Mark 1:29-39

Jesus Heals Many at Simon’s House

29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31 He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

32 That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34 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.

A Preaching Tour in Galilee

35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37 When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” 38 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.” 39 And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

This question of becoming is interesting to me. What are we becoming, not only as persons, but as a church?  I have often thought about the many influences on my life, both good and bad, and how they shape me.  What are those influences that are shaping us as a church?  Comparisons, numbers, business models, or church models that we’ve never questioned?

I know that I want my life to matter.  And for our church to matter. I am fairly confident, that on most days at least, that I am becoming the person that I want to be, that there is momentum towards being the person that I’m called to be…and the same for our church… 

Every day when I run, I pray for myself, others, my family, and for this church, I usually pray variations of the same thing, “God may my son or daughter become the person that they’ve always wanted to become, the person you created them to be.”

In addition to my prayer for our kids and family, I pray daily for the three things that Benedictine monks commit to: stability, obedience, and conversion. Conversion is a good word. It’s a constant in our lives that, if recognized, welcomed, and cultivated, can lead to a deep sense of growth. No matter how old you are or how much you think you’ve settle, our lives, especially when illuminated by God, are meant for continual growth and conversion, or a sense of always becoming. 

Our lectionary today also has a passage from Isaiah.  It gives us a snapshot of how God carries us and forgives (actually, the same word in Hebrew). This is an amazing God, a powerful God, a God of limitless possibilities. Yet, this is a God who identifies with us, even youths grow weary, but God carries us and protects us under God’s wings. With those same wings, God wants us to soar, to become who were created to be. 

We seem to get tired a lot though don’t we?  Especially in this season as continue to experience the pandemic, injustices in our society, and political unrest and a culture that seems to constantly to be moving faster than we can keep up.  

Our lives are filled with anxiety and that anxiety can come out in ways that we don’t expect, or in settings that can catch us off guard. Sometimes those anxieties can lead us to react in ways that we may not have intended. Yet, this God says to us that God’s big enough to handle every part of us, that when we are weary, that God will carry us. 

As a congregation here at Fleming Road, we have had some anxiety, some weariness over the years, and especially in this season. You have been through a lot of transition and struggle.  I know there is a lot of grieving, not just over physical deaths, but there are other kinds of grieving as well in transitions. We have to experience loss in this life, yet even in loss and grief, there can be hope for growth of some kind, hope for new life to spring up, and new adventures even as we treasure the really important things that history in a place gives us, deep relationships and community. Friends, God has been faithful to us and continues to be. I believe that God has carried us, has forgiven us, and is now getting ready to lift us up. Are we ready to run? I think we are getting there. 

Our Gospel lesson in Mark gives us a picture of Jesus. Jesus is our example and we are called to follow him as a gathered body called the church. In our text this morning, Jesus goes to Peter’s mother-in-law’s house. In those days, the matriarch of the house was responsible for everything that went on that house. It was also a culture that values hospitality and the matriarch was called to show hospitality in generous ways. Jesus was an important visitor, and the mother in law couldn’t have the privilege that was hers to show hospitality. Jesus heals her, restores her, gives her energy and she is able to get up and serve her guests. 

It’s a beautiful picture of what we are called to do as a church as well. We are being healed in order to show hospitality to the world around us, to our neighbors. It’s more than just opening up our church doors, it’s about growing in relationship with ourselves, it’s about becoming a people and a church that is known for our hospitality. Fleming Road UCC has been this way in the past, and the present, and we are being carried towards a future that is upon us now. 

There are other organizations and churches that are also in this process of being healed and restored in our neighborhood, groups like Tikkun Farm, local schools, and other churches…Folks that we share similar DNA or “ethos” with and proximity to. As we work together, I believe that a new hub of activity and healing for others will emerge at Fleming Road UCC. Folks will come to be healed and to meet this Jesus that we demonstrate. 

Now, one word of caution, as folks come, we don’t need to be validated by more folks, we have validation as a congregation now, God has given us that, we do not need to look at our growth as a sign of God’s favor, we have God’s favor now. The example of Jesus in this story and in others is an example of someone who was confident in himself. He went to lonely places like deserts to cultivate his understanding of himself. Jesus didn’t need to be validated in who he was by performing miracles or drawing big crowds. Jesus didn’t need folks, or even demons as in this story to remind him of who he was. He even told folks and demons to be quiet. He didn’t want the miracles or crowds to get in the way of his deeper message, which is that God has come near, and this God is much more interested in us and crazy in love with us than we could ever imagine…and that this God wants to heal and restore us so that we can show hospitality and love to the world around us as we become the people we are called to become…and, in so doing, we will become the persons, and the church that we’ve always wanted to be, the persons and the church God called us to be…which will be a witness to the transformation that is happening all around us God makes his kingdom and Presence known through Fleming Road UCC and others in Springfield Township and beyond. 

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