2/8/2015 Fifth Sunday after Epiphany The text for today is Mark 1:29-39.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
This has been one, very hard winter for a whole bunch of people. First, there’s been the usual rash of flus and colds that seem to hang around forever. Then there have been problems with measles and a world-wide issue with ebola. There have been heart problems, problems with various types of cancer, and a resurgence of achy joints and sore backs coming from repeated shoveling after big storms. As if this were not enough, there have been a whole myriad of other ailments, some of which have required hospital stays and surgery. Surely, this has been one, very hard winter for a lot of people, and a lot of people have been searching for cures for whatever ails them.
Some go from doctor to doctor, looking for the one who will have the secret cure. Some swear by vitamin C or herbal remedies. Others try all sorts of alternative medicine, and see chiropractors, massage therapists and acupuncturists, while others try special diets and join spas that claim to offer health. Still others make the quacks, with their slick advertisements and unproven claims, rich. And most of us are quick to try the new and improved medication that is supposed to bring faster and better relief. For our emotional well-being and to sooth personal hurts, many buy the most recent pop psychology book and believe, for some time, at least, that it is the way to wholeness in our lives.
So, it’s really not surprising at all that Mark tells us of people, like you and me, swarming to Jesus to find a cure for what ails them. Earlier in Mark’s gospel, we hear about a poor fellow possessed by a demon, whom Jesus heals. And we are told that Jesus’ fame as a miracle worker, a great healer of sorts, is spreading through all of Judea. With this being the case, there’s no surprise that Jesus is rushed off to the home of Peter’s mother-in-law when word reaches Peter that she is sick and nearing death. When all else fails, you grasp for straws and reach out for help wherever you can find it no matter how far-fetched it may seem to others. When all the elixirs and diets, all the medication and the skills of physicians fail, and there is no place else to go, you turn to Jesus, not knowing that there is no better place to be than in the hands of God. For, Jesus responds to human need. He reaches out to those who seek him with a healing touch that is wrapped in a blanket of faith.
On that day, when Simon’s mother-in-law is ill, Jesus responds and the woman’s fever is quickly relieved. The room is soon crowded with others seeking a cure for what ailed them. The room is filled with the odor of disease. The air is thick with the cloud of suffering, and yet, they keep coming. A hand reaches out from here. A moan is heard from there. When morning finally breaks, Jesus is exhausted and needs to be replenished. So, he goes off to a lonely place to pray. But, he can find no solace, as people will not leave him alone. “They’re looking for you everywhere,” Peter says – for the demands of the suffering are unrelenting. And if one offers a cure which seems to work, then that person is swamped with our yearnings for health.
In Christ Jesus, we are shown how much God aches to free us from the prison of our ailments, whatever they may be. In Christ, God wants to restore us to wholeness and peace. God will not be content with us living a broken, hurting, and stifled existence. God will not rest as long as there is one suffering human creature on earth. God will use every means possible to reach the sick with a gift of health. And yet, people still get sick. And people die. And we occasionally have one of those very hard winters when the cold and flu season is worse than usual and all sorts of other medical problems pile on top.
In spite of all that Jesus is able to do as he lives among us, reality does not change. Jesus did not come to give us a rose garden. Jesus’ healings are just one expression of the gift of God’s presence. It is the announcement of God’s continuing presence – beyond today’s ailment – which brings wholeness to life. For, what God offered to us in Christ was not an instant cure-all. What God gave and still gives to us is the gift of himself – this is his love and his care. God offers his presence as we struggle with the issues of living in a real world.
Yes, God wants us to be healed and God provides healing, but maybe not always in the way we want. God desires heal and wholeness for us more than some wondrous cure for what ails us. God’s concern for us goes beyond our physical state and includes all that we are – body, mind and spirit.
Thanks to the discoveries of many physicians, we know how to cure many sick bodies. We have learned over the years how to help a sick mind. But, a soul that is hurting and damaged by others and the ravages of sin, requires special attention, and a cure that is available only through the love and care of God.
From the very beginning, God has been concerned about the whole person – for there is an innate sickness that needs to be cured before we are able to fully grasp God’s presence and welcome him into our lives. It’s the person who has a second chance at life who can really appreciate the value of it. It’s a person who has endured the shackles of slavery who can appreciate and enjoy the fresh air of freedom. It’s the lonely and depressed who have experienced the kindness of others who can know the power of human touch. It’s only when we have faced the reality of our own sickness that we are free to accept the unconditional love of a God who, in Christ Jesus, promises to stay with us beyond this life time – forever!
Jesus is never so far away that he is deaf to the cry of human suffering. There is hope beyond tomorrow, my friends. For, although life on this earth is terminal, life in Christ is everlasting. Turn to the Lord, my friends, in every need. For, he is there for you and me. And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.