Summary: We have all received grace upon grace; therefore, we are called to share our talents just as Peter’s mother-in-law did.
So Little Time, So Much to Do
Reverend Anne Benefield
Geneva Presbyterian Church, February 8, 2009
Introduction: We continue with the first chapter of Mark. As always, Mark tells the story well and fast. His favorite word is “immediately.” There is very little time for rest. Jesus is busy, busy, busy. Let’s hear what is happening now.
As soon as Jesus and His disciples left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And 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.
In the morning, while it was still very dark, He got up and went out to a deserted place, and there He prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for Him. When they found Him, they said to Him, “Everyone is searching for you.” He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” And He went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.
Prayer: Holy One, You make all things possible. Lift us when we are weary. Be our strength, and fill us with hope as we seek to serve you and our neighbor this day. Open our hearts to Your message in this passage. Amen.
I struggled with today’s scripture lesson. Of course, that isn’t anything new, but I struggled more than normal. This passage has so many themes that I couldn’t decide what to choose for the sermon theme.
First is the healing theme: Jesus comes bringing healing. He comes to Simon Peter’s home where his mother-in-law is sick with a fever. Then He stays for all the people who gather at the door.
Then there is the theme of prayer. Jesus goes off to a deserted place to pray. It reminds me of a story:
A pastor used to occasionally go on a personal retreat to pray and seek God’s direction for his ministry. During one retreat, someone called the church office and asked, “May I speak with the pastor?”
The secretary replied, “I’m sorry, he’s gone to be with the Lord.”
There was a long silence on the other end. Then the secretary realized what she had said, “But he’ll be back next week.” [Diana J. Estes, Kent, Washington, Christian Reader, “Lite Fare.”]
The third theme might be that we are called to proclaim the gospel as Jesus did. We’ve talked about that before, too.
You can see that there were more than enough themes to write several sermons. Then I realized that I should start with Simon Peter’s mother-in-law. Surely, we’re more like her than we are like the Lord.
What happened to her and what did she do about it? She was sick—and remember that in those days, sickness was often fatal. Jesus came and healed her. Once He healed her, she began serving people. He responded to her needs; she then respond to the needs of others.
This past week in DC a frightening thing happened. In a bad neighborhood where drunkenness and drugs are wide spread. Three men got into an argument, probably about a bottle of beer. One man was punched. They called it a “sucker punch.” The man fell backwards and hit his head on the concrete curb. No one helped him for a long time. The whole story was captured by a security camera.
By one count 166 people passed him by. Some stopped to look at him; many made a point of walking around him. Finally, a clerk in a nearby store called 911 and an ambulance came quickly. Three days later, the man died in the hospital.
Would we have done better? I pray so. Like Peter’s mother-in-law, we know what it means to be lifted up. These are tough times, but we are more secure and comfortable than many. We have been blessed with love, education, and opportunities. Now we must serve, just like Peter’s mother-in-law. She was the first deacon.
The Greek word used to describe her actions is diaconeo, which means “to serve” and “to minister.” Since she is the first person designated in the New Testament as a deacon, let’s look at what she does. First, she serves because of her gratitude. Second, her restored life has meaning and purpose because of what Christ has done for her. Finally, this is the beginning of a story that would call for real sacrifices, and she was strong enough to keep going.