Some folks may think of this worship service in front of the TV this morning as the “pre-game show…”
As if we’re just warming up as we anxiously await
the Buccaneers and Chiefs and their face-off later today
You may have some munchies out already or maybe they’re in the oven!
The truth is: my family’s team, the Packers, are out of it, but we’ll still watch —
Sarah for the game, and me too, though I’m at least as interested in the commercials…
hoping to laugh, to be surprised, and trying to guess which ones might go viral…
A few years back there was a Duracell commercial featuring Derrick Coleman,
the first deaf player to ever make it to the NFL.
He ended up playing in the super bowl for Seattle
the same year his TV commercial went viral –
and he and the Seahawks ultimately took home the NFL Championship.
Anyway, you may remember the commercial. It was honest about Derrick’s struggles in life and specifically his challenges as a person with a disability on the path of trying to make it as a professional football player.
In the commercial there’s a voiceover – it’s his voice speaking –
as you seen images of him practicing and training. Derrick says:
They told me it couldn’t be done
That I was a lost cause
I was picked on and picked last
Coaches didn’t know how to talk to me
They gave up on me
Told me I should just quit
They didn’t call my name (for the draft)
Told me it was over
But I’ve been deaf since I was three
So, I didn’t listen…
And now I’m here
With a lot of fans in the NFL cheering me on
And I can hear them all.
The line that gets you is: But I’ve been deaf since I was three…
so I didn’t listen, and now I’m here.
Even when I re-watch it now, the commercial sends a wash of hope over me,
thinking about how things that seem impossible can be possible.
By playing in the NFL, Derrick Coleman experienced a certain kind of healing.
His disability didn’t go away,
He wasn’t able to hear with his ears because a doctor
gave him some new treatment
or a new kind of hearing aid,
But he had been told that because of his disability, doors were closed to him,
As he says, he was “picked on” and “picked last”
and told to quit by some…
and yet he got to put on a real uniform,
he caught passes, and he scored touchdowns…in the NFL…
He was even in the SuperBowl…on the winning team…
and he was able to do all this because, ultimately, a team did choose him,
did extend him a contract, and did give him a chance to play.
Some clubs overlooked him, but finally the Seahawks saw him
and welcomed him as a part of their team
and that was clearly a healing experience for Derrick Coleman.
Jesus is busy seeing, welcoming, and healing in Capernaum in our gospel text this morning.
He doesn’t overlook Simon’s Mother-in-Law, although it would have been easy to do.
The truth is we have many records of other ancient rabbis healing men
But we have no records of them healing women,
Because it would’ve been shameful to touch a woman that was not a family relation,
much less to heal them.
So, it would have been easy for Jesus to tell this woman that it couldn’t be done
That she was a lost cause
That it wasn’t worth it to Jesus to put his reputation on the line —
After all, it was still his first day on the scene
And he was just establishing his name and ministry among the people in Galilee.
But Jesus doesn’t care about his status in other people’s eyes
or who he’s seen with, or what people think about him,
He cares that people who are faint receive power,
That those who are powerless are renewed in their strength,
And his concentration is focused on lifting up those who are weary like wings on eagles.
Indeed, Jesus has the power of God at work in him.
There is no limit to his power and authority.
He will heal anyone he wants, anywhere he wants.
Last week we heard Jesus healed a man in the synagogue – a holy place
This week we hear that he heals a woman in her home
A domestic, every day, and common place.
Last week we heard Jesus casting out supernatural powers, or demons,
Today he casting out natural powers in the form of a fever that was threatening the life of Peter’s Mother-in-Law…
And we hear that Jesus “raises her up.”
The only other time this verb is used in Mark’s gospel
is when God raises Jesus up after his death on the cross…
Which makes me think that this woman experiences healing
that is deeper and more profound than just her fever breaking.
Jesus “raises her up.”
This is a healing that frees Peter’s Mother-in-Law
from the sickness that had a hold on her AND restores her to her whole self,
in other words, she is healed of her disease AND her illness.
If that sounds redundant, it’s not, because you see,
a disease is the thing that causes the body pain or discomfort or stops it in its tracks.
(For example, the coronavirus is a disease.)
But an illness includes all the associate feelings that come from that disease.
