Fifth Sunday after Epiphany
February 4, 2018
St. Jacob’s and Trinity Lutheran Churches
Rev. Kirk Shipley, Interim Pastor
How does he do that? How is it she does that? Sentences like that are have been the staple of advertisements for half a century or more. You have seen them the kitchen, the living room or the yard is a mess. The host is going to be having the girls over for an activity. He has invited the guys for a pregame barbecue on the patio. There are just a couple of hours until the guests arrive. The person uses some product or equipment that makes the task a breeze. The hosts are cool, calm, and collected as the attendees marvel at how they are able to keep the place looking great. That is the world according to Proctor and Gamble or Toro lawn equipment.
More often you show what you touch generally comes up thorn less roses and people do not stop to admire your work. They want more. Any project comes up and it’s let’s see if we can get Jack or Jill to do it.
My brother was initially the bachelor willing to see things got done so other people could have their getaways. At first he did not mind and enjoyed the extra shekels. He was so good he became the go to person for those last minute deadline projects. The company coming to say do that led to him getting to the dinner the night before, serve as my best man, stick around for a few pictures, grab a quick bite and then head off to the airport well before the wedding reception ended.
That takes place in many churches also. Someone has a function they enjoy, but then become that functionary for life because they have it down. As long as they are able we often don’t see the need to have someone assist to learn or feel the person out to see if interest is still there and if not step in and fill the breach.
Imagine what is like to be the ultimate in capability Jesus. In last week’s gospel lesson Jesus cast out an evil spirit from a man during worship. Naturally people were amazed and astounded. Word began to spread. At that point it is ‘so far, so good.’
This morning’s gospel begins with an intimate healing. Jesus leaves the synagogue, and along with James and John, he goes to home of Simon and Andrew. They find Simon’s mother-in-law sick in bed. Jesus goes to her and heals her. She is able to be the hostess to her son-in-law’s companions. This private healing would make a nice bookend to the public synagogue healing that occurred earlier. Make last week’s Gospel end at verse 31 instead of verse 28 and we would have a nice sermon on Jesus healing in the home and the public arena or Jesus healing the dramatic demon possession and the common fever.
The Gospel continues. People could not get enough of Jesus healing power. That evening people brought their ill and demon possessed to him. The town gathered at the door of Simon and Andrew’s home to see Jesus in action. Jesus did not disappoint, successfully addressing various diseases and giving demons the bum’s rush. All saw it was good having Jesus there.
With his fame spreading in the area it is easy to imagine a regular stream of people coming to Capernaum for healing of themselves or those close to them. He had shown his ability. Folk were not likely to think that perhaps Jesus could use a break or might need time for other tasks.
At the same time for the one providing the cures such acclamation and being needed can in itself be pretty heady stuff for quite awhile. One of the distinguishing marks of the first half of the ‘baby boomer’ generation is its’ desire to stay in active charge. One of the complaints of later generations is boomers would not step aside and pass-on the responsibility for running things.
Jesus shows a way to step back and not yield to the demands or being fulfilled relishing the ride of fame. He uses a tool readily available to almost everyone, and quite possibly everyone.
While the town sleeps, well before sunrise Jesus gets up and goes to a deserted place where he can be alone. There he prays. While we do not know what Jesus prayed, it is clear in prayer his purpose was reinforced or made clearer. He acts on that as soon he is reminded the demands of the preceding day remain. Simon and others track him down. When they find him they inform him, “Everyone is searching for you.” I doubt it is because they fear Jesus is lost. I think it is more likely it is because he is wanted to take up where he left off.
In reply Jesus clearly states the priority of a larger mission. He essentially tells them, “We need to get going to neighboring towns and villages so that I can teach them too.” Jesus has come so that many can hear and experience him and respond. Something in what Jesus says apparently stills Simon and the others. We hear no “But Teacher….” So he acts in accordance with his word. Jesus travels throughout Galilee. He does what he did in n Capernaum, speaking in the synagogues and casting out demons.
The approach of deliberate self removal and prayer that worked for Jesus works for us. At the state psychiatric hospital where a few of us interned, our supervisor had us start the day with a 45 minute time of silence to be used for prayer, reflection, and even intentional rest. At the same time my spiritual director advised me to close my day reviewing the day, and checking when I sensed being closer or more distant with God.
I wish I had internalized that discipline better. But even in shorter and more sporadic periods the time makes a difference, pulling me out of the doldrums and making me more mindful of God and how He can be found in the space between my story and others. A very simple recent example is when I reviewed the first day I made regular appointments after a two and a half week head cold. I was glad to note I was civil and that I noted things about them, which prayer helped me remember. I prayed for healing of one person who had a wrist brace on and gave thanks for another who was helpful with each person encountered, including me. Good ending.
Driving by Keezletown United Methodist Church the saying on their display sign asked, “Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?” When on the ropes it is a great spare tire. Today Jesus shows us it is an even better steering wheel. Take time to make time with always available God. Such practice is quite a difference maker. Just ask Jesus. Amen.