Let Us Go On
My last trip to the emergency room was a couple of weeks ago. I didn’t go for me. I was there in a ministerial role. I was there to pray and bring peace to a tough situation. I don’t hang out in emergency rooms because they are not a fun place to be. There is disease, pain, suffering, frustration, and pain and disease. It can be a place of tragedy and a place of relief. But when things go south quick with our heath that is the place we go.
We live in a society now that looks at modern medicine to cure everything. Actually that is how we define it. Our modern day society says that sickness is really the absence of good medicine. We are told over and over again what good medicine looks like. We are bombarded by drug commercials on the TV we watch and in the stuff we read. These drugs will cure all your problems. Need help with your restless legs…we have a fix. Losing your hair…we got it covered. Losing the ability to do other things…take a bath on a cliff. Are you dealing with asthma, diabetes, osteoporosis, an enlarged prostate, arthritis, high blood pressure, a heart attack, bladder control issues, and so much more…we have the right stuff.
Each year, drug executives spend $4 billion on prescription drug ads for pills they say will make you feel happier, sleep better and improve all aspects of your life. Add our vast knowledge of prescription drugs to what we can find on the internet and you have one informed person. When we get sick these days we head right to the computer to tell us what our problem is. Jesus leaves the synagogue he was hanging out in last week and goes to the home of Simon and Andrew. There he discovers that Simon’s mother-in-law is in bed with a fever. We don’t anything else about her condition. I wanted to see what WebMD would say that she had. I learned she was very sick. Putting in the symptom of a general fever I got twenty different things she could have had. Simon’s mother-in-law could have had acute sinusitis, influenza, bacteria pneumonia, middle ear infection, sun burn, urinary track infection, and the list goes on with many more I could not even pronounce.
Simon and Andrew were worried about Simon’s mother-in-law. If they weren’t they would not have brought her to Jesus’ attention. Of course, that may be the whole reason he came to their house to being with. We know now that fever is the body’s way of trying to fight off infections and regulating body temperature. Back then they saw that a little differently. Simon’s mother-in-law’s fever could have been seen as a result of a sin she committed or the sins of her great-grandfather. Or even that she was possessed by a demon. We know now what she probably had was a simple virus or bacteria but back them something simple wasn’t so simple.
Jesus doesn’t care about the reason she has a fever. He reaches out and touches her, lifts her up and the fever leaves here. Everything is good and then we get to the offensive part of the scripture. There are actually two parts that offend me in this passage and they may offend you. Simon’s mother-in-law is healed to do what, to serve them. Which reminds me of a couple jokes, why haven’t they sent any women to the moon? Because it doesn’t need to be cleaned up yet. How many men does it take to open a can of coke? None, it should be open when the woman gives it to you. Why don’t women need to wear watches? Because there’s a clock on the stove. That is what this verse feels like when I read it. It feels like Simon’s mother-in-law is being pushed into the ancient role of servant when Simon brings some buddies home. I am offended that this Bible is producing this image that women need to be waiting on men hand and foot and that Jesus heals her to have her serve him.
This is the first of four scenes of the passage of scripture today. The last one is offensive too. The middle two are fine. Jesus healing many people who show up and then in the morning going to a quiet place to pray, those are fine. In the last scene the disciples find Jesus after hunting for him and he tells them that they are going to go. His actual words are, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns.” Why does Jesus ignore the other hurting people of this area? Back in scene two when he the whole city is outside his door it says that Jesus healed many. That means there are still people who are in need because it doesn’t say he healed them all. There are still people who are sick and full of demons. There were hurting people who were probably crying out of this healer to heal them but what does Jesus say, “Let us go on.”
Jesus is not living up to our expectations here. We expect Jesus to be able to heal us. Jesus is supposed to heal everyone. That is Jesus’ purpose, right? That is why he came to earth, right? Jesus came to give us what we want? If we are sick we want to feel better, Jesus give us what we want. If we are poor we want money, Jesus give us what we want. If we are scared of the future we want to know how it will work out, Jesus give us what we want. We expect Jesus to give us what we want and here he leaves before his job is done.
Twice now in 10 verses Jesus offends us. He makes us uncomfortable and asking questions of why. These things were all going through my head when it hit me. Why does Jesus heal? He heals people to make them whole again. Jesus never promises that he will heal everyone that is an idea that we place upon him. Jesus never promises he will make life happy-clappy he only says that he will give us life more abundantly. Life is happiness but also pain. Life is peaceful and hectic. Life is sorrow and smiles. Life is disappointment and excitement. Jesus tells us he will give us life, more abundantly, more happiness, more pain, more peace, more craziness, more sorrow, more smiles, more disappointment and more excitement. Then he promises to be with us in all those situations.
What is our reaction to be to this? Our reaction should be what Simon’s mother-in-law does. When we feel God’s grace and when we come in contact with that overpowering love, we get up and we serve. Knowing the grace of God in our hearts and feeling the healing that it can give us doesn’t allow us to sit still; we have to get up and serve. We have to tell people about it and share it with others because it overflows from us.
This is why Jesus is comfortable leaving. That night, outside Simon and Andrew’s house was a powerful moment for the whole city. For they showed up and they were touched and healed. Jesus did not need to hang around because his work would continue. If you throw a rock into a pond what happens to the water. It is all affected by the rock because of the ripples. The rock makes a splash and then the ripples go out until it reaches every bank. Christ reached out and touched people, he healed them, and then leaves them to be the ripples; he leaves them to serve.
The United Methodist Church believes in the priesthood of all believers. This means that all baptized believers are called to be ministers and that all baptized believers have a ministry. Jesus is comfortable coming in and dropping a rock of love into this pond because he knows that we will be able to spread it around, for we all are ministers. Yes I’m ordained but that doesn’t remove me from this responsibility either. We ALL are ministers who have felt God in our lives and need to get up and serve.
I have been asked by a couple people, here and there, what my thoughts are about Trinity. I have shared with them that you all live up to your reputation of being a loving and friendly congregation who don’t mind working hard and have huge hearts. But there was something missing that I couldn’t explain. There was something that wasn’t settling right with me until a couple weeks ago. I was having a conversation with some of you and the topic turned to your history. One of the people said, “I guess you could say we have been a training ground for pastors and many of them have gone on to high positions. We just allow them to a lot of rope.” Right there named it for me.
You all have done a great job rearing ministers who have been going through school and fighting through the ordination process. You have demonstrated great love and care for them. You saw this as ministry and it was. I don’t need that though. I have my degree and I’m ordained. That means you all are free to take on another form of ministry, another type of responsibility. I don’t need that type of ministry you offered all those pastors so let’s get busy serving God in a different way.
Jesus promises to never leave us but he is also busy doing all kinds of work everywhere else in the world. We cannot hold him to these four walls and he leaves us in charge of doing his ministry in our community and the world. This is our chance to step up to the plate. We have been touched by God’s grace and now it is each and everyone of us who has the responsibility and calling to stand up and serve.
And all of God’s people said…Amen.