Sunday, February 8, 2009

Lessons Learned at Big Mama's House


Fifth Sunday After Epiphany
Mark 1:29-39 (NRSV)

The healing of Peter's mother-in-law

As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And 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.

In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, "Everyone is searching for you." He 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." And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.


Wow! Isn’t today’s lectionary scripture just full of excitement? As we read, we find that Jesus has become quite the man around town. In just a few short hours he’s taught in the synagogue and healed a man afflicted with an unclean spirit. After such a long day of ministry you would think that Jesus would want to go home and take a nap, but he didn’t do that. Instead, he did what most of us are going to do today after church. He went to a friend’s house expecting to eat.

In the African American church we call this tradition “Sunday dinner.” You know what I’m talkin’ about! Like me, you probably remember when you were a child and Mama got up at 5:00 in the morning and started makin’ preparation for Sunday dinner. The turkey went in the oven, the greens got to cooking on the stove, and the rolls were set to rise. Once everything that could be prepared early was on the stove or in the oven, everybody washed up, got dressed, and went to church.

I don’t know about you, but when I was a child all I could think about during church (when I wasn’t praying and singing that is—laughing…) was getting back home to Sunday dinner. I loved Sunday dinner not just because the food was tight (because it was), but also because it meant that the whole family was going to be around the table.

I knew friends who had mom and dad, sisters and brothers, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins galore all around the big Sunday table. It was a huge family reunion filled with laughter, joy, and good food all around…

Since Jesus was ready for some Sabbath dinner, he took himself--and his disciples--over to Big Mama’s house. Scripture doesn’t tell us her name; only that she was Simon’s mother-in-law. But, she musta been somebody’s cook because the scripture says, “As soon as” Jesus left the synagogue he headed straight to Big Mama’s house.

Now when he got there, Jesus must have been surprised because nothing was cooking. There were no sweet smells. There was no preparation made for his coming. It might have even been quieter in the house than normal and when he inquired, he was told, “Big Mama’s sick.” How sad that must have been for Simon and those assembled. Because if Big Mama was anything like the Big Mama’s I have known in my life she was probably associated with big hugs, a big laugh, and big meals that brought everybody together.

Well, scripture teaches us that as soon as Jesus was “informed” (you do know he already knew, but allowed them to tell him all the same), he got straight to work. Jesus went into Big Mama’s room (most assuredly breaking the social customs of the time) and took her hand and lifted her up off of her bed of affliction. Now here’s where you must remember the song, “He touched me.”

The chorus goes, “He touched me! Oh! He touched me! And oh what joy did flood my soul…Something happened and now I know! He touched me and made me whole!” Is that anybody’s testimony today? Have you ever been touched by the Master?

When Jesus touches you, you cannot remain the same. When Jesus touches you, your life is changed irrevocably. When Jesus touches you, you leap to your feet ready for service!

And this is just what happened to Simon’s Big Mama! Scripture teaches us that just as soon as Jesus healed her, she began to serve him. This is one of the most important lessons from today’s pericope. Jesus touches us, heals us, lifts us up, turns us around—not so that we can have bragging rights, or because he loves us more than others, but because HE WANTS US TO BE OF SERVICE TO HIM.

Now do we serve him in order to repay a debt? Of course not! Salvation and healing from Jesus is a free gift given with no expectation of return. So, if Jesus has blessed your socks off you could just sit there on your hands and do nothing to share that GOOD NEWS. But, that would be a terrible way to live, wouldn’t it?

How could you keep such GOOD NEWS to yourself? You couldn’t! The only response to experiencing the radical love of God as revealed by Jesus Christ on the cross and in his miraculous healing power is to immediately begin to serve Jesus.

We must begin to spread the GOOD NEWS everywhere we go; we must become partners with God in sharing the greatest love story that has ever been told. We are invited to tell somebody, “God is good, all the time--and all the time God is good!” You get to share with people who are down- and-out that Jesus is no respecter of persons. In effect we get to tell everybody that we meet that, “If Jesus did it for me he’ll do it for you too!”

Well, apparently a whole lot of folks began to serve Jesus after witnessing the miracle at the synagogue and then hearing about the miracle at Simon’s house. So many people heard the good news that by nightfall the whole city was gathered outside the door.

Are you surprised by this? I’m not. Who doesn’t need a word or a touch from the Master? Who wouldn’t want to just get into his presence? The folks in the town brought the sick, the lame, the diseased, and the dis-eased and Jesus healed them.

But, here’s the interesting part. After Jesus spent the night healing; he did not sleep-in the next morning as you might expect. Instead, scripture teaches us that early in the morning (likely while it was still dark so he could slip away unnoticed), Jesus went to a solitary place to pray.

Jesus was depleted. He had given his all in service. He was tired, likely in body, mind, and spirit and he just needed to recharge--all by himself. To commune with the three persons of the one trinity. And so he did.

Now if Jesus, who is Alpha and Omega, needed to recharge in the presence of God through prayer, how much more so do we frail and sinful humans need to do the same? My friends, it is good to be of service to Jesus. It is good to bear witness to the GOOD NEWS everywhere that you go. It is good to pray for others. It is good to give drink to the thirsty, food to the hungry, clothes to the naked, homes to the homeless, and visit the sick and imprisoned. But after you do, please make sure you go to a solitary place and pray. You don’t want to burn out. You don’t want to lose your passion. You don’t want to forget why you do what you do—or your fire will grow dim and perhaps even burn out…

Now, let me close with this last thought. After Jesus prayed and was recharged he said to his disciples, “Even though we did a lot of work on yesterday, there is still more work to do. Let us get moving friends! There are others who need to hear the GOOD NEWS!”

This is the final lesson from today’s text. There are always others who need to hear the GOOD NEWS. There are always others who need to be healed in the Name of Jesus. There are always others who need to know and believe that God loves them more than they could ever hope or imagine and he proved it on Calvary’s cross.

This Sunday, let us get recharged through the ministry of Word and Sacrament, so that we can go back out into the world to be of service to God and to our neighbors.

Let’s spread the GOOD NEWS, shall we?

*The entire scripture reading for today can be found by clicking the ELCA Daily Bible Reading Tab to the right.

*from Pastor Yolanda's blog

*EACH ONE--REACH ONE! To share GOOD NEWS with a friend please click the "Share With Friends" button to the right! Thanks for reading and please come again.

*Pastor Yolanda extends a very special welcome to our friends reading outside of the United States of America! We are honored that you are sharing with us today.

*Check out the map to the right! Do you know anyone in Canada, Alaska, Greenland, South America, Australia, Africa, Western Europe, or Asia that you can share GOOD NEWS with today?

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