Mark 1:29-39

Mark 1:29-39
 
There is a sense of urgency in the Gospel of Mark. Much of the action in this gospel takes place with a note of immediacy, and this story is no exception. After sundown, the entirety of the city is brought to Jesus in hopes he may cure their diseases and cast out their demons. We imagine it must have been a time-consuming task to heal a whole city. But the next morning, "while it was still very dark," Jesus is already up and moving. He prays and then urges his disciples on to the next city so that he may continue to proclaim his message.
Perhaps we should be engaging in our mission with a bit more urgency. We are also called to cure the sick in heart and cast out the demons of hatred and isolationism. And the time to do this is now, immediately. There is no time to waste in the mission of loving one another.
 
Loving Savior, stir up in us a sense of urgency to live out your gospel. Send us to the downtrodden and lonely, and work in us to lift them up from their darkness. Be the spark to light the fire for mission within us. Amen.
 
 
Mark 1:29-39 (NRSV)
 
29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.
30 Now Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once.
31 He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
32 That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons.
33 And the whole city was gathered around the door.
34 And 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.
35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.
36 And Simon and his companions hunted for him.
37 When they found him, they said to him, "Everyone is searching for you."
38 He 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."
39 And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

Mark 1:29-39

Mark 1:29-39
 
Simon's mother-in-law was unable to meet the needs of her guests. She was unable to serve because something was holding her back. In her case, it was a physical sickness, one that left her incapacitated. But at the touch of Christ's hand, her fever left her and her ability to serve was restored to her. Her encounter with Christ enabled her to serve once again.
There are also parts of our lives that hold us back from our call and ability to serve the world. It may not be a physical illness, but it may be fear, previous obligations, excuses, bad attitudes or ignorance. Any of these can be just as debilitating when it comes to living out our call to serve. We must let ourselves be touched by Christ. When we are, we too can be restored to our vocation of service to all.
 
Restoring God, enter our hearts and remove all that keeps us from our call to service in the world. Send us out to do your good work that all may know and experience your gospel of love. Amen.
 
 
Mark 1:29-39 (NRSV)
 
29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.
30 Now Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once.
31 He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
32 That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons.
33 And the whole city was gathered around the door.
34 And 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.
35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.
36 And Simon and his companions hunted for him.
37 When they found him, they said to him, "Everyone is searching for you."
38 He 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."
39 And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

1 Corinthians 9:16-23

1 Corinthians 9:16-23
 
What does it mean to become "all things to all people?" I think at times we have taken it to mean that in our proclamation of the gospel we must morph the meaning to fit the audience. Certainly, if taken to the extreme, this can become a dangerous enterprise in a world that often seems to be getting worse rather than better. However, this is not Paul's intent.
 
Instead, the gospel remains the same for all time; Christ crucified for us, for all, for free. That is the gospel. The good news is offered without a membership fee or a price tag. It is available to any and all persons regardless of race, sex, gender, language or any other distinguishable feature. The words we use to proclaim this may morph depending on the audience to which we are speaking, but Jesus was, is and always will be the gospel. Jesus is all things to all people. We are merely his voice as we seek to remain faithful to the message.
 
Holy God, use us. Make us into instruments of your one true gospel. Speak through our voices to the nations that all may know you and be blessed through you. Amen.
 
 
1 Corinthians 9:16-23 (NRSV)
 
16 If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel!
17 For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission.
18 What then is my reward? Just this: that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel.
19 For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them.
20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law.
21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law) so that I might win those outside the law.
22 To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some.
23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.

Psalm 147:1-11, 20c

Psalm 147:1-11, 20c
What has God done? Words cannot express! God's works are great and God's works are small. God's works are general and God's works are specific. God names the stars in galaxies far away and tends to the young ravens when they cry. God is abundant in power, able to rule over all, yet, sends gentle rain to water our fields. The psalmist notices the works of God and reminds the audience to praise God for who God is and what God has done.
 
We, too, are those called to notice and respond to the many works of our God. God is still active and moving in our world at large and in our individual lives. God is still building up God's people and healing the brokenhearted. Look around! Look up! Look down and see what God has done, then give praise to the One who alone is worthy.
 
