Let’s Get the Show on the Road

Feb 07, 2021

Sermon 2-7-2021
Fifth Sunday after Epiphany
Text: Mark 1:29-39
Pastor Jean M. Hansen
     If you happen to be in the sanctuary 10-15 minutes early some Sunday morning, which will soon be possible again as we return to in-person worship next Sunday. You may see me pacing back and forth, looking at my watch, and you might even hear me say, “OK, let’s get this show on the road!” I am not being glib. I am certainly not labeling worship as entertainment. I am just ready. The week has been leading up to this point. Consider just one aspect of the service – the sermon; I have studied, out-lined, written, memorized, reviewed during the previous four or five days. So, let’s get this show on the road!
     That is also the feeling we get from the Gospel writer of Mark. Have you noticed the fast pace in this account? The Gospel does not begin with angels and shepherds and magi, or beautiful poetry, as is the case in the other Gospels. Mark gets right to the point and begins with Jesus as an adult, being baptized by John the Baptist, when he is affirmed as God’s Son and commissioned for his earthly ministry. The text moves quickly to his temptation in the wilderness (only two verses) and the beginning of his ministry in Galilee. He calls Andrew, Simon, James, and John to fish for people. The next thing you know, they show up in the synagogue in Capernaum, where Jesus casts an unclean spirit out of a suffering man, making it clear that he has the authority to silence and defeat evil. WHEW; I need to take a breath; all that happens in just 28 verses. Evidently, it’s time to get the show on the road!
     There is no slacking off the pace in today’s reading. AT ONCE, after the synagogue exorcism, Jesus’ fame spreads. AS SOON AS they leave the synagogue, he performs his first healing of Simon’s (Peter’s) mother-in-law. When the sun sets, and it is no longer the sabbath, ALL who were sick and possessed with demons are brought to Jesus; the WHOLE city was gathered around the door. Did you notice the hyperbole – ALL and WHOLE? It is an exaggeration that enhances the intensity as we imagine crowds rushing to petition Jesus for help. He cures illness and disability; he casts out demons and silences them. WHEW! The show is definitely on the road!
     Then…there is a pause…Jesus prays. Soon, though, the pace picks up again; his newly called disciples hunt for Jesus, find him, question him – EVERYONE, they say, is searching for him. How does Jesus respond??
    Let’s get this show on the road! Or, more specifically: “Let us go to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also.” Why? Because Jesus says, that is what I came out to do.” Jesus’ purpose and mission are clear in just 39 verses. WHEW!!
     In Jesus, God’s reign and rule break into the world. That is the primary epiphany (revelation) of the Epiphany season. Or, to borrow from the Lord’s Prayer - as we also did last week using the phrase, “Deliver us from evil” - in Jesus, God’s kingdom comes, and God’s will is done. When we pray those words, we are not referring to that which will happen only, or even mostly, in the future. And it is not something relegated to the three years of Jesus’ public ministry. The coming of God’s kingdom and the doing of God’s will is for the here and now. So…let’s get the show on the road!
     Commentator Scott Hoezee reflects on a number of ways that God’s kingdom comes, and God’s will is done, in the here and now. Let me quote him: “The kingdom is present whenever people pray the way Jesus taught us to pray. The kingdom is present wherever Jesus nurtures certain behaviors and lifestyles that we call the Fruit of the Spirit.” By the way, that includes acting with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22). Scott Hoezee continues, “The kingdom is present wherever people pour water over the heads of babies or take bread and wine to their lips simply because Jesus told us that this is the way we are to act in remembrance of him.”
     There’s more to bringing God’s kingdom into our world, though. He writes, “The kingdom is present wherever a believer somewhere refuses to go along with some scheme because she believes its untruthful and going along with it would make her less transparent than Jesus. Whenever and wherever a believer refuses to participate in sinful activities, whenever or wherever a kindly old woman brings light into a neighbor’s darkness by speaking a word of peace, whenever and wherever a man sit down to tutor a homeless child, and whenever or wherever all such things are done because all these people believe there is a cosmic Lord named Jesus, then there – right there and right here and right now – the kingdom of God is present because the effective will of Jesus is calling the shots.” (1)
     In my sermon last week, I said that we have the tendency to think that evil, hate, and negativity are winning because they seem to be winning at a particular point in time. But that is not the case: God’s kingdom coming is the antidote for all things evil, dark and wrong. The simple, yet challenging truth is this: God’s kingdom comes to us in Jesus. God’s will is done through us, by the power of the Holy Spirit. But we choose how to respond.
     Let’s return to the Gospel reading, to Peter’s mother-in-law. When she was healed, it was not because of anything she did or said, at least as far as we know. In Jesus, God’s power and presence touched her, healed her, and raised her up. It’s interesting that the Greek word translated “lifted up” is the same one used in reference to Jesus’ resurrection. The implication could be that this woman was given new life, as in a new way of living.
     It is true that she got up from her sickbed and served her guests (all the women are thinking, “of course she did.”) But is there perhaps more to the story? The Greek word from which we derive the word “deacon” – the title for someone in a serving role in the church – is the one used in reference to Peter’s mother-in-law. Perhaps it is not too far-fetched to think that having encountered Jesus, she set forth on a new life of serving others beyond her own home, as a follower of the one who “did not come to be served, but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many.” In her life, God’s kingdom did come, and God’s will was done. She got the show on the road. (2)
     In what way will that be true in our lives this week? There is probably no need for me to list the possibilities; they are found in everything from how we interact with family, friends, and co-workers, to how we use our resources, to the choices we make, to our awareness and acceptance of those who differ from us, to our thoughts and opinions and how we express them.
     Just remember, though, what I said earlier: God’s kingdom coming is the antidote for all things evil, dark, and wrong. God’s kingdom comes to us in Jesus. God’s will is done through us, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Let’s, then, get the show on the road. AMEN
(1) “Epiphany 5B, February 1, 2021, Mark 1:29-39” by Scott Hoezee, www.cep.calvinseminary.edu
(2) “Living by the Word: Reflections on the Lectionary” by Victoria Lynn Garvey, Christian Century, January 27, 2021, pg. 20