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
the grace, mercy and peace of God be with
us in the name of our risen Lord and Savior,
Jesus Christ; Amen.
“Jesus came and took her by the hand
and lifted her up. Then the fever left her,
and she began to serve them.” Let me
ask a rhetorical question … why do you
want this pandemic to be over? It may seem
like a stupid question, but I am serious -
why is everyone in such a hurry to defeat
this tiny virus that is so unpredictable that
it only makes about 1% or fewer of the people
infected seriously ill, but it has killed
nearly half a million people in our country
so far? Why? If we were to be honest in answering
that question it would have to do with going
back, returning to what we call, “normal.”
Think of all that we have missed because of
our current situation. In addition to those
who have become seriously ill or died, we
have had increased mental health issues and
suicides in our world these last eleven months.
Our elderly in care centers feel isolated
since their families and friends cannot visit
them. Unemployment and underemployment have
become exacerbated to the point where some
people are in financial holes that they will
never dig out of, and of no fault of their
own. On top of that, celebrations have either
been delayed, cancelled or changed into virtual
“gatherings” over Zoom. Sports
have been cancelled, postponed, or look very
different than they used to. And many of the
arts totally disappeared, from high school
to professional concerts and productions.
We want them all back, and we want to get
together in nice big groups and we want to
do it without masks on!!
I wonder what Simon’s mother-in-law’s
life was like before she caught this life-threatening
fever that prevented her from getting out
of bed. I am sure she was like most women
of that time and location - married young,
had at least one daughter, enjoyed extended
family, worked hard at keeping up her house.
I wonder if she sang while she worked, or
was a good cook or could mend clothing well?
I wonder if she was bright and cheerful with
a terrific sense of humor, or if she was quiet,
reserved, or even a “Debbie Downer?”
She must have certainly been loved by her
family - everyone told Jesus about her right
after he healed the man of the unclean spirit
in the synagogue. I imagine that her condition
had everyone worried and this new healer was
right across the street, so they thought.
that it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have
him take a look at her, especially since she
was the relative of one of his new followers.
The entire healing is captured in one verse
- he came, took her by the hand and lifted
her up. The fever left her, and she began
to serve them. Even though it is but one verse,
it is rich with meaning. What our Bible version
translates as, “lifted her up,”
many others translate, “raised her.”
Jesus raised her. Mark uses resurrection language,
not merely language of a physician curing
a fever, but of a spiritual guide raising
someone to new life. Whatever she had been
like before - whatever personality or disposition
she had - she was now raised to do and be
something more … special. She has experienced
the “holy” in her life and has
been set apart for something special by God.
The holy life for which she has been set apart
is servanthood. When the fever left her, she
didn’t just cook Jesus and those with
him a meal. She served them, she helped them
to share God’s love as they were called
to do. The word for serve used here - diakonia
- is more than just becoming a cook or housekeeper;
it means that however she was able to use
her gifts, she did so to bring glory to God.
She may very well have felt so rejuvenated
that she made a meal for Jesus and the others,
but she did so with a new appreciation and
gratitude for what God had done for her in
raising her up to this new, holy, “set
apart for something special,” life!
And then, she just kept serving.
Let’s return to our plight, then. What
if we were to say that we are anxious to move
past this pandemic in order to experience
what God has in store for us next? I know,
I know, we all miss the pieces of our pre-pandemic
life and wish we could get it back. I am not
saying that all of that has been permanently
left behind. What I am saying is that we seek
not only healing but resurrection from God
in the midst of this pandemic. We need to
grieve the people and the ways of life that
may never come back in the months and years
ahead; and we are called to prayerfully ask
God, “What is next?” What is next
for each of us individually and for our society?
I am certainly not saying that this pandemic
has been a gift to us, but I am saying that
God’s healing and resurrection power
presents a gift to us that we need at this
point in our history. What is next? Status
quo? Business as usual? Or new joy-filled
life filled with grateful people who see new
opportunities to love our neighbors with the
same love that Jesus showed when he healed,
preached, died and rose again.
This year our congregation celebrates one
hundred years of worship and ministry in this
community. The congregation itself was organized
in 1921 and began worshiping in a room in
the southwest corner of the Clinton Height
School building. That building used to sit
right across the street, on the same property
as Clinton Elementary sits today. Maybe eight
to ten years ago that building, known at that
time as “The Annex” was torn down.
While that little group of less than fifty
adults and children were growing together
in faith, they were able to purchase the land
on which I am now standing, and on March 26,
1922 the original church building was dedicated.
According to records, they had three services
that day - Clinton Heights’ pastor,
F.O. Schuh preached in the morning, O.G. Gerbich
from the next closest congregation at the
time, St. Luke’s Lutheran, preached
for the afternoon service, and C.W. Pflueger
of the Inner Missionary of Columbus preached
that evening. The pastors and lay people of
this church have gone through a lot together.
There have been celebrations and tragedies,
conflicts and collaborations. We have laughed
and cried together. But I would venture to
say that never before have we faced such a
challenge as we have these last eleven months.
As we look back this year at who we are and
who we have been as a congregation and as
Christian people, we are called to continue
to pray for Jesus to heal us. Jesus, be with
us as we celebrate our past; Jesus, be with
us as we morn those people and ways of life
that may never return. Jesus, be with us as
we experience your healing power and dream
about what is to come. Jesus, raise us up
to new life so that grateful servanthood may
be our defining characteristic as we live
into the next one hundred years as a family
of faith. Amen.