Monday, February 9, 2015

Epiphany 5 Sermon: "Jesus' Healing Word"

+ 5th Sunday of Epiphany – February 8th, 2015 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series B: Isaiah 40:23-31; 1 Corinthians 9:16-27; Mark 1:29-39
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
If you could have any super-hero power, what would it be? To fly like Superman? Swing your hammer like Mighty Thor? Or read minds like Professor X?
If the weekly prayer request cards for the Prayer of the Church are any indication, I think many of us would want the ability to heal. Not like those goat-herders on TV who only want 15 minutes of fame and what’s in your wallet. No, something more like Wolverine’s self-healing; Lucy’s healing cordial from Father Christmas in Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe; or Rapunzel’s magical hair in Tangled.
After all, we see the world we live in, broken and in need of healing. We see family and friends suffer hurt, loss, pain, and death. It’s not right. Come quickly, Lord Jesus, we pray. Maybe we imagine that we could help or heal others if we had some kind of super power. Of course, that too is a day-dream. All we’d really do is find a way to ruin that gift too. Just look at what we’ve done with God’s creation under the power of sin…the sin in a creation which is cursed, and our sinful flesh that is the walking dead within us.
This is precisely why Jesus has come down to us. As St. Mark records:
“Let us go on to the neighboring towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.”  And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.
Like Peter’s mother-in-law in today’s reading, we need Jesus’ healing Word. And Jesus comes for us, just as he did to her, and the crowds in Capernaum – by his Word.
Everything Jesus says and does, the teaching and the miracles, it all points to one place: Jesus’ crucifixion for you. Your healing is found in Jesus’ death and resurrection for you. If we miss the cross in the miracles, we miss the whole point of Jesus’ miracles in the first place.
Think back to last week’s Gospel reading. Jesus casts out the unclean spirit and heals the man. Jesus’ miracles point to the cross. And it’s on the cross –not in Galilee – that Jesus cast out the devil and all demons. Jesus’ death for you fulfills the promise of Genesis 3:15; Jesus crushed the serpent’s head for you, defeats the devil and wins victory for you.
The miracle points us to Jesus’ healing word in his death and resurrection for you.
It’s the same in today’s reading.
Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. 
Where we might think a fever a rather trivial thing, at least compared to a confrontation with an unclean spirit, Jesus doesn’t hesitate. No doctor clichés will do. Jesus doesn’t prescribe Peter’s mother-in-law to take some Advil, drink plenty of water, and call him in the morning. No. Jesus went to her in her moment of need. He came and took her by the hand.
Jesus’ actions remind us that visiting the sick is such an important part of our Christian life – showing care and mercy to all. And because it was particularly important to Jesus’ ministry, it’s also a vital part of what God calls pastors to do. So, don’t hesitate to call me in a time of need. That’s precisely why I’m here, to bring Christ’s healing word to you in your time of illness or need – great or small.
Jesus knows and provides for our spiritual needs, as well as our physical ones. He cares for the whole creature that he made us to be – body and soul. Jesus also died to redeem our whole being – body and soul. In the resurrection you will be raised to new life – body and soul. And so, we care for others in a similar manner: in body and soul. The food of God’s Word and food for their stomachs. Clothed in Christ in Baptism and clothes for their body. Jesus’ healing Word spoken to those in need, and God’s mercy given in a caring embrace, a compassionate hand on the shoulder, or a listening ear.
After all, sickness is never just a physical thing. Sickness can also be a time of spiritual insight and wrestling; when we’re sick we’re vulnerable and dependent. We’re reminded of our mortality, even if it’s just the sniffles or a 24 hour bug. “This cold is killing me”, we say.
All sickness is a “little death”, screaming out, “remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” And yet, our sicknesses also point us to that great and glorious day of resurrection, when our broken bodies will rise to new life in the resurrection. When Jesus will change our lowly bodies into bodies suited for eternal life. Our restoration to health is a preview of that new creation, each recovery a “little resurrection”.
Jesus came and took her by the hand and lifted her up.
We need Jesus’ word of healing from the cross and the empty tomb. After all, even though she was healed, Peter’s mother-in-law would die someday. And though we may recover from our colds and diseases, someday we’ll die too. This, of course, reveals a deeper truth in Jesus’ healing miracles. Sin and sickness go together.
Now don’t misunderstand this. It’s not as if you commit a certain sin and then God strikes you with the measles. Peter’s mother-in-law wasn’t sick because of some particular sin in her life. And it’s not the case that if we just had enough faith, well, we could overcome our sicknesses. Never mind that rubbish.
Rather, sin and sickness go together in this way. They are alien, foreign to our bodies. Disease and death is not what God intended for his creation and his creatures. In this life, our colds, sniffles, and diseases remind us that there is something wrong in our bodies, in the world, in the cosmic order of things. And that’s what Jesus came to set right.
In the Scriptures, sickness is a picture of Sin. Sin is a spiritual sickness, a systemic virus, which has invaded our humanity. And no matter how hard we try, we can’t shake it. Sin is a disorder of God’s order that has corrupted everything. The Great Physician gives us the diagnoses. We are our own affliction. We are our own disease. There ain’t no drug that can make us well. Sin is fatal. And the only cure is Jesus’ healing Word. The cure is Jesus’ death and resurrection for you. The cure is in your death and resurrection in Jesus through Baptism.
 “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”
Jesus miracles were important because they pointed to the most important thing he came to do. To proclaim good news to Peter’s mother-in-law, to the crowds gathered at her doorstep and throughout Galilee…and to you today.
For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
The healing and casting out of demons showed that Jesus’ word carries God’s authority. The miracles were not an end in themselves, but signs, directing us to Jesus’ healing Word.
The same Jesus who demonstrated his power over sickness and Satan also died to overcome death, his death and yours. The same Jesus who healed many, also brings you healing word of authority: go your way, your sins are forgiven. The same Jesus who went throughout Galilee preaching the Gospel also went to Jerusalem, to perform the Gospel and give his life for you.
The God who does not grow weary or faint received help from Simon of Cyrene as he carried the weight of our sin and death on his shoulders. The Great Physician of body and soul is afflicted with the sickness of sin in order to save you. The Doctor becomes the disease in order to cure you of your deadly disease.
Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
Jesus continues to heal and forgive you in holy absolution. Jesus’ Word in Baptism cleanses you from all iniquity. Jesus gives you the greatest antidote of all time, his holy body and blood given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins. Take, eat; take, drink…your medicine of immortality.
The healing of Peter’s mother-in-law is also a reminder to us that you will be healed. And every prayer for healing – in body and soul – finds its yes and Amen in Jesus’ healing word. Though we may not be healed from a particular illness in this life…and certainly not from dying…you will be healed, lifted up, raised from the dead.
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.
And the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
She was healed. She offered her sacrifice of thanksgiving through service. It’s the same for us. Jesus heals us by his Word. Jesus restores us to life. Jesus forgives our sin-sick hearts and prepares us to serve. To speak Jesus’ healing Word to others: Jesus crucified for you. Jesus risen for you. Jesus in his healing word for you. Jesus in baptism for you. Jesus in the Supper for you.
You don’t need any super-hero powers. The cure you need is right here for you in Jesus’ healing word.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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