Holy God, you alone are worthy of all our praise. Open our eyes to notice the many ways that you are present and working in our world and incite in us a spirit of praise. Amen.
 
 
Psalm 147:1-11, 20c (NRSV)
 
1 Praise the Lord! How good it is to sing praises to our God; for he is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting.
2 The Lord builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
3 He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.
4 He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names.
5 Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.
6 The Lord lifts up the downtrodden; he casts the wicked to the ground.
7 Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre.
8 He covers the heavens with clouds, prepares rain for the earth, makes grass grow on the hills.
9 He gives to the animals their food, and to the young ravens when they cry.
10 His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the speed of a runner;
11 but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love...
20cPraise the Lord!

Isaiah 40:21-31

Isaiah 40:21-31
 
"Have you not known? Have you not heard?" These questions are asked with the implication that indeed these people have heard the good news. However, these questions are asked to a people in exile, a people who may have forgotten the faithfulness and power of their Lord in their darkness.
How often do we forget the goodness, mercy and love of our Lord when we are feeling lost or consumed by darkness? We get bogged down in the pain and the frustration and lose sight of the One who is our hope and strength. Like the people of Israel, we too are called to lift up our eyes and see God amidst the darkness and struggle of our own personal exiles. In so doing, we will have our strength renewed and we will soar with eagles, knowing that it is our God who saves.
 
Creating God, you hold the whole of the world in your gentle embrace. Lift our eyes to see your face, a light in our darkness and a hope in our despair. Amen.
 
 
Isaiah 40:21-31 (NRSV)
 
21 Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
22 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to live in;
23 who brings princes to naught, and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.
24 Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows upon them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble.
25 To whom then will you compare me, or who is my equal? says the Holy One.
26 Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these? He who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them all by name; because he is great in strength, mighty in power, not one is missing.
27 Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, "My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God"?
28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless.
30 Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted;
31 but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

“O Zion, Haste,”

"O Zion, Haste," ELW 668 (Verse 2)

O Zion, haste, your mission high fulfilling,
to tell to all the world that God is light;
that he who made all nations is not willing
one soul should perish, lost in shades of night.

Refrain
Publish glad tidings, tidings of peace,
tidings of Jesus, redemption, and release.

Publish to ev'ry people, tongue, and nation
that God, in whom they live and move, is love;
tell how he stooped to save his lost creation
and died on earth that we might live above.  Refrain

He comes again! O Zion, ere you meet him,
make known to ev'ry heart his saving grace;
let none whom he has ransomed fail to greet him,
through your neglect, unfit to see his face.  Refrain

Reconciliation can't wait for heaven. The season of Epiphany invites us to herald the good news right now. It must be told that Christ stooped to gather every people, tongue and nation into God's love and toward the unity of the life above.
But perhaps you feel like me. Sometimes, I don't know what to do. My congregation is divided. Some want to host refugees. Others support a travel ban. My lesbian friends say I'm not bold enough. My conservative friends say I push gay rights too much. I fear I am a cowardly leader. My heart breaks. But still I know, that the good tidings that God is love and sent Christ to die for a lost creation is good news for me too.

God, help me. Bend me toward people who don't look like me, people who don't think like me. Give me courage to take risks, to give up my life or even part of it, so others might live in the reality of your love. RIGHT HERE. RIGHT NOW. I'm sorry I'm a coward. Please make me strong like Jesus. Please, Jesus. Amen.

Brenda

“O Zion, Haste,”

"O Zion, Haste," ELW 668 (Verse 1)

O Zion, haste, your mission high fulfilling,
to tell to all the world that God is light;
that he who made all nations is not willing
one soul should perish, lost in shades of night.

Refrain
Publish glad tidings, tidings of peace,
tidings of Jesus, redemption, and release.

