|Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year B||March 18, 2012||Sermon, Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year B||Numbers 21:4-9, Ephesians 2:1-10, John 3:14-21|
|Third Sunday in Lent, Year B||March 11, 2012||Third Sunday in Lent, Year B||Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 19; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; John 2:13-22|
|Second Sunday in Lent, Year B||March 4, 2012||Second Sunday in Lent, Year B||Mark 8:31-38|
|Sermon, First Sunday in Lent, Year B||February 26, 2012||First Sunday in Lent, Year B||Genesis 9:8-17, I Peter 3:18-22, Mark 1: 9-15|
|Ash Wednesday Service, Feb 22, 2012||February 22, 2012||Ash Wednesday||Joel 2:1-2, 12-17|
|Last Sunday After Epiphany, Year B||February 19, 2012||Last Sunday after Epiphany||2 Kings 2:1-12, Psalm 50:1-6, 2 Corinthians 4:3-6, Mark 9:2-9|
|Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||February 12, 2012||Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Mark 1: 40-45|
|➤Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||February 5, 2012||Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, Year B||Isaiah 40:21-31, Mark 1:29-39|
|Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||January 29, 2012||Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||I Corinthians 8:1-13; Mark 1:21-28|
|Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||January 22, 2012||Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||Mark 1:14-20|
|Second Sunday After The Epiphany, Year B||January 15, 2012||Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||1 Samuel 3:1-20; Psalm 139: 1-5, 12-17; John 1:43-51|
|First Sunday After The Epiphany, Year B||January 8, 2012||First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||Mark 1:4-11|
|Sermon on Joy, Epiphany, 2012||January 6, 2012||Epiphany||Matthew 2:1-12|
|Christmas Day, Dec. 25, 2011||December 25, 2011||Christmas Day, 2012||Isaiah 9:2-7; Luke 2:1-20|
|Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 2011||December 24, 2011||The Eve of the Nativity of our Lord||Luke 2:1-20|
Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B
Sermon Date:February 5, 2012
Scripture: Isaiah 40:21-31, Mark 1:29-39
Liturgy Calendar: Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, Year B
Gathered here today in this beautiful little church, in the village of Port Royal, VA, on the banks of the Rappahannock River, let’s imagine that all of us here have left this place to have travel together to Italy on a pilgrimage. Our plane lands in Rome. We take a bus into town, and cross the Tiber River, where we find ourselves in Vatican City. We walk up a long street, and suddenly a huge square opens before us, lined with a semi circle of mammoth columns. At last we enter St Peter’s Basilica, the church with the largest interior of any church in the world, which dwarfs human beings. Indeed, to borrow Isaiah’s words, human beings in this massive space are as grasshoppers.
After visiting the Basilcia, we enter the massive complex of the Vatican, which contains many of the most familiar treasures of Western civilization. As we travel through its maze of hallways and passages, we are amazed at the marvelous works of art surrounding us.
At last we pass through the Papal Palace, the official residence of the Pope, and enter a chapel hidden from the view of the outside world. This unadorned building is buried deep within the walls of the Vatican, and the third floor chapel can only be reached through interior doorways.
And so we enter the Sistine Chapel, and the sound of our footsteps on the intricate mosaic floors echoes around us. Instantly, our eyes travel to the wall behind the altar, which is covered with a dramatic fresco painted in vivid colors, depicting the last judgment. Our eyes are drawn upward, and we gasp as we see that the whole ceiling is also covered in frescos, a series of nine paintings depicting God’s creation of the world, God’s relationship with Man, and Mankind’s Fall from God’s Grace.
Craning as far backward as we can, we study the paintings, our eyes searching out the painting that we have traveled here hoping to see for ourselves, and there it is, right in the center of the ceiling, God’s creation of Adam. We see for ourselves Michelangelo’s brilliant conception of this event, God—a massive figure radiating power and energy with outstretched arm, reaching out across time and space, bringing Adam into being, a male figure resting and rooted in the earth, arm outstretched. The index fingers of the two, right there high above us, almost touch. We can feel the power and the energy of God flowing into the residing figure of Adam, and we know that from God’s hand, abundant life is flowing into humanity.
The work of God’s hands is mentioned over 200 times in the Old Testament. The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament tells us that “every reference is always to God’s activity by which he shows Himself mighty in creation and work.” (Vol IX, pg 427).
For instance, in the passage from Isaiah we heard today, we see God’s hand stretching out the heavens like a curtain. God names the sun, the moon, the planets and the stars and numbers them, and they come into being.
The psalmists describe God’s creative hand over and over in passages like “You stretch out your hand and your right hand delivers me…” “Your right hand has supported me…” “Your right hand will lead me…” God is not only the transcendent God that spangles the heavens with starry galaxies, but God is the one who protects and delivers us with mighty hands and a mighty arm.
Leaving Vatican City, we return to the airport and our next flight takes us southeast over the Mediterranean Sea to Israel. We land in Tel Aviv. We travel by bus to Jerusalem, and check into St George’s College. The next day we head for Galilee, north of Jerusalem. And there, before us, unfolds land much unchanged since our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ passed by the Sea of Galilee and called the disciples to come follow and follow him.
Our destination is Capernaum. Capernaum, nestled on the shore of the Sea of Galilee is, even today, in its ruined state, an evocative place. Here in Capernaum, we are blessed to stand in one of the few places in modern day Israel that we can be certain Jesus stood—in the ruins of the second century synagogue there. All that remains of the synagogue today is a wall, the stone slabs that make up the flooring, and tall white limestone Corinthian columns that tower above us as we look around. Beneath this floor on which we stand is the very synagogue in which Jesus entered that Sunday and taught with authority, cast out the unclean demon, and amazed the people with his power over evil.
