In Isaiah it is the one God who sits above the earth and numbers the stars – it is that God who strengthens the powerless. So in Jesus’ healing work we see the hand of the creator God, lifting up the sick woman to health and service (diakonia). Like Simon’s mother-in-law, we are lifted up to health and diakonia. Following Jesus, we strengthen the powerless, like Jesus, we seek to renew our own strength in quiet times of prayer.
Today’s texts grapple with how, despite the epiphany of God that proclaim His rule, the world of every time and place lacks justice, equality and fairness causing so much human suffering. If we listen to today’s passages, they had the same bitter complaints about continued suffering. Some of those complaints rose to be heard by God Himself. They asked – If God really is sovereign, why is there still suffering?
In Isaiah, God is set above the earth and numbers the stars. View the universe as we are only beginning to thanks to the awesome pictures we are getting from space. That is the God who strengthens the powerless and acts on their behalf. Hear the words of our church fathers: “I believe in God the Father Almighty, creator of Heaven and earth. Can we believe these words of the first Article of the Creeds? How can it be true, we ask, when whole chunks of experience suggest otherwise? This is where faith meets life.
In Mark, sit at the bed side with Simon’s mother in law. Know in Jesus’ healing work the hand of the creator God, as He lifts up the sick woman to health and restores her to service (diakonia) giving her value, worth and dignity. Like Simon’s mother-in-law, we are lifted up, restored and called to service (diakonia). In service we to will know value, worth and dignity. Follow Jesus outside for a quiet prayer to be renewed, refreshed and strengthen. We like Him need to go to a quiet place and pray.
Put yourself into these lessons. Hear and feel the revelations they give to us. Enter into these stories with imagination, and expect to be moved. Let a sense of tenderness engulf you. And if it brings tears to your eyes you know you are in touch with what these stories are about.
Focus on Mark’s story. Move slowly with me as Jesus steps to the bedside of Peter’s mother-in-law and takes her hand. Look at the hands. See nothing else, just the hands. Visualize His hands first. . . and then hers. What do you see? Can you feel the gentleness of his hand as he reaches to her. Sense the expectation, the hope that is in hers. Look at your hands. Feel Jesus putting His hand on yours.
Imagine Jesus’ face. What do you see? Is it tense or relaxed? Can you sense the gentleness of his hand matched by the compassion in his eyes? And what is in her eyes? Is there hope, peace or is there Confusion, fear and uncertainty? Do you sense she has been shown compassion?
Anyone who has ever suffered a fever knows that it drains every ounce of strength from your limbs and strips all resolve from your will. You want to get up and do something but. . . you don’t, you can’t. You do nothing.
Laid low by fever, the woman’s strength and life are depleted. But there is more she has lost. Her role and purpose in the community are lost. Her calling and honor, dignity and joy were to share hospitality to guests in her home. This is all gone. What does she have left for her self-esteem?
Jesus gives her life back to her, all that gives her meaning, purpose and identity. She is restored to her place in the world. He lifts her, and her strength returns. Joy fills her. This, too, we know for we have experienced it. When fevers lift we are happy. We too realize how wonderful it is just to feel “normal” again, to feel alive again.
But healing is much more than a return to normal life and living. If you have ever been healed from something that puts you in touch with death itself you know healing releases joy from the depths of your soul. It stirs immense energy and desire to do something, to serve someone, to share the exhilaration of having been given back your life.
Released and restored, she serves them – in her way. She prepares a meal for them. There is nothing demeaning in this simple every day task. Remember the angels who minster to Jesus in his forty days of wilderness temptation (Mark 1:13). She is like them. Mark uses the same word for her service as for that of the angels. We hear this word when Jesus says; the greatest of all is servant of all (10:43-45).
Theologically we say – Filled with the Spirit, Jesus’ touch lifts human hearts from the fevers that kill the soul and drain our joy. He comes with infinite tenderness to heal us, to lift us up so that we might live and serve knowing the exhilaration of those who have been set free.
We suffer many fevers: letting small things get in the way, miss information, pettiness, striving for power and control, anxieties at work and home, the unrelenting speed of life, the sinking sense that we can’t get everything done, fear that the world (at least our personal world) is spinning out of control, the sad despondency of fearing our struggles will never get any better, the side effects of medications. All these and many more can be added as fevers that distract and are causes of conflict.
Healing is found in the tenderness of Jesus’ hand as he enfolds the hand of Peter’s mother-in-law. We enter his healing when we see his hand is extended to us. We participate in his healing when we extend our hands to share God’s healing peace. Our hands, our words bear the infinite compassion of the one who sets us free to live and love and share the Spirit within us.
God the creator has overcome the chaos of the void and made a world of awesome beauty and astounding intricacy and order. That same God is our redeemer who has overcome in Christ the chaos of sin and death to make a new and everlasting creation. Therefore I need not worry. I am free to serve and let God be God.
The psalmist declares: “How good it is to sing praises to our God; for he is gracious” (Psalm 147:1, NRSV). SO then, let us worship.
We have three birthdays today. Happy Birthday to Nancy Smith, born on February 7; to LuAnn Kochis, born on February 9; and to Janet Heier, born on February 10. God’s blessing on all!