Monday, February 05, 2018

Epiphany 5B

Mark 1:29-39

29As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30Now Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them. 32That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34And 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.

35In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37 When they found him, they said to him, "Everyone is searching for you." 38He 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." 39And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.
We're still in the liturgical season of Epiphany in the church's year of grace that began a couple months ago with Advent. Epiphany (revealing, revelation. manifestation) emphasizes the universalism of Jesus as redeemer, savior, sovereign for all people and all creation everywhere—not solely for his own ethnicity, nation, and geography. Epiphany features light! We know how far into the dark a tiny candle shines. Scripture readings for epiphany also include call stories that relate to God's calling people who lived long before us, and relate directly to places and ministries God calls us to shine as light in our own worlds.

Next Sunday the season of Epiphany concludes with the Feast of the Transfiguration. On Transfiguration (T-Fig) we experience a theophany, or trinitarian revelation. Earlier in the season at Jesus' baptism we also had a theophany of the triune God. That pair of manifestations of the Trinity basically bookend the epiphany season. Lent, the season of lengthening, longer days that initiates spring in the northern hemisphere) follows epiphany. Lent begins in ten days on February 14, Valentine's Day.

I asked Steve and Charlene to note highlights of the Gospel According to Mark from the intro to the gospel in their study bibles. Today's assigned text brings us a pair of Mark's ongoing emphases: resurrection and service. In 13 verses, we get a tremendous amount of action, several changes of scene. I asked Richard (who's a member of the Motion Picture Academy, grew up in the field and is an expert on most things film-related) if this would make into a 90-minute movie; he replied it would be two hours long. Mark uses the word for "raised up" we find in 1:31 sixteen times in his gospel; it means resurrection to new life. In fact, the theme of resurrection from death pervades both Old and New Testament.

Service is the second prominent biblical current in this particular passage. Diakonia / deacon and related nouns and verbs make a pathway through the entire New Testament; this includes Jesus' declaration he is among us as "one who serves." In today's text, Jesus raises Simon Peter's MIL to new life so she'll be able to serve again. Pastor Peg mentioned some very cool interpretations of this in her sermon! From the Acts of the Apostles, we learn the early church first ordained (laid hands upon and prayed over to authorize for a particular ministry) deacons or servants.

Acts of the Apostles 6:1-7

1Now during those days, when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. 2And the twelve called together the whole community of the disciples and said, "It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3Therefore, friends, select from among yourselves seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this task, 4while we, for our part, will devote ourselves to prayer and to serving the word."

5What they said pleased the whole community, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, together with Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. 6They had these men stand before the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. 7The word of God continued to spread; the number of the disciples increased greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.

Deacons daily model Jesus's act of foot washing – towel and basin ministry – that many churches demonstrate during their Maundy Thursday worship. The church didn't first ordain Ministers of Word and Sacrament that we tend to think of as the church's primary "ministers"! Created in the image of God and called to lives of neighbor-oriented service as God acts, the servant class or group or tribe of deacons historically has had a world-facing, world-serving call. To the world the church is supposed to look like people called to serve. Of course, that includes Ministers of Word and Sacrament or pastors when they're out in the world, too, although the Minister of Word and Sacrament's primary stance is facing the church.

Stay tuned for next week's Transfiguration!

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