Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany

Readings — Isaiah 40: 21-31; Psalm 147: 1-12, 21c; I Corinthians 9: 16-23; Mark 1: 29-39

Let’s begin with St. Paul’s letter to the congregation in Corinth, Greece.  He wrote, “… I am entrusted with a commission…”.  I think we all have been entrusted with a commission, to love God, to love neighbor, and to love ourselves; and we all spend our lifetime incarnating that love.  Given our various gifts and inclinations, we live out that commission in a vast variety of ways, partially determined by our individual circumstances and our environment.  So others may see more clearly, we are called to be light; so that others may thrive, we are called to be the leaven in the loaf.  With this as our preamble, let us now turn to our passage from the Gospel according to St. Mark.  There are five specific points in this reading that are instructive for us.

The passage begins with Jesus and his first four disciples- fishermen- Simon (Peter), Andrew, James, and John.  The five had just attended synagogue. 

Specific #1 People of the Jesus Way value gathering for common worship.  This was the custom of Jesus, here with four of his disciples.  Likewise, we are encouraged to assemble with others in common prayer.

Specific #2  People of the Jesus Way value visiting with one another.  In this instance following worship they went to the home of Simon and Andrew, almost sounds like coffee hour.  Likewise, we are encouraged to continue “the Passing of the Peace” with the additional conversation, growing the web of relationships, the web of faith community support.  This is a pillar of our All Saints community that we long to strengthen once the COVID crisis has subsided.

Specific #3  People of the Jesus Way value reaching out with our loving hands to lift each other up.  In this particular scene, it is Simon’s wife’s mother who is strengthened to rise up and resume her normal activity in the household.  “…the fever left her, and she began to serve them”.  We raise up others through feeding them, the Souper Bowl that Jim Rogers encourages, Martha’s Table directed by Ruth and Bart Ryan with a great crew, Meals for Seals and Meals on Wheels that All Saints hosts.  We raise up others by paying our taxes, I just got my township annual notice.  We raise up others by nurturing our children, our nieces, and nephews, our grandchildren, our neighbors.  We raise up others by neighborliness, checking on them, offering help, even just sharing a wave and a smile.  We raise up others by sharing our good fortune through donations, large and small.  We raise up others by exercising our professions, working in warehouses, engineering projects, assisting with governance, educating, managing, farming, and serving in law enforcement.  And in this COVID we are all reliant on our health care providers.  Perhaps one of the most essential is those who “keep the home fires burning”.  While the COVID crisis may modify these avenues of service, we carry on, don’t we! 

Specific #4  People of the Way of Jesus value taking individual time to really not be alone, but rather, to partner with God just like married couples who treasure those quiet moments with just the two of them.  So private times with God go to the very depths of our souls when sometimes words are not necessary.  Jesus went off from those four disciples, and perhaps they thought it a bit strange.  During COVID times some may find it easier to capture those moments in a comfortable chair early in the morning with that first cup of tea or coffee, or perhaps on a walk around the neighborhood.

Specific #5  People of the Way of Jesus value giving voice and action to the gospel of love.  Jesus went beyond the traditional heartland and into Galilee, into a multicultural region, sometimes governed by Phoenicians, sometimes governed by kings of present-day Lebanon, and in Jesus’s day, governed by Herod Antipas.  It was there Jesus began to share the gospel of God’s love.  I suspect that ancient Galilee was somewhat similar to what we are experiencing more and more in this country, a diverse mingling of cultures, of beliefs, of peoples.  The synagogues of Galilee were home bases for Jesus and his four disciples as they moved into this diverse region.  Note that a proclamation may take many forms, then and now.  The proclamation can be a good Samaritan act; a proclamation may be giving a life-giving healing touch; a proclamation may be a Sermon on the Mount; a proclamation may be feeding 5,000 with a few loaves and fish or 75 on a cold Wednesday night.  A proclamation is personal, drawing on our individual gifts and inclinations.  All proclamations are lovingly reaching toward another. 

While the Way of Jesus continued to expand and deepen as St. Mark’s Gospel expands, it is encapsulated in this brief passage for today.  The Way of Jesus includes common worship, conversation, raising others up, personal prayer, and personal actions of reaching out love.  Knowing that we all have strengths in various forms, this passage is a good guide for all of us as we live our commission, as we are a light to guide others, and as we are leavening the loaf to give life’s sustenance to those about us.  Amen.

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