Guest Preacher - Theology Sunday - Margaret Trim, VST

Guest Preacher - Theology Sunday - Margaret Trim, VST

I pray that the words that I speak and the meditations upon our hearts be acceptable to You O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.

First, I want to thank you for inviting me to be with you today.  This Sunday is significant in two ways.  In terms of the Christian calendar, today is the 5th Sunday after Epiphany.  In terms of Vancouver School of Theology’s calendar, today is Theological Education Sunday.  Faculty, Staff, and students have spread wide across the lower mainland to share the Good News.  The good news of Jesus Christ and the good news that you are all invited to VST for one of our many continuing education offerings or to complete a Master’s degree in Theological Studies.  As a staff member and an alum, I thank you for your support.

And actually this Sunday is significant in three ways as I understand that today, here at St. Martin’s is Vestry Sunday.  Now I have been invited to reflect on the Gospel of Mark and for that I am grateful but given today’s Vestry Sunday, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear a few unspoken thoughts of “so make it short preacher.”  So let’s get started. Sometimes when I read the text that has been set out by the Lectionary, I wonder why the text started or stopped in such and such a place and think, “why lectionary why, you left out the juicy bits.”  The bits that that seem to bring the whole section together, or bring more understanding or closure. But then there are other times where there is so much in the texts that I wonder why couldn’t they have given us a few less verses.  And today this is one of those times.  Yes – only ten verses but chockablock full. 

The passage begins sometime in the afternoon on the Sabbath.  The time at the synagogue is over and Simon Peter and Andrew have invited Jesus, James, and John to their home. Simon’s mother in law is sick with fever and they have let Jesus know of this at once. Now in that time, a fever could mean many things but always an illness not a symptom of an illness. A fever as in a cold or flu, a fever as in what is now known as mental illness, a fever as in the presence of a demonic or evil spirit, or as in the hard state of one’s life – Job considered the whole state of his life a fever.

Simon’s mother in law was sick with a fever. Whatever the type, she was sick and Jesus went to her. He took her by the hand and lifted her up and the fever left her. Now this might not sound like that big of a deal except that in Greek the same verb for “lifted up” is used in the story of the lifting up of the little girl who had died that comes in Mark Chapter 5. It is a lifting from sickness and death into new life, even as in Jesus’ own resurrection story. The power that was revealed in Jesus’ healing miracles is the same power that God raised Jesus from the dead. And the fever leaving her matches the leaving of the unclean spirit from the demoniac in the synagogue, the story heard in last week’s Gospel reading.

So, this is definitely more than a little deal. This is a death to life kind of deal. And how did Simon’s mother-in-law respond? We read, “and she began to serve them.” No apparent fanfare. No calling her friends to tell them what happened, (like what seemed to have happened after the synagogue healing). No just the simple act of serving them.

Simple, no big deal. Umm maybe not. Again, those darn words in Greek tell us a much bigger story than in our English translations. The verb for serving was used to describe the action of the angels tending to Jesus after his testing in the wilderness. And it mirrors Jesus’ own action of tending to the people who later that evening, after the Sabbath, gathered outside Simon’s house to be healed. The whole city was gathered around the door and Jesus healed many who were sick with various diseases and he cast out many demons.

In an instant the cosmic battle is being played out. On one side stands the fevers, the demons, the various illnesses, the pain, the sorrow, and death. On the other side stands Jesus, the angels, and those that have been healed and now following the call to go and do likewise.

Jesus allowed the whole city to come to him. But he did not allow the demons to speak. He did not let them speak because they knew who he was.  Well what’s that about? How could the demons know who Jesus was when it seemed that even Jesus’ friends didn’t really know.  His friends didn’t understand that Jesus was doing the work of the Kingdom and not being held hostage by people or by the needs of the people. The disciples were focused on the miracles, on the crowds, on the lets see that again. They did not understand the real reason that Jesus had come.  

The demons knew that Jesus was the Holy One of God.  The demons knew that true authority was in their presence and they could do nothing but shout out to be freed. However, the time had not come for his identity to be revealed.  

Early the next morning, the friends even interrupted Jesus’ quiet time of prayer. They didn’t come as angels attending. They hunted him down – so that he could perform more miraculous healings. He was being offered more fame. He could remain in a place of triumph just as he had been promised in the wilderness. The whole city could be his if he bowed down. Look how all these people come to you. They need you. Look what power you can have over them.  

But Jesus did not return to Capernaum that morning. No, he moved on to the neighboring towns throughout Galilee to proclaim the message that the Kingdom of God has come. He did not stay to be known as the miracle man in Capernaum. No he went so that more might hear the message and be healed.  

But if the purpose of Jesus’ ministry is to proclaim the Kingdom of God, and we too have been given that mandate, why was the rest of the passage so focused on the healing of illness, of fevers, of demons?  And does it still hold true today that Jesus does not want those demons to speak for they know who he is?

My heart grapples with this for we know we are not yet living in a time that is free from illness, and heartache, and there are still cosmic battles between darkness and light.  We know that we are not yet living in a time that the name of Jesus no longer brings scorn or derision or unbelief.  And so, I wonder if this passage is still for such a time as this?

Well we may not look at fevers in the same way that they once did. We may not think that healing is needed in the same way anymore.  But we most definitely still need to look at those dark places in our heart and minds. As Anglicans we don’t often talk about evil, but we are aware of the need to release the spirit of shame, loneliness, cruelty, envy, and pain. We know that disease and mental illness still wreak havoc on our minds and bodies. We know that that there are some who look upon the state of their lives and see a reality like Job’s.

And we might not seek confession as we once did but even if we don’t go to God to confess, God comes to us in love and invites the confession out of us.  And even when we wish we could hide those parts of ourselves, those dark places and spirits seem even more prepared to offer themselves to Jesus than we would on our own accord. And all parts of us, in the presence of love, long to be redeemed and lifted up.

And as we open ourselves to the healing power of God – Jesus does come and takes our hand and lifts us up. Jesus’ presence in our lives invites the Spirit to well up within us.  God’s presence in us invites the Spirit of joy, of gratitude, of hope, and of service.

We are invited into the reality that the Kingdom of God is here and we are part of it.  Just as Jesus came to proclaim the Kingdom of God, we too are invited into that ministry.

And so, I pray for you, my friends, the people of St. Martin’s. I pray that you will know the healing hand of God so that you can’t help but share the good news. May it be contagious! May it be fever-lifting, life-changing, and angel attending. Amen.