5th Sunday after Epiphany – February 4, 2018
Mark 1:29-39 – Sermon by Rev. Dr. Rolf Svanoe
This has been one of the worst flu seasons that I can remember. Desperate parents bring their sick children to the ER. The news is full of reports of hospitals being overwhelmed and people dying. School districts are shutting down to help prevent the spread of the disease. The Center for Disease Control reports all 50 states have been hit hard. And so, we wash our hands frequently, cover our cough and if we are feeling sick, stay home. It feels like a war zone sometimes.
In our Gospel for today, we learn that one of the main parts of Jesus’ mission was healing. We don’t know for sure, but perhaps it was the flu that Simon Peter’s mother-in-law suffered from. It says that she was in bed with a fever. I can imagine Peter coming home after church with a bunch of guests he had invited. “Hey Mom, we have company.” But there she was, sick in bed. I can just imagine her saying to herself, “Great, that’s just what I need right now- company!” As it turns out, it was what she needed. When Jesus heard that she was sick he went to her and took her by the hand and lifted her up. He wasn’t worried about catching what she had. Mark tells us that the fever left her and she got up and served them.
News like that travels fast and by evening the whole city had gathered at Simon Peter’s place. Anyone who was sick or troubled in spirit came seeking healing. There were no hospitals and doctors had limited knowledge. And Jesus healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. In that time, many physical and mental disorders were attributed to demons.
What we see in this Gospel reading and in last week’s Gospel reading is Jesus doing battle with disease, curing people and making them well again. It was a war zone, but Jesus’ weapons weren’t the traditional weapons of battle. His weapons were the healing power of God’s love and forgiveness. He restored people to their right minds and brought wholeness to their families. Jesus’ mission was to bring peace.
I want to tell you about something that happened last summer. We were in Norway where I led a tour of 42 people. We took a two-hour cruise on the Lysefjord where we went past one of Norway’s most popular tourist destinations- the Pulpit Rock or Preikestolen, as it’s called in Norwegian. It is a square rock that juts out from the surrounding mountain, looking out over the fjord. Every day hundreds of people make the two-hour hike. I have a poster of the Pulpit Rock hanging in my office. As a pastor with Norwegian ancestry, it’s an important symbol to me. One of the things we learned about the Pulpit Rock is that it was going to be closed for nine days in the fall for the shooting of a scene in the new Mission Impossible movie. And tonight, during one of the Superbowl commercial breaks, we get to see the first ever sneak peak at the new movie which will be released in late July. It will be fun to see the movie and to see how the Pulpit Rock figures into the storyline. Of course, people want to see Tom Cruise and how he figures out how to do a seemingly impossible mission he is given. And Tom’s weapons to accomplish his mission are high tech gadgets, fast cars, guns and violence.
How different the picture we are given of Jesus. He is given an impossible mission as well- to save the world. But Jesus’ weapons weren’t hi-tech gadgets. Jesus’ weapons were love and truth, speaking out against injustice, bringing forgiveness. His weapon was to die on the cross to forgiven our sins and show the power of love and forgiveness over the power of hatred and violence.
Jesus’ mission is our mission too. In baptism, we are “joined in God’s mission for the life of the world.” We are asked to make promises, to “proclaim Christ through word and deed, care for others and the world God made, and work for justice and peace.” Our mission is to bring Jesus’ healing and peace to a broken world. It is a mission given to each one of us in our baptism. We do that as we go about our daily tasks as farmers, as teachers or nurses or doctors. We do our mission as we speak words of forgiveness to one another. We live out our mission as we seek justice and peace in our world and speak out on behalf of those victims of injustice.
In this Epiphany season we have heard Jesus call us to come and follow him. We are given a mission to share God’s love and forgiveness with our world, to bring healing to our conflicts so that we might experience God’s peace. May God give us strength to do our mission.