Year B Ephipany 5 (apologies to anyone following the lectionary faithfully – I read the wrong line last week and used this week’s readings – so this week I’m using last week’s readings.)
Call to worship
Psalm 147: 1-5. Responsive from Uniting in Worship
Hymn Together in Song 217 Love Divine
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
You created us in your image –
In Jesus you re-created us as your children –
And in your Spirit, you sustain our lives every day.
We thank you that you are the source and the purpose of our lives
As we come to worship you today, we thank you for the wonder that you have chosen to be our God, and have invited us to be your people.
God, we don’t always hope in your love
Sometimes, when things are difficult,
We give up all hope, and we give up on you.
Sometimes we have a misplaced hope and we demand miracles
And we’re not happy with the answer you have given.
Help us to learn to trust and hope in your steadfast love
Not just when things go well,
Not just when you agree with us
But at all the times of our lives
In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Declaration of Forgiveness
The truth and the promise of the gospel is this: Christ Jesus came into the world for the sake of ordinary, sinful people, such as us. So I have confidence to say to you: Our sins are forgiven. Thanks be to God!
Hymn Together in Song 579 The Blind Man
Isaiah 40: 21-31
As you know, I spent a number of years as a hospital chaplain.
The hospital is an amazing place. Medical science regularly does things today that a few generations ago would have been seen as miraculous or magical (depending on whether people saw the achievements as from God or from elsewhere.)
If there had been places like the Royal Brisbane in first century Israel, perhaps Jesus would not have been mobbed by people wanting him to cure physical diseases.
As it was, Jesus’ ability to heal disease brought him fame quickly. In this passage, we see firstly, Jesus heal a single person, a relative of a close friend. The word got out and everyone in the city appeared bringing their sick family and friends with them. For Jesus to have his own prayer time – he had to go away by himself. He had to hide. And even there people were able to find him.
When his friends found him, and tried to take him back to the crowds, Jesus refused, wanting to go out and preach and teach in the neighbouring towns – saying this was what he had come to do. The healing was, apparently, an extra to the core business of what Jesus was about.
Jesus didn’t want the kind of attention that performing miracles brought him. Notice that he silenced demons because they knew who he was. He left the crowd behind for some quiet time, and chose not to go back again.
So what was this healing work about? It wasn’t to gain attention, and if not to gain attention, then not to convince people about himself or about God, on the basis of the miraculous.
This particular passage of Scripture began in Simon Peter’s home. Peter’s mother-in-law was ill.
In the society of the day, Peter was responsible for his mother-in-law’s welfare. If she were ill, he was responsible to arrange for her care – something that would be difficult if he were going to be travelling with Jesus. So the first thing we might note about this healing was that it helped to facilitate the rest of Jesus’ ministry. It removed an obstacle.
It was also an act of compassion, towards the mother-in-law and the whole of her family. Jesus’ nature is to love, and this was a practical way of showing love to this family.
The story tells us she got up and served them. In our day and age, we might be a bit disturbed by the idea of a middle-aged woman getting up off her sick bed to care for a group of healthy, young, men. But in her society, Peter’s mother-in-law was taking over her rightful place of honour in the household, as the senior woman serving the guests. Her illness had meant someone else (probably Peter’s wife) would have had to take her place. Her healing wasn’t only physical it was social and emotional as well – it gave her back her rightful place in society and the dignity that belonged with her role.
When word got out and the crowds came. People brought in those who were sick and demon-possessed, for Jesus to heal. Today, we distinguish between physical, and mental illness and being spiritually unwell is hardly ever considered until it affects some other part of life. But Jesus accepted these people as whole human beings: physical, mental, spiritual and social. He healed all aspects of their lives. It was not a dramatic stunt. It was not designed so that people would give their testimony. It was a restoration of people to full wellness in all aspects of their lives. It was Jesus, showing the nature of God.
Today, we tend to split people up. We look at health as being physical or mental. Very rarely do we tend to look at health in terms of social or spiritual wellness. Perhaps that comes from the scientific model of understanding the world which breaks things down to its smallest pieces. (There is a great value in science – but it does not teach us everything.)
God didn’t make us to be small pieces, but to be whole beings. Illness and wellness are not just about physical and mental states, but about the whole of life. If we become unwell in any area of our lives: physical, spiritual, mental, emotional, social, relational – it spills over into other areas of our lives. Similarly to become well in one area of our lives we need to look at our health in all areas.
When we go to a hospital, we are looking for healing or a cure, in a specific area of our lives, just as the people who came to Jesus were doing.
The wonder for the people in the crowd was that Jesus didn’t just hand out cures to particular ailments. He restored people to wellness in every aspect of life, not just whatever was troubling them most.
And it has not really changed very much today. People seeking cures for single conditions, are still surprised to find that healing happens on many different levels, and curing the single problem isn’t enough And some still find that while the condition they sought a cure for can’t be cured, yet they are able to experience healing in many other parts of their lives, often areas where they didn’t even realise they were suffering.
Jesus continues these works of healing today – quietly, without fanfare and without drawing attention.
Hymn Together in Song 689 Lord hear my praying
All that we have and all that we are is a gift of your love.
Out of our gratitude to you we bring you these gifts: our money, our time, our skills, ourselves.
May these gifts bring glory to your name, in this, your world. Amen.
Prayers of the People
God of peace, we pray for peace
You know all of the rights and wrongs of all the troubles of our world today
You know more than the people involved do.
When your very nature is love, we can’t believe that war and hatred are your desire for this world. Yet you have given us the freedom to make our own choices for good or for bad.
We pray for the choices being made by the leaders of this and other nations. We pray that you would always grant then wisdom, and encourage in them a desire for peace.
We pray for all of the people who work for healing in your world. For people treating physical and mental illness; for people working for peace, mediating between people or between nations; for people who feed the poor and hungry; for people who care for the spiritual needs of others; for everyone who reaches out in love to another person. We pray that you would give each person who works for healing the wisdom and the strength for the task you have given them.
And we pray for ourselves, your people. May we be healthy in all ways – so we may be able to help care for and heal others in your name.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Hymn Together in Song 537 Let us talents and tongues employ
The service of Holy Communion (Uniting in Worship)
Hymn Together in Song 530 Now let us from this table rise