INSIGHTS: Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, Year B

Insights for the
Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B
February  5, 2012

Lord, you do not faint or grow weary;
 your understanding is unsearchable.
You give power to the faint, and you
 strengthen the powerless.[i]  Amen

The scriptures for this Sunday point us away from self and towards God. To do what God has called us to do and/or to endure the various difficulties and injustices present in society (“the world”), we must depend on God, aligning our will with the Divine will. Only God can supply the strength, patience and courage mortals need; only God has the capability to transform the human heart and provide true justice.[ii]

The poetry of Isaiah always moves me. “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.”(Isaiah 40:28) These words grab the listener (reader) forcing one to remember the power and fathomless depth of God’s love and concern.  How do we come to know this God, who removes the bondage of fear and sorrow? We know and are known from years of living with God’s people (remember that faithful company we learned about last week?) and observing God’s work in the world. As we practice the faith, we learn to trust this everlasting God and when we do, we are lifted up on eagles’ wings and do not grow weary (Isaiah 40:31).[iii]

In 1Corinthians 9 Paul proclaims the freedom that comes from being God’s messenger. Paul could no more stop sharing the Good News than he could stop breathing; it would be agony for him not to preach. He needs no compensation save the Grace of God; he has no earthly master and therefore is free to be servant to all. (vss.16-19).  He wants the Corinthians (and us) to understand that how the community chooses to live their life together and how they relate to each other is how God chooses to heal the world.

Paul doesn’t expect everyone to agree; his challenge to us (the Corinthians) is to fully identify with others regardless of how they think.  If we are truly Christ in the world (and we are!) we must be ready to act on the behalf of those with whom we disagree.[iv] We are all members of the Body of Christ; that body must be whole and well so that the world will be transformed by the everlasting love of God.

I was recently made aware of the almost over-powering sense of urgency in this first chapter of Mark.[v] The Gospel writer gives quick concise descriptions of the first days (weeks) of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus is on a mission, he is about his Father’s work and there is no time to waste! Like his later disciple Paul he just has to spread the Good News!

In this week’s lesson (Mark 1:29- 39) Jesus and his disciples left the synagogue and went “straight away” to the house of Simon and Andrew.  Simon’s mother-in-law was ill. Wasting no time Jesus took her by the hand and healed her. She immediately arose and showed her gratitude with action by tending to their needs. This is how Christ continues to enter into our lives; taking hold, healing all our hurts and infusing us with a passionate desire to serve. If we look closely at these ten verses they can be an example of how the church (the Body of Christ) and we, its members, can be “Christ in the world”. After proclaiming God’s word and demonstrating  God’s healing grace in the house of  worship (vss. 21-28), he tends to the needs of those who serve  and follow him ( his “household“, so to speak) enabling  them to serve God and each other.  He then tends to his own spiritual needs by drawing away for prayer and discernment (vs.35) Simon and his companions find him, saying “everyone is looking for you!”  It’s not clear if  “everyone” is Simon’s family or the members of the synagogue in Capernaum or both. But Jesus does not want God’s healing grace to be contained in one place[vi]  He wants to move on, seek out the neighboring towns and spread the word, “for that is what I came to do!”

As a child of the TV era, I tend to envision this with the theme of Rawhide ringing in my ears. “Head ‘em on up! Move ‘em on out!”  He wants his disciples then and now to keep on “moving, moving, moving! And “so he went through all of Galilee preaching in the synagogues and driving out demons”.  Sometimes modern Christians have difficulty with terms like “driving out demons”. Again many of us have big screen images of Linda Blair, turning her head backwards and vomiting green liquid, embedded in our memories.  But if we back up to last week’s reading (vss. 21-28), we see that what Jesus did was set afflicted minds straight.  Like with Simon’s mother-in-law, he took hold and healed. The crazy thoughts that kept the man (or was it the crowd?) fearful, disruptive and skeptical, of and toward Jesus, were removed, setting him (them) free to love and serve the Lord.

It is easy to forget, amid the familiarity of our ordinary lives, that we practice an amazing, earth-shattering, transforming faith. Every day we bring Christ to the world, as others bring Christ to us. Every day we entertain angels unaware and every day miracles large and small happen all around us. The very good news is the Good News. We do not bring these things about by our will but by the Divine Will. When we grow weary and all humans grow weary (especially when doing “good deeds”), God does not ever grow weary. Christ continues to take hold of us, heal us and fill us with the passionate call to serve God. How could we not?

Thank you for being constant throughout the ages.
When we are friendless, you are our friend.
When we are orphaned, you are our parent.
When we are happy. you are our joy.
When we are homeless, you are our home. Amen[vii]

[i] Daily Feast– Year B,  p. 111
[ii] Preaching God’s Transforming Justice,  p. 88
[iii] Ibid #1
[iv] Ibid p. 115
[v] Michael Stone’s Sermon,  Jan 29, 2012
[vi] Ibid # 1 p. 118
[vii]  Like Breath and Wate:, Praying with Africa,  p. 85

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