In the silence of this place, hearing the waters of the Sea of Galilee lapping at the nearby shore, we can almost imagine being there on that Sabbath day. We can almost hear his voice.
The scripture today continues where we left off last Sunday. We are still in Capernaum, on the same day. We see Jesus and the disciples leave the synagogue and go to Peter’s house. We follow his path now as we walk through the ruins of this place to a modern day church that has been built over the archeological digs of several small houses, one of which could well be the house of Peter. Archeologists found that the walls of this house were covered with Christian graffiti, and that the building went from being used as a regular house to one modified for public use. Beneath the modern day church we can see the excavations of these houses, and when we go into the church, we find that we can look through the glass flooring into the houses below.
To peer down into this place, where no doubt Jesus was, where Peter lived, where Christians gathered, even when being persecuted, to worship in their early house churches, takes us back in time.
We can see Peter’s feverish mother- in- law in bed over against that wall. We can see Jesus and the disciples entering the small room. This man Jesus, who has just cast out an unclean spirit in the synagogue, goes to her.
The scripture tells us that “He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up.”
Ok, now we are going to break the laws of homiletics and I’m going to talk about the Greek in this passage because knowing the Greek is so important to our understanding of what really happened here.
"krateo" is the Greek verb used here for holding her hand. And in the Greek, it means to take hold of forcibly, to seize, to grasp. This is no sweet bedside hand holding that Jesus does, but an act of power. Jesus powerfully grasps the woman’s hands and raises her up.
And then Mark uses the verb "egaro" to describe what Jesus did when he lifted up, raised the mother- in- law of Simon Peter.
He restored her to health, but he did more than just restore this woman to health.
"Egaro" is also the Greek verb that we find at the end of Mark, when the young man tells the women at the tomb that Jesus is not there, that he is risen! "Egaro" is the verb that describes the resurrection of Jesus himself.
So, in this moment in which Jesus grasps the hand of Simon’s mother –in-law, all of time merges into one for us,
Because in this moment we become aware of the future, and we see not only the image of Jesus grasping the hand of the woman and raising her up, but also, as if through a curtain of light, God’s mighty hand, grasping the hands of his dead Son—grasping hands bloody and scarred from the nails that held him lifted up on the hard wood of the cross. We see God’s hands, lifting Jesus up into a resurrected and everlasting life.
In this moment when time stands still and the world is irrevocably changed and redeemed, we see a glimmer of the future for each and every one of us here in this place today.
Through the eyes of faith we can see our own resurrections in this moment, God’s mighty hands grasping our hands, and lifting us, too, into everlasting life.
Let’s return now from our international travels to this time and this place. We leave behind the Tiber River, the Vatican, the Sea of Galilee, and Capernaum.
Here we are once again gathered in our own small church next to the Rappahannock.
Imagine Jesus entering this space. Jesus comes with power and authority to us. And Jesus wants to grasp our hands—your hands, and mine, to make us well, “not in some heaven, light years away,” but “here in this place” (words from “Here in this Place” Marty Haugen in With One Voice).
In the gospel, after Jesus grasps her hand and lifts her up, Simon’s mother-in-law, made well, gets up and begins to serve them.
Greek has many words that express the concept of serving, but the verb "diakonao" as the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament tells us, is the verb in Greek that “has the special quality of indicating very personally the service rendered to another…there is a stronger approximation to the concept of a service of love.” (Vol II, pg 81).
And it is that sort of service, the personal service rendered to another, that Jesus wants us to be doing for one another, just as the angels waited on Jesus when he was in the wilderness for forty days tempted by Satan. Mark tells us that Jesus was with the wild beasts there, and the angels waited on him—Mark uses that same verb, "diakonao" to describe this service. I love this image—the angels waiting on Jesus, not merely providing what he needed, but waiting on him with love.
Jesus wants to raise every one of us up to this same sort of loving service. Jesus wants to grasp our hands and make us well so that we can, as I say each week at the end of this service, go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
And in our midst are people who love and serve the Lord. People here today provide loving service to the sick. People care for elderly family members. People cook for others. People here today are craftsmen, people who drive those who need rides, people who grow food and care for the earth—you get the idea. The list could go on and on, because this congregation provides a great deal of loving service to one another and to the world outside the doors of this church.
On the front page of yesterday’s Free Lance- Star (February 4, 2012) was an article about a young woman named Heather Marshall who clips coupons, goes shopping and then donates the items she buys with the coupons to SERVE in Stafford County. Family members and people in her church also give her coupons to use for her project. On a recent shopping trip she spent $63 and bought over $1200 worth of groceries for SERVE. This discipline of shopping for SERVE is an example of loving service for those who don’t have enough to eat.
And we will be providing loving service of a sort today when we donate money and canned goods to the Souper Bowl of Caring, so that Glory Outreach can provide more food for the hungry in Caroline County.
Today, gathered here to worship, we find Jesus in our midst not only through the word, but we will also find him in the bread and the wine in just a few minutes here.
As a sacramental people we have the privilege each week of reaching out our hands—our hands that are scarred through work accidents, hands that have been misshapen by disease and hard work—all of us have less than perfect hands.
We do not have the hands of the perfect Adam on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. And God does not stretch out a perfect finger from a throne high above the circle of the earth to raise us up. The truth is much earthier than Michelangelo’s painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, as magnificent as it is.
Every Sunday, we hold out our less than perfect hands, and when we receive the bread that we know to be the body of Christ in our hands, we grasp our Lord Jesus, and Jesus , with his own scarred hands, grasps our hands and lifts us up,
Into a resurrected and abundant life here and now—God grants us the freedom to be of loving service to all of God’s creation—and the freedom to go out and to serve others with love is the true liberty of abundant life.