(as with Covid, its feeling of isolation and loss of community and connection)
For Peter’s Mother-in-Law the illness included being unable
to perform her role as the honored hostess of the house,
receiving the respect that would’ve come from welcoming others into her home,
or even just hearing the cousins tell her again
how they loved her hummus recipe and how no one could ever make it like her.
This mother-in-law’s illness would’ve included
the distress and sadness and the feelings of worthlessness from all this…
And when Jesus lifts Peter’s Mother-in-Law up
he lifts her up from her disease and her illness
and restores her to health and her place in her community.
I have a good friend who got some very bad news about his health recently.
After the news, for weeks he was stopped in his tracks and had stopped doing a lot of the daily things that had been a part of his routine and family life for a long time.
This can easily happen when something bad
that’s not even been in your life
becomes the main thing in your life,
and attempts to squeeze everything good out of the picture.
But I talked to him this week and he told me that the silver-lining is that he is a part of a trial
And will get experimental therapy and medicine.
To get ready for this trial he spent an hour with the doctor he hoped to get,
And all day, from 8am to 1pm or something like that,
Having the medical team look at him and listen to him
As they prepare treatment.
There is already for him, a way in which, this illness is on a path of healing,
He is back into his daily routine.
Restored to his family and community.
Because he has been seen, and heard.
He has been raised up.
God has us in his sights and knows the totality of our disease and illness.
God sees us and welcomes us and chooses us
God is a stadium full of 100,000 football fans,
painted in our colors, cheering us on as we come through the tunnel,
healing us by never giving up on us.
By cheering us on
By wanting the best of us
Raising us up.
The cross is where we see God raised up in agony and loneliness for us.
On the beams of the instrument of his death,
Jesus carries all our sickness, and disease, and illness,
And these powers that seem so powerful,
so insurmountable, are defeated.
Simon’s Mother-in-Law experienced the power
that took away her disease and illness, and having been healed,
she got up to serve!
She filled glasses, laid out plates, gathered a community in her home
around good things on her table, as people talked and laughed and connected, and so
Jesus is seen, multiplying his healing through the tasks of her hands.
When I was doing homeless ministry in Baltimore, MD,
working with men living with HIV/AIDS
I made some good friends among my co-workers and I got to know their stories.
Our little staff on N. Main Street, worked together
helping our clients work through the 12 steps of recovery
from abuse of drugs, alcohol or other behavioral disorders,
Together, we were helping our clients begin to admit they were powerlessness
in the face of alcohol or other substances.
We were helping them begin to acknowledgement that the power to be healed and be restored
Comes from outside us — comes from God who offers care to us.
In my work with these colleagues –
I got to be friends with them
and I had been enjoying hearing their stories
and learning about them –
and then one day it just dawned on me:
I looked around the room and I realized that
Down to a person, every single one of my colleagues had come through recovery themselves.
Every one of them: Ms. Yvonne, Mr. Huff, Leroy, Kevin, Jerome…
they all knew healing themselves, personally, from addiction
and that, literally, was what was powering their ministry.
God sets us free…
God sets you free and that freedom is for service,
To free others, to see other, to listen to others, to heal others…
Jesus comes to you in worship and prayer, in your baptism and at the table,
And raises you up to be with God,
like a Mother-in-Law walking again
waiting on tables, and serving others because you have been healed.
When Simon Peter and the others come to look for Jesus to say,
Hey, Jesus! You’re everyone’s first-round-draft pick, there looking for you
We find out Jesus isn’t interested in being famous
Or taking the easy way out by staying put and being celebrated as just a healer
Jesus says, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns
so that I may proclaim the message there also.”
And so Jesus goes on
Healing and leaving servants like you and me in his wake
Raising up women and men who have been healed, to will serve alongside him,
As he continues on his way to the cross
where he has in mind a larger healing
A more lasting healing than we can even ask for or imagine,
That will overcome all disease and illness for all time.
And so Jesus invites us to go with him, with the message that:
God’s grace is at work,
Transcending all the limits
Coming to men and women,
In holy and everyday places
Unwilling to settle down and rest,
But always lifting us up
Strengthening the powerless,
Renewing our strength,
Calling our name,
Seeing us, welcoming us, healing us,
Inviting us to suit up,
Stretch out, and get ready,
We’re on God’s team
And he is lifting us up like eagles on the wind,
As we are freed to pass on the healing to others.
And when the clock winds down to zero, God wins. Healing is ours. Jesus raises us up.