EPIPHANY 5, B – February 4, 2018

SCRIPTURES – Isaiah 40:21-31; 1 Cor. 9:16-27; Mark 1:29-39

They brought to Jesus all who were sick or oppressed by demons. The whole city was gathered together. And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons…

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” He said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” Mark 1

 

I rarely have the opportunity to hear someone else preach, but this past week I got to do so. I heard a sermon that, amazingly, was delivered by one who cannot speak. Oh, words were spoken. Another person delivered them, carefully expressing what the preacher was unable to say himself. But, those words followed. First the silent preacher came out and stood before us. His mere presence proclaimed his message. His shadow fell… and announced that there would be six more weeks of winter! Oh, Phil; may your sermon not come true!!!

Preaching; proclaiming God the Creator’s work merely by his presence; Punxatawney Phil is not the only one who does this. Jesus also did this. Mark tells us of a day He spent in the town of Capernaum. At Peter’s house He healed his mother-in-law, and then, when sick and demon-possessed townspeople were brought to Him, He healed them all. Early the next morning, however, Jesus was gone. He had gone off by Himself to pray. When His disciples found Him they told Him, “Everyone is looking for you!” There were more people who needed healing. Jesus responded, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” He didn’t say anything about healing, but only mentioned preaching. His whole life, with everything He did, was a preaching. And so is yours.

You are a follower of Jesus, a child of God. And so, you are a preacher. By how you live your life you tell others what is important and who is important. You proclaim who directs and holds your life. Preach Christ!

Begin, as Jesus did that day, right here: in God’s house, with God’s preaching and teaching and worship and prayer. Here God tells you about Himself and you learn to know Him. You also learn to know yourself and your need for Him. But, above all, here you receive your God and Savior. By His Holy Spirit Jesus heals you with His forgiveness and fills you to strengthen you for His work. Isaiah says, “they 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.” This takes place here. Here you are healed, that from here you might go forth with healing.

We see this in our Gospel reading. Jesus leaves the synagogue and goes to Simon’s house, where He heals his mother-in-law of a fever. The news of this goes out; people become preachers. They seek out all who are sick or oppressed by demons, and by evening the whole town is at the door. They are looking to Jesus for help.

When you come to know Jesus as your helper, God begins to make your entire life a preaching, a proclaiming of His love and mercy and strength and peace in Christ. Often, it is through the sufferings and sorrows of life – and there are many! – that God presents the opportunity to proclaim the hope you have in Him. Being healed by Jesus doesn’t mean being an unreal, otherworldly person who stands aloof from others, and especially from non-Christians. It certainly doesn’t mean that He’ll favor you by keeping from you sicknesses and sufferings. Far from it! God’s people often suffer the same as those who aren’t His people. He allows this to give you opportunities to relate, to be among the sick and suffering, and to share the hope you have in Jesus. He does it to make your life a preaching.

We see this often in the Bible. Isaiah’s people knew discouragement, and even felt abandoned by the Lord. “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God,” they cried. Perhaps you have felt this way at times. If so, you are in good company: Jesus Himself did. “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” he cried from the cross. He knew this fear and discouragement; but in His resurrection what Isaiah proclaimed is fulfilled: “God gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength… they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength.” In Christ God is near to the weak and faint of heart. We preach this message as we draw near ourselves, and as in our own weakness and suffering we share the hope we have in Christ.

Consider the apostle Paul. What a great preacher he was! He especially preached by his life. “Though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more,” he told the Corinthians. “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.” And so, like Paul – and like Jesus! – associate with the weak and the strong; the believer and the unbeliever; the righteous and the unrighteous. You know, we live in a rather brutal and brutish society. Constantly we hear stories of violence; of people abusing others sexually and using them for their own pleasure; and of people berating and abusing others and tearing them down, especially on social media. Be a servant of all, and weak with the weak, by speaking and dealing respectfully with everyone, even the undeserving and despised. This will be a loud preaching. It will give you opportunity to bring the healing of Jesus, His forgiveness of sins, to others, and so by all means save some.

Ultimately, of course, the response to our preaching is in God’s hands. Shoot, even Jesus didn’t always get the best results! Sure, the whole town of Capernaum eagerly gathered at His door when He offered them physical healing. But months later, when He offered them far more, telling them, “I am the bread of life, come down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:48, 51) – they grumbled at Him. “Who does he think he is? ‘I came down from heaven’? We know his father and mother!” They all turned away from him. Even so, Jesus lived among them and went to them. He offered His life for them, and for us all, on the cross to heal us of our every sin. And so: who are we to complain and get discouraged and stop offering ourselves to others? Pray for the Holy Spirit to open ears and open hearts! Pray for His help in making your whole life a preaching; in making you a Punxatawney Phil!

When you are, it is God who is the preacher. He says to us through Isaiah, “Do you not know? Do you not hear? It is God who sits above the circle of the earth… [He] stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; [He] brings princes to nothing… he blows on them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble.” God is preaching through the events of this world and by the lives of its people. He is calling us all to see Him as “the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth” – and in Jesus, our eternal Savior and Healer. Preach this with your life of mercy, your response to Him who mercifully comes to you, heals you with His forgiveness, and dwells within you with His healing. He who came for this sends you out for this. And so, we pray:

O be our great deliv’rer still, the Lord of life and death;

Restore and quicken, soothe and bless, with Your life-giving breath.

To hands that work and eyes that see give wisdom’s healing power

That whole and sick and weak and strong may praise You evermore. (Hymn #846:4)

Through Jesus Christ, in whom we have eternal healing! Amen.