Healed to Serve - Mark 1:29-39
Imagine being the person who always loves to play host. You love to have people over for dinner. You always have the best food and holiday family gatherings. Everybody has a grandmother, mom, or dad who’s the family hospitality queen or king. Maybe you’re that person in your family. Maybe you’re that person in your church, neighborhood, or group of friends. One of the many reasons why the pandemic has been so hard is that it’s prevented many families from getting together for the holidays. Without the ability to share hospitality with others, it might feel like a part of you is missing.
Now imagine losing that ability to share welcome and hospitality with others permanently. Many experience this as they age. The grandpa who’s no longer strong enough to carry in the Christmas tree. The aunt who hosted the whole family for Thanksgiving for 50 plus years who’s no longer able to due to her old age and handicap. The ability to welcome and host others is a spiritual gift that’s a blessing to entire families, groups of friends, and church communities. It’s a type of service some people offer to those they love. And when that ability is gone there’s a sense of sadness and loss.
In the Gospel reading today, Simon’s mother-in-law had a fever. From the little we know about her, it seems she was one of those people who had a calling to welcome and hospitality. This fever prevented her from using that gift, from doing what she felt called to do. By healing her, Jesus not only gives her her health back, but gives her her dignity back, her vocation and calling. It’s a beautiful thing that when she’s healed she goes back to her ministry of hospitality and welcome and began to serve them.
Simon’s mother-in-law is the blueprint for what all Jesus’ healing should do for us. She is healed, and because of that gift, she is able to serve. The Greek word for service is diakonia. It’s the word that appears here. The words deacon and deaconess have the same root. Diakonia is service with a holy spin on it. And it is clear early on in Mark’s Gospel that this serving is the proper response to the healing and new life Jesus gives us. Simon’s mother-in-law is a model for us to follow, a woman who is healed by Jesus, perhaps even from a life-threatening illness (as many fevers could be in that day)—and immediately responds with a desire for service.
So that begs the question: how do we respond to the healing we’ve experienced through Christ? Do we follow the example of Simon’s mother-in-law? Do we know what it is that we’re called to do? Are we healed and eager to live lives of service, or do we respond to Jesus by staying in bed with the covers over our heads?
To be honest, we’re all wounded and broken in some way. We’re all in need of healing, even if we’ve known the love of God our whole lives. The world is a hard place to live. There’s tragedy and hardship for everyone. Even in affluent first world communities there’s plenty of suffering to go around. And most of us can’t even fathom the incredible suffering of the destitute all over the world or the homeless in our own country. Poverty and malnutrition affect millions. Diseases like cancer can strike at the worst possible time. Car accidents suddenly end lives. Addiction and overdose take loved ones away. So many struggle with stress, depression, and anxiety. Others struggle with relationships and feel alone in the world. And that’s not even mentioning the suffering of our current time with the coronavirus pandemic and everything our world has been through this past year.
Yes, we all need healing. We’re all broken and life is full of suffering. And it is to this world that Jesus Christ came. It is for this broken world that Jesus Christ died. And it is for this broken world that Jesus Christ rose and to which He preached Good News. The Good News of God’s love and forgiveness. The Good News that suffering and sin and death do not have the last word. The Good News of eternal life with God. The Good News that despite the suffering of this present time, the kingdom of God is here among and even this world will one day be a place where God is all in all.
It is upon hearing this Good News that we are filled with hope, faith, and divine love. We are inspired to be a part of the change we want to see in the world. This journey from brokenness to wholeness—the spiritual journey—leads us to a life of service. Of diakonia. Filled with the Spirit, we are driven out into the world to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.
That’s what church, at its best, is. A place where broken people come for healing. A place where people in the process of healing deepen our connection with the divine. And a place where transformed people listen for God’s voice calling us to serve our neighbors in need. To serve and ease the suffering of God’s children in whatever way our gifts enable us. Healing…Spiritual transformation…Service.
Like Simon’s mother-in-law, Jesus offers us healing. It may not be sudden and miraculous like she experienced (or it might be!) but whatever the case, Christ’s healing is always life-changing and inspirational.
We’re all in need of healing of some kind. And we’re also all called to some type of service. Whether it’s welcome and hospitality, visiting the sick and imprisoned, cooking meals for the hungry, building houses with Habitat, advocating for social justice, helping with Sunday School or youth group—whatever it is, we’re all called and equipped to serve the world in our own unique way.
And the truth is, on this side of eternity, none of us are completely whole or healed. We’re all wounded healers. We struggle through our own suffering while we help the suffering world. We’re all in this together, and Jesus is with us in it too. And because of Him, we are given the gift of new life, healing, and wholeness—and in response to this great gift we go out and share His love and grace with a world in need.
So I invite you this week. Think and pray about how you are called to serve the world in your own special way. How can you, like Simon’s mother-in-law, respond to Jesus’ healing with service? Ask God also to reveal to you your brokenness, where you need healing. We do such a good job of covering it up and ignoring our own brokenness with all kinds of defense mechanisms and distractions, that even recognizing our need for healing can sometimes be hard. Pray for insight into both: where’s your need for healing and what’s the gift you have to share with the world? And trust the Spirit to guide you in living a life of healing, spiritual transformation, and service. Like all the followers of Jesus before us, let us follow in our Lord’s path: receive what we need, help how we can, and grow in love for both God and neighbor. Thanks be to God for the gift of healing and the calling to serve. Amen.