Publish to ev'ry people, tongue, and nation
that God, in whom they live and move, is love;
tell how he stooped to save his lost creation
and died on earth that we might live above.  Refrain

He comes again! O Zion, ere you meet him,
make known to ev'ry heart his saving grace;
let none whom he has ransomed fail to greet him,
through your neglect, unfit to see his face.  Refrain

Our church newsletter, The Faith Herald, takes its name from Isaiah 40: "Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength... Do not fear; say to the cities of Judah "Here is your God!" Zion was a shabby herald. Deported and scattered across Persia, Israel doubted God still cared. Yet God called Zion to stand tall and publish glad tidings: Our good God is coming to lead all nations home.
Most congregations in my Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) denomination are smaller, older and less able than they used to be. We may feel shabby and ill-equipped as heralds. Yet God still enlists us to publish good news: God is light and wills that not one soul should perish in the dark.

God, fill us with such gratitude for your light and compassion for those in darkness so that we simply shine, unconscious of our own condition and heralding your presence with joy. Amen.

Brenda

Mark 1:21-28

Mark 1:21-28
 
My fourth-grade imagination was haunted by a slumber party encounter with a Ouija Board. For months I thought I was possessed. While I still believe there are weird, wild, unseen spiritual dimensions in play, I know now that most "unclean spirits" are just that: dirty, noisy, chaotic, disruptive, unhelpful thoughts, feelings or impulses that captivate our lives. Why else would healthy, well-balanced humans spend inordinate time and energy wishing and working to escape into Netflix binges, serial baking (I write in mid-December), internet gaming and worse?
Fighting unclean spirits gives them power. (Ask a 12-stepping friend about this.) I can, however, hang out with Jesus and welcome his clean Spirit to invade my life. I can wish and work to give Christ and Christ's habits more time and energy in my days.
 
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right Spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10). Amen.
 
Brenda
Mark 1:21-28 (NRSV)
 
21 They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught.
22 They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
23 Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit,
24 and he cried out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God."
25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be silent, and come out of him!"
26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him.
27 They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, "What is this? A new teaching--with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him."
28 At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

Mark 1:21-28

Mark 1:21-28
 
Authority. As boss in my little office, I can choose copier paper freely. It's a simple, natural thing. It was that simple and natural for Jesus, Son of God, to teach the Hebrew Scriptures. It was that simple and natural for Jesus to tell a noisy and chaotic spirit, "Shut up and get out!"
But choosing copy paper is not my main job. Teaching Scripture and rebuking spirits weren't Jesus' main jobs. No, God authorized Jesus--and through Jesus, God authorizes me and you--to "proclaim the good news of God." Simply and naturally that good news is this: It's time! God's effective presence is as close as your right hand. Adjust your strategy for living. Live as though it's really true! (Mark 1:15)
 
Holy God, let us know and love you as Jesus knew you. Give us authority to proclaim your good news simply, naturally with complete confidence. Amen.
 
Brenda
Mark 1:21-28 (NRSV)
 
21 They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught.
22 They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
23 Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit,
24 and he cried out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God."
25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be silent, and come out of him!"
26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him.
27 They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, "What is this? A new teaching--with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him."
28 At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

1 Corinthians 8:1-13

1 Corinthians 8:1-13
 
"Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up." I fear that my "knowledgeable," puffed-up words and deeds have sometimes blown others out of the water. I know good people who no longer attend church because Christians so often seem small and mean to them. I am complicit.
We are fully held in the love of God no matter what we do or say: "Food will not bring us close to God." What we eat, drink, wear, watch, read, say and even believe will not drive God away. However, everything we do and say influences our ability to love God and build up others.
 
God, give us humble hunger to let your love renovate our lives. Let us shape our words and deeds that you might build up your love in us and we might build up others. Amen.
 
Brenda
1 Corinthians 8:1-13 (NRSV)
 
1 Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that "all of us possess knowledge." Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.
2 Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge;
3 but anyone who loves God is known by him.
4 Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that "no idol in the world really exists," and that "there is no God but one."
5 Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth--as in fact there are many gods and many lords--
6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
7 It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge. Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.
8 "Food will not bring us close to God." We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.
9 But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.
10 For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacrificed to idols?
11 So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed.
12 But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.
13 Therefore, if food is a cause of their falling, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall.