Saturday, February 4, 2012

Fifth Sunday after Epiphany: There are Two Kinds of People....

Readings for this Sunday:  Isaiah 40:21-31; Psalm 147:1-11, 1 Corinthians 9:16-23, Mark 1:29-39

There are two types of people in the world:

Those who need to be cared for.

And those who are called to care for others.[i]

Take Simon Peter’s mother in law.  She definitely needed to be cared for.

It’s the Sabbath – her day to shine.  Worship on the Sabbath is rooted in the home.  Sure, you may go to synagogue on the Sabbath, but the crux of the worship is the Sabbath meal in the home.

And that is where a woman could really shine.  It was the mother, the eldest woman in the household, who was responsible for the spiritual life in the home.  She lit the Sabbath candles and said the Sabbath prayer.  She would spend the day before preparing delicious foods for the Sabbath meals.  It was festive, special, holy –an honor no Jewish woman would want to miss it.

But this Sabbath, Peter’s mother in law – we’ll call her Ruth – was not at her usual place.  Ruth did not oversee every detail of preparation for the Sabbath.  At sundown, Ruth did not light the Sabbath candles and say the Sabbath prayer, as was her right as eldest woman in the household.  Ruth was not even able to welcome her son-in-law’s guests properly as they returned from the synagogue the morning of the Sabbath.

Ruth was in bed with a fever.

It may not sound like much to us in this day of Tylenol and Advil and our knowledge of germs and advanced medicine.  A fever – that’s nothing to us.  But to Ruth, a fever was mysterious, dangerous.  It could very well be the onset of a deadly illness. 

Even more than the threat to her body, this fever threatened her place in society.  It isolated her from her community, removed her responsibilities, denied her privileges.

From care-giver to care-receiver in a matter of a few hours.  How helpless she must have felt when the others in the household not only took over HER duties, but also took care of her!

She was cut-off from the daily routine of the household – even worse, the need to care for her disrupted that routine.  Can’t you just hear her saying, “Now, don’t worry about me.  I don’t want to be a bother.”

How horrified she must have been that Peter brought guests into the house when she couldn’t make sure they were properly taken care of!

Was she mortified that Peter even ushered the most honored guest – Jesus - into her sickroom? 

Did she apologize for being sick in bed instead of greeting them at the door, even as Jesus took her hand and raised her from the bed? 

At Jesus’ touch, the fever was gone.  She was healed!

But even more – she was restored to her rightful place in her household.  Invalid no longer, she immediately began making sure her guests were properly welcomed and their needs cared for.

There are two types of people in the world:

Those who are called to care for others.

And those who need to be cared for.

It was a busy, exhausting day.  Jesus spent the morning teaching in Capernaum’s synagogue.  While there, a man possessed by a demon confronted him and Jesus cast out the demon.  Then he headed to Peter’s house for the afternoon and upon getting there discovered that Ruth was ill.  He immediately healed her, and she responded to his healing her by caring for his needs in return.  How wonderful that she responded so gratefully to him – sometimes it felt like everyone demanded something from him: healing, teaching, miracles.  But Ruth got it – she understood that being one of his followers meant to serve.  And she did, making sure he had the most comfortable seat in the house, offering him a refreshing cool drink, and serving a truly delightful Shabbat lunch. 

The respite Ruth’s hospitality gave him was short-lived.  By evening, it seemed that everyone in Capernaum was on Peter’s door step, wanting to see Jesus.  He spent hours listening to their fears and dreams, touching this one that was sick, blessing that little one, casting out demons.  It was hard work, but this was why he came – to proclaim the kingdom of God was near not only by his words but also by restoring people to health and wholeness and community, so that they may, like Ruth, care for each other. 

Before dawn, he awoke and quietly left the house.  He needed time alone - to think, to pray, to listen for God’s voice.  As he walked, did the words of Isaiah echo in his mind:  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.”[ii]

His time alone with the Father renewed him.  When his disciples finally find him, he’s ready to go on to the next town, to proclaim the kingdom of God has come near and to bring healing and restoration to even more people who longed for the touch of God’s hand.

There are two types of people in the world:

Those who need to be cared for.

And those who are called to care for others.

And the truth is sometimes each of us needs to be cared for,

And other times we are each called to care,

And yet other times we are both.

We are broken in need of repairing. 
                                           We are called to repair the brokenness. 

We are sick in need of healing. 
                                          We are called to bring healing.

We are frightened in need of comforting. 
                              We are called to bring comfort. 

We are worn and tired in need of restoration.
                                     We are called to restore others to community.

We are called to serve, yet often we need to be served.  

We find that we are reluctant to admit our need, and hesitant to accept our call.  

There are two types of people in the world:

Those who need to be cared for.
And those who are called to care for others.

Which are you today?

Do you need to be cared for? Do you need to wait upon the Lord to renew your strength?  Like the children of Israel in exile, do you need to experience once again God’s steadfast love? 

Maybe you’re on the other side – strengthened and nourished by God, are you being called to respond with grateful service to someone who needs you to be the hands of Jesus reaching out to raise them up?  

[i] This sermon is based on David Lose’s reflection “Two Kinds of People” found at
[ii] Isaiah 40:31

No comments:

Post a Comment