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  • Writer's picturePastor Maggie

Just Bring Jesus

Pastor Maggie's sermon from February 3, 2024.

Scripture references: Mark 1:29-39; Job 1-4, 6-7



Our gospel reading this evening was ten verses from the first chapter of Mark.  Mark’s gospel gets right to the point; in the first 28 verses we have: John crying out from the wilderness; Jesus’ baptism; Jesus wilderness quest; John’s arrest; Jesus calling his disciples; and Jesus sermon, followed by a healing miracle (which is casting out demons).  That’s a lot of ground to cover for 28 verses, and Mark doesn’t mince words, which is kind of nice because it gives us room to imagine into the story. 


From the scene of that first miracle, Peter takes Jesus back to his house, where we encounter Peter’s sick mother-in-law, and that’s where our story of miraculous healing begins.  Today I want to look at this story from two perspectives—from the perspective of the woman being healed, and from the perspective of her son-in-law, Peter.


Have you ever prayed for healing?  I’ve prayed for other people to be well.  I’ve prayed for them to have the patience and hope and rest they need to get better.  I’ve prayed for the knowledge and help of surgeons.  I’ve prayed for nurses and other caregivers.  However, last year was the first time I ever prayed for my own miraculous healing.  It feels weird saying that out loud.  Miracles are sort of a hard thing for me to wrap my head around, so I don’t really spend a lot of time thinking about them or asking for them. 


Apart from the occasional round of strep throat, I’ve been in good health for my entire life, and I’m relatively young, so I truly haven’t had much to complain about.  But I injured myself at the canvassing job I had, and it just wouldn’t get better.  I was just so tired of being in pain, unsure about how to make it better, and worried that this was just how things were going to be from now on.  I felt pretty discouraged, sort of like today’s Job reading—is this drudgery all there is; are these months of misery my new reality?  And one day here, during mass, it just came springing up from the depths of me, “God I’m so tired of this. Can’t you just make me better?  I want to be better.”  I know that’s not generally how healing works, but it felt good and right to at least ask for it.  It felt a little healing just to say the words.


We don’t know how long the woman had been sick, but if she had been bedridden for any length of time at all, she must have also prayed this prayer.  I know some of you have prayed this prayer too.  Many times we experience the healing we ask for.  Thankfully, I’ve found a really good physical therapist, and things are much better and continuing to improve, but my own lived understanding of healing has changed, and is still changing.  What has become clearer for me is that my idea of healing and God’s idea of healing are different.  They just aren’t the same.  My idea of healing really is to return to what I knew before.  A restoration, perhaps, more than a healing.  In any other scenario, I know that this backward facing orientation is generally unhelpful.  We don’t get to return to the past; at best, we’re allowed to bring parts of the past with us into the present, but we never really get to return there.  But when the future (and even the present) feels so unknowable, it’s comforting to wish for something familiar.  Of course we wish that Jesus would just do for us what he did for Peter’s mother-in-law: take our hands, raise us up, and let us get back to living our life taking care of the people we love the way we already know how to do it.


Realistically, what is currently true for me, that my physical health is improving, may not always be true for me, and it isn’t true for everyone.  We don’t always experience physical healing the way we hope to.  And even though that can be hard, we can take comfort knowing that healing encompass so much more than the state of our bodies.  It’s also about our spirits and our relationship with our communities.  More on that in a bit, but first, let’s shift our attention to Peter for a moment. 


One of the things I appreciate about Peter in this story is that he seems so out of his element.  Peter is a man of action, and there’s nothing he can do here.  Usually when we meet Peter in scripture he’s in the middle of carrying out some half baked idea—cutting somebody’s ear off without thinking it through, for example. (As opposed to a well thought out ear severing?)  Peter’s one of those people who are building the car while they’re driving it down the highway, which is a great trait for someone who will some day build a church from scratch on the fly.  But here it seems like he has less of a plan than usual.  He’s worried about someone he loves and not functioning at full capacity.  Here, he can’t do anything at all.  He can’t heal her.  He can’t make her better.  So when he sees Jesus performing miracles, he does the only thing he can think of—he brings Jesus.


And I think maybe this is the nugget of the story for today.  Just bring Jesus.  Whether the need is in yourself or others, bring Jesus.  We don’t have to heal people.  That’s not our job.  Our job is to bring them and ourselves to the place where the healing happens.  And the healing happens in the presence of Jesus. 


That might mean something practical like taking someone to a doctor or psychiatrist’s office, or it might be just bringing yourself, an open spirit, and a listening ear.  Quaker writer and theologian Parker Palmer tells a story in one of his books about being in a deep depression, a depression so deep that he says he wasn’t just lost in the dark, but he became the dark.  Friends didn’t know what to do and stopped visiting.  All of his friends but one, and that one friend, a man named Bill Taber, would visit him every day and rub his feet.  His feet, the one place where where he could still feel connection.  Bill didn’t try to tell him things would be okay, just rubbed his feet, and Parker says those foot rubs helped save his life—helped him find his way back to connection.  We don’t have to intend to heal or save people.  We just have to show them care in the way they can feel it and let Jesus do the rest.


The same is true for our community and world.  Healing is needed.  Deep, deep healing.  Radical reconnection.  And it probably won’t look like we think it should.  God’s idea of healing tends to be more vast than ours, and I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty good news.  When I look around at the world, and even at myself, I don’t want a restoration to what existed before, I want a true healing.  I want right relationships within myself and among others.  I want real peace.  And I don’t know how to make that happen—even knowing exactly what it is is outside of my ability.  We can’t force it or make happen, but we can bring Jesus.  We can speak with respect and care.  We can let our leaders know when their actions don’t align with Jesus’ actions.  We can practice extravagant welcome, a welcome so wide that it puts an end to estrangement and isolation.  When hands reach out for help, we can grasp them.  And in so doing, we can bring Jesus.


Because we know what happens when Jesus arrives.  Miracles happen.  We can’t explain it, but we know it’s true.  When Jesus arrives, alienation is ended.  Love overflows.  Indescribable peace is found.  And this gives me hope because Jesus isn’t afraid to enter into the places of sickness or stand in the midst of the despair.  He is not absent in death or desolation, but right there in the midst of it, healing in ways that are beyond our comprehension.  May we be bold enough to pray for miracles, and wise enough to recognize them when they don’t look like we expected.  May it be so.  Amen.



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