Celebrity Jesus?

Mark 1:29-39
29As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.  32That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34And 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. 35In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” 38He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” 39And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

Epiphany5 / John Stiles / Holy Cross Lutheran Church / 2-5-11

Children’s Time: I brought my First Aid Kit to church today.  When you have a cut on your arm or leg, what’s the first thing you should do?  Yes, ask mom or dad for help!  And what will they do?  Put a bandage on it?  Ask you, “what happened?” And make it better.  Jesus does the same in our lesson today.  He helps Simon’s mother, who is sick.  He finds out what happened (she had a fever) and he helps her up.  And you know what?  She gets up and serves them.  When you meet someone who is hurting, you can do the same.  Ask them what happened and help make it better by serving.

Intro: Dear friends in Christ: grace to you and peace, from the One who is and who was and who is to come: our living Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Have you ever wondered what being a celebrity would be like? On the one hand, it might be nice to be famous – to have adoring fans who support your work and like you a lot – you would probably be paid well to travel and speak at events or on TV. But on the other hand, being a celebrity must really stink. You can never go out in public without people pestering you or asking for an autograph. “Don’t I know you?” Or, “You know, you look a lot like ____.” And once they know who you are, you’re done for. You might as well take cover. Wear sunglasses. Whatever it takes. “Just leave me alone, why don’t you! Can’t a guy get any peace and quiet around here?”

That’s kind of how I envision Jesus in our lesson for today. He’s only barely begun in his ministry and already he needs to get away from it all. Early in the morning while it was still dark he took off by himself to pray. When the disciples finally caught up with him, they said, “Everyone is searching for you!” It’s no surprise, either, since just the night before the whole city was gathered outside his front door! Jesus brought healing to them. He cast out demons and restored people to their families.

So what does he say? “Give me a break, guys! Let’s go the neighboring towns. I’ve had enough of these people.” No, he says, “Let’s go the neighboring towns, for that is what I came to do.” The message was meant for everyone. From the very beginning, Jesus kept it on the move. And those he encountered along the way were never the same again.

The poet, Maya Angelou, once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” How did Jesus make people feel?  Do you think we’ll ever know?  We have the words he said – we know the deeds he did – but imagine how he made people feel! Taking Simon’s mother-in-law by the hand, he raised her up and the fever left her.

Being famous was never the goal. Being faithful to the mission to spread the good news, bringing healing to the sick – that’s where it was at for Jesus. And that mission hasn’t changed in 2000 years. When he ascended into heaven, leaving the disciples standing there on that hillside, Jesus said, “Go make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” This mission he started was to be completed by his followers (that’s us) by the power of the Holy Spirit.

So, we go to the hospital rooms and join hands to pray for the sick. We bow our heads when natural disasters strike and pray for healing and comfort to those who have lost everything. We ourselves are lifted up from what we could not heal from ourselves and are sent to serve others. There is nothing so compelling as a person who has a story of healing to tell. And tells it. A story of a life restored and of finding one’s purpose!  We do know how it feels to meet Jesus, because he lives through our faith and the stories of others’ faith.

So, do we dare to pray for healing, as those who brought the sick to Jesus?

As far as I can tell, Jesus healed people instantly. But there was another side to his healing that we rarely saw: the restoring of that person to the community. Healing meant a person was well enough to re-enter life in the community. One’s whole purpose in life is bound by a calling – what they were meant to be and to do. Healing restores not only the health of a person – but their purpose in life as well. You can go back to work. You can start playing the piano again. You can now read the newspaper after those pesky cataracts were removed.

We, as a nation, have yet to fully grieve the events of September 11th, 2001 and to heal as a nation. After being struck a severe blow to our defenses at the World Trade Center, America struck back with 10 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. But has it brought healing and restored community? As we speak, a groundswell of protest and government crackdowns are unfolding in Syria. King Assad of Syria rules with terror – killing his own people for speaking out and exercising the freedoms we so often take for granted. And now, Israel is threatening military action against Iran over its development of nuclear weapons. All around the world people use fear and intimidation to influence one another.

But Jesus’ reign will not be marked by brutal retaliation, fear and violence. He comes with healing in his hands and restores people to their community. And those who are made well, rise up in service (as did Simon’s mother-in-law). Rather than lash out with vengeance, we as a nation must reach out in service and hope with a clear purpose for the United States in the world’s arena.

How does this translate in our own community? We as a church have come through a difficult year, both economically and with internal conflict over issues of leadership. But the same teaching holds true. Jesus healing ought to propel us into service!

This coming Lenten season, we are making listening the theme. Each Wednesday night worship will focus on a different Bible character who had a lesson to learn in listening. In addition, we will host a series of Cottage Meetings held in people’s homes to open up some conversation on what God is calling this church to be and to do in the coming years. Listening is a big part of that – listening for God and to each other. I hope you’ll take part in one of those sessions.

Now, I know that healing doesn’t happen overnight. It takes care of the wounded through prayer and listening. We take small steps before we can put our full weight upon the task of our mission once again. As with any broken bone, you don’t get back up and go running without some time on crutches or physical therapy.

But run we will.

“They that wait upon the Lord,” the scriptures promise, “shall renew their strength. They shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not faint.” When we look to Jesus, the source of all healing and strength, we are renewed.

This goes for personal life as well. Where is healing most needed in your life – in your home – in your school – in your workplace? How might your presence in those places be a force for healing and well-being? How will you listen to your life – and to those around you – for the healing that needs to happen through the power of the Holy Spirit?

We live in a culture of celebrity, a culture that is mesmerized by fame and fixated on who’s in rehab and whose marriages lasted the shortest.

But what we have to offer comes from a much deeper place. A place of humility and vulnerability. A place where God reached out to us when we could not help ourselves. And. Healed. Us.

Let us rise in service to others with this remarkable story of good news and healing for all people.
Amen.

Now, the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds together as one in Christ, Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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