Fifth Sunday After Epiphany
Sermon starts at 17:40 in the recording
Gospel: Mark 1:29-39
29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31He 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. 33And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34And 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.
35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37When they found him, they said to him, ‘Everyone is searching for you.’ 38He answered, ‘Let us go on to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.’ 39And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.
Afterthougths: Leaning In
This past Sunday we looked at understanding Jesus’ default.
It is found in the Gospel reading when Jesus says,
“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.”
Jesus was living into the mission given Him by the Father and prophesied in Isaiah,
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”Isaiah 61:1-3
Jesus was to be, in the words of Paul, “all things to all people” in order that He might save some.
He would do this by reaching into the private
and public spheres of Life.
He would do that by restoring people to their “natural” place in life.
He would do that be challenging “conventional wisdom.”
He would do that be attacking the religious status quo.
He would go after Rome.
He would go after His own people.
And He would go to those who had been disenfranchised.
Which is always the call for us.
To be “all things to all people.”
But what exactly does this mean?
Let’s take a look at the second reading from Sunday.
If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission. What then is my reward? Just this: that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel.1 Corinthians 9:16-23
For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.
The beginning paragraph of this passage is a conclusion of a point Paul has been making previously in the letter, namely that he has the “right” to earn a living from his ministry endeavors. Prior to this passage, Paul gives many examples, and he even quotes Jesus to prove his point.
But, Paul chooses to give up this “right” for a very important reason:
To make sure that it doesn’t distract from the message of the Gospel.
He makes a similar point in his letter to the Philippians when he writes,
“Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ.”Philippians 3:7
Willingly, Paul choses sacrifice for the sake of others and,
he makes this point to show how sacrifice goes hand in hand with Gospel living.
Which brings us to the second paragraph.
And which answers the how question.
And which is a view change for many.
But is essential for the life of a follower of Jesus.
Paul sates that despite the opportunities afforded to him by his status and position, he has enslaved himself for the sake of others.
He became a slave.
He freely chose to be regarded in a way different than what he had a right to be regarded as.
Again, for the sake of others.
Sacrifice without the intention of loving another is just a sacrifice.
Paul says later in 1 Corinthians,
“If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”1 Corinthians 13:3
And his sacrifice was that he became aware of others
and allowed himself to see life from their perspective.
He says, “I became all things,”
And the understanding is that he allowed himself to identify with the people he was sharing the Gospel with.
“To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law) so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak.”
Basically, Paul had the attitude of whatever it takes to bring you into God’s family of love,
I am willing to do it,
even if it means putting aside my sensibilities.
The question for us is, what are we willing to do?
When I was a youth pastor and working, primarily, with High School students, this question of what would you be willing to do came up often in the different events and projects throughout the year.
One of the more difficult things for my students to do was work with the homeless in Portland.
Our trips to Portland were meant to open the eyes of the students to the needs of others around them,
both those in the group and those we served.
It challenged them to see others around them; to pay attention to the needs of the poor.
As a part of our time in Portland,
we would clean the rooms of those that lived in low income housing so that they would not get evicted.
Most of these people suffered from several mental disorders and, without the help of the state,
would be on the streets where they would be taken advantage of.
The rooms that needed cleaning were always challenging.
Take the dirtiest room of a teenage boy
and multiply it by a factor of one hundred.
The rooms smelled.
There was rotten food sitting out.
On one particular trip,
a younger girl was having trouble connecting with what she was doing.
When we exited buildings that felt “gross” to her,
she would take out hand sanitizer and liberally apply it to her hands, which was odd,
since she hadn’t touched anything.
Her body language communicated that she was clearly uncomfortable with where she was at and that she was unwilling to participate with her whole self.
Not missing an opportunity for a teaching moment,
my friend who ran the homeless outreach and I gave her a task to get her to connect.
We put her in the dirtiest room we could find and asked her to help me change the sheets on a very dirty bed.
We put her the furthest in the room and I intentional slowed down to get her to look around her.
It forced her to see what she was unwilling to and she began to connect.
It was, for her, a trial by fire.
To a certain extent,
we have habits and mannerisms that keep us from connecting with others too.
Maybe not as obnoxious as the hand sanitizer girl,
but every bit as avoidant.
the thing is,
God calls us all to go beyond these comfort zone boundaries that we have created and take on the posture of a slave,
for the benefit of others.
It is a sacrifice done expressly for love.
And not just for the needy.
But, also for the “normal.”
Our friends who struggle.
Our family that feel left out.
Our neighbors who serve us in the stores and markets we frequent.
God calls us to lean into the life of others.
To share the news of a restored life.
To show them, maybe for the first time, what love feels like.
To help them understand that their life has value.
To open oneself up to see another is a risk for many.
It requires having empathy.
Maybe even learning empathy.
And sitting with someone in their stuff to allow them to be seen.
It’s what makes for a great community.
Both a church community.
And a local community.
Showing value for others.
Sharing love for others.
But you must be willing to place yourself there.