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Strengthened to Serve

February 9, 2012

Mark 1:30 says: “Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once.” For many years, I used to think this passage showed an example of Jesus’ concerns in the “little things.” I would use it to preach on how we don’t have to wait until something is “big enough” to merit his attention; how he cares about all parts of our lives, no matter how small. I certainly do believe this, but my understanding of what is happening in this particular passage was transformed by our Lenten Study in 2008.

This Study consisted of different “Lenten Monologues” by various figures from the Biblical story. One of the figures was Simon’s mother-in-law, who was made to say these words, which stopped me dead in my tracks:
I had come down with a fever and felt as if I was burning up. I was in bed at my daughter’s, and she would alternate covering me up when I was chilled and bringing water when I was hot. All I could think about was that my husband had such a fever before he died. I kept falling into a deep sleep, and each time I woke up I could see the worry on my daughter’s face. I didn’t know it, but she had sent word for Peter to come home. I’m sure she wondered, just as I did, what would happen.

I suddenly realized that all these years, I had read this passage through the eyes of someone with access to twenty- and then twenty-first century medical care, insurance, antibiotics, clean water, and the list could go on. I was convicted that I need to remember the suffering of the world!

Mark 1:31 continues: “He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.”

We see Jesus’ healing touch – that Jesus indeed is our healing. Simon’s mother-in-law is recovered enough to serve (we would expect her to be weak). The Lord has given her the strength.

This story about the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law meant for all of us. For in truth, we all have fever from sickness, from which we need our Lord’s healing touch to emancipate us.

Frank Hegedus asks:
How can you know when you have been healed? The Gospel says that Simon’s mother-in-law, “began to serve them.” As she was healed, she immediately began to serve others. When we are ready to help others in their need and focus once again outside ourselves we will know that we too have been cured. We will no longer be slaves to our hurts and resentments. We will at last be made whole. And we shall live.

Simon’s mother-in-law’s response to being healed is the discipleship of lowly service. She uses the strength and the example the Lord gives to serve him and others.

May we do the same.

(This is adapted from the sermon at our February 5 Services; the picture at the top of this posting is Rembrandt’s 1660 sketch of this Gospel account.)

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