matter how sick we are, the children need to be fed and the clothes need to be washed. We need to be on our deathbed before we get a chance to rest and recuperate. This perspective is considered in jest, but isn't there always some truth to our humor?

Yet, this isn't a story about men looking for a woman to be their servant. It is about the caring, healing touch of Jesus and how we respond to it. Peter's mother-in-law was so thankful to be healed that she used her gifts to serve the disciples. Jesus' healing was so complete that He lifted her from her sick bed. She responded with her life. What a joy it is to be able to do what we have been called and gifted to do! But we can't without the healing touch of Jesus. He frees us from whatever keeps us bound in this world, lifts us up so that we can go out and serve those to whom we have been sent.

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul talks about our response to the healing touch of Jesus. He reminds us that we have been freed from our bondage so that we will share the love of God with others and bring them to Christ. Paul writes, "For though I was free from all men, I brought myself under bondage to all, that I might gain the more." He is not bound by any rules or law to do what he does, he is simply responding to the love and mercy of God in Christ Jesus as he is able. That love and mercy flows from him to the lives of others, as he identifies with their own bondage, heals them with God's word and lifts them with the Gospel into new life.

Paul's words are somewhat difficult for us to understand, they seem wishy washy to our modern ways of thought. We want everyone to pick a side and stick with it. After all, if you aren't with us, you must be against us, right? This is why it is so easy for us to fall into the fallacy that God's love is only for those who are like us. But God's ways are unfathomable to our human minds. Isaiah writes, "Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard? The everlasting God, Jehovah, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary; there is no searching of his understanding.  He giveth power to the faint; and to him that hath no might he increaseth strength."

We are all weak. We are all in need of the healing touch of Jesus. There are none who can stand against the wrath of God or understand the depth of His love. There are none to whom we can compare the Lord, for He is our Creator and Redeemer. He frees us from everything that binds us, so that we will rise into new life and worship Him with our lives. Isaiah continues, "Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: but they that wait for Jehovah shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint."

As we look at the stories in the scriptures, we do see them through our own eyes. We see that poor women getting up to serve when she should be recuperating, but when we do that we miss the joy she has in her salvation. She didn't have to go cook dinner for the boys, she gave herself and her gifts to those she loves. Jesus healed her and lifted her to new life and she responded with joy and thanksgiving. Paul was freed and he responded with his whole life, willingly submitting himself to others for the sake of the Gospel. 

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