A tender story of healing an unnamed mother-in-law for service, the overwhelming need to free and heal a city at the door, and a whole region; and prayers, in quiet and refrains of promise: have you not known, have you not heard, God is God, God heals the broken-hearted, binds up their wounds, lifts up the lowly, does not faint or grow weary, even as youth and the young will, God renews your strength, with wings of eagles, you shall run and not be weary, you shall walk and not faint; stories of healing and words of praise, to lift us up for service, to lift others up, and a world of suffering, in need of God’s healing and wholeness.
First, about the gospel. This is still only the first chapter of Mark’s good news of Jesus. If we recall how it began, “The beginning of the good new of Jesus Christ.” And in 29 short verses, John’s prophetic ministry of preparation is identified, Jesus appears at the Jordan to be baptized by John, is immediately driven by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil, and from Galilee Jesus calls disciples to follow, and begins teaching, casting out demons, and healing people, with authority, first in the synagogue on the Sabbath in Capernaum, and now outside in the home of Peter, healing Peter’s Mother-in-law, and later that day, many more as the whole city is at the door. And early in the morning, Jesus seeks quiet to pray, but the disciples pursue him, and he goes to the surrounding towns to proclaim this same message, to free people from demons and to heal, for that is what he came to do.
This is what the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ looks like: the urgent work of Jesus with God’s authority to teach, free people from demons, and heal them; inviting followers to join in this service to our neighbour and the world. Good news that invites us! to be free, to heal, to serve, to pray, with Jesus.
Last Sunday we reaffirmed and celebrated our commitment as a community to be “Reconciling in Christ,” an intention and action we took in 2010 following five plus years of learning and discussion to be Queer affirming, to intentionally welcome and celebrate the God-given diversity of 2SLGBTQIA+ siblings in the church, our communities and our given and chosen families. And last Sunday we were blessed to have students and alumni of Inclusive Christians at UVic lead and serve and participate in worship, sharing wonderful gifts of preaching and music, assisting, leading the children, reading and praying, serving communion, all together, in beautiful diversity, to “roll down justice” we proclaimed and pray, in truth and joyful hope, together. Together, as one body in Christ, for the freeing and healing of us all. As many of us expressed, it was a great Sunday! to inspire our worship and community, in diversity and inclusion, with pride and joy, every Sunday, and everyday, together!
And it is a Sunday and holy purpose made all the more important following the announcement this week by the Alberta premier to impose policies and legislation similar to Saskatchewan and New Brunswick of discrimination and restriction against transgendered young people and their families, endangering them and their safety and healthcare, causing further harm and pain to transgendered youth and their families for political gain, called for and with the backing of many from Christian communities. It is why we need to stand so clearly as a Christian community in opposition to anti-trans policies and hate such as this and lift-up instead transgendered young people and all Queer and other minority siblings, as one body of Christ together. Jesus’ purpose from the beginning is to urgently free and heal, to serve, and pray for God’s world. Because, have we not known, have we not heard, God is God, God heals the broken-hearted, binds up their wounds, lifts up the lowly, does not faint or grow weary, even as transgender youth and the young will, God renews their strength, with wings of eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint; lifted up together! to serve, to lift others up, and a world of suffering, needing God’s healing and wholeness together.
Some have noticed and mentioned the long list of names in our prayers. People of this community or made known to us, who suffer with mental and physical illness, depression, anxiety, stress and burnout, chronic pain, disease, frailty, failing bodies and minds, dementia, in treatment and recovery, families in conflict, those with addictions, who are grieving, and more, and their loved ones and those who provide care. The individual suffering and struggles are very present among us and within us, and loved ones, and neighbours, and can be overwhelming. And so also, so much more suffering and pain in our world as we know, also in our prayers, in Gaza and across the Middle East, in Ukraine, and on every continent - regions and people at war, suffering from violence, poverty, oppression, displacement, hopelessness, fear. How do we help and support, free and heal, even some of those in need for whom we pray?
And isn’t it right here, in the overwhelming need at the door, and in every region, that Jesus meets us, to free and heal, for service, inviting us into quiet and not so quiet prayer, together. Because have you not known, have you not heard, God is God, God heals the broken-hearted, binds up their wounds, lifts up the lowly, does not faint or grow weary, even as youth and the young will, God renews our strength, with wings of eagles, we shall run and not be weary, we shall walk and not faint; lifting us up together! to serve, to lift others up, and a world of suffering, needing God’s healing and wholeness together.
I love the graphic on the front cover of the worship folder today. Jesus lifting up a person, Peter’s unnamed Mother-in-law, or any person brought low for all the reasons we have named and more. Jesus, freeing and healing them, us, for service. It looks like they could dance! And wouldn’t that be a right and holy response, to be freed to dance on evil and oppression, for healing and service in God’s Spirit. And isn’t this a freeing invitation itself. To be so bold to reach out to others and invite them to join us in this freedom and healing of Jesus together! In all the deep and sometimes mysterious and wonderful ways that happens, even here, among and with us together, for us and those for whom we pray, and many, many, others. “The gospel free of charge,” as Paul says, for a purpose, that we serve! in love and hope, together.
That small word in this healing story of Peter’s Mother-in-law, is significant. I share the reaction, that as soon as she is healed, she has to serve Jesus and the other’s, likely because these men are unable to make lunch for themselves! That word in Greek, is “diakonia.” To serve. This is the first time it occurs in
the gospel. It is the origin of our words for deacon and diaconal ministry, all beginning with this unnamed woman, lifted up by Jesus, freed and healed, to serve. Her story, and by grace, your story, and my story, together!
Because have you not known, have you not heard, God is God, God heals the broken-hearted, binds up their wounds, lifts up the lowly, does not faint or grow weary, even as youth and the young will, God renews our strength, with wings of eagles, we shall run and not be weary, we shall walk and not faint; lifting us up together! to serve, to lift others up, and a world of suffering, needing God’s healing and wholeness together.
Let it be so, invited, free, healed, to serve, in Christ and in all our relations. Amen.