In today’s Gospel, we continue with examples of Jesus’ healing power. Last week, we heard the encounter Jesus has in the synagogue with a man with an unclean spirit. Today the story continues in Simon’s house.
Simon’s mother-in-law is sick in bed, with fever. She needs help. She needs medical care. Jesus doesn’t ask for proof of insurance or her Medicaid card. She doesn’t need to fill out an Obamacare application. She doesn’t need to qualify for anything to get treatment. Rather, Jesus takes her hand, and in that moment, the fever leaves. It’s instant healing. It shows Jesus’ power and the authority of his presence.
In the story, we see that human dignity is more important than customs and rules. It’s the Sabbath, the day in which nobody should work. But Jesus does a tremendous work by healing this woman. Jesus would have known well the Hebrew purity codes from Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Besides avoiding the Sabbath, one shouldn’t touch the body of a sick person, especially a woman not in your own family. Jesus knows all this, but Jesus also shows compassion and love. Jesus has a strong focus on the needs of the people. For Jesus, personal connections mean more than ancient restrictions.
Upon touching Simon’s mother-in-law, it’s an encounter of restored dignity and new life. Immediately, she begins to serve them. I know that sometimes feminist and mujerista biblical commentators are uncomfortable with this reading, as well as others about women and Jesus, because they could suggest that the correct place for a woman is serving men. It’s part of a patriarchal culture with lots of machismo. We don’t even know her own name. She only has identity in the text because of her son-in-law. Generally, I also try to avoid using the Bible in ways that continue such oppression and inequality.
However, the word used here jeans much more than preparing food and pouring coffee. It’s a word of humble leadership. It’s a word of discipleship. It’s the same word that Mark uses in Chapter 10: “For the Son of Man did not come to be served, rather to serve…”
Jesus is an example of humble service. Jesus focuses on the needs of others. Jesus restores life. Jesus gives new opportunity. Immediately alter her encounter with Jesus, she begins to attend to her visitors. She’s a good host. She continues her ministry of welcome and hospitality. She’s healed to serve. She’s blessed to be a blessing. She’s cured to care. She’s strengthened to strengthen.
And for us, how do we respond to our own encounters with Jesus: In baptismal water, in bread and wine, in prayer, fellowship, worship, love? How are we lifted up to serve? What is our ministry of hospitality and welcome.
Our worship end with words that push us out into the world: “Go in peace; serve the Lord. Thanks be to God.” Our ministry as a congregation doesn’t end when worship does. Rather, it continues when we leave the sanctuary, to serve and love and proclaim the message of Jesus in our daily works and struggles. We, too, are blessed to be a blessing.
This week, I have to fill out the annual report to the national office of our denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The form asks for a lot of information, especially our numbers of attendance, membership, and offerings.
Here is a graph with San Lucas attendance from 2000-2013. The numbers and statistics can show if a congregation is growing or not. They can show useful data. They can indicate part of what is happening in a congregation. But they don’t show everything.
A congregation with high attendance does not automatically mean a healthy congregation. It’s possible to have lots of people in the pews each Sunday, but to still have gossip, conflict, and abuse of power. It’s possible to have beautiful music and a great sermon, but to still drown in apathy, egoism, and biblical ignorance. It’s possible to have lots of money, offerings, and donations from the North, and still focus only on ourselves, ignoring the true needs of our neighbors and our community.
Do we have Sundays-only-folks or disciples? Do we have a show or a celebration? Do we have an internal focus or a missional push? The question shouldn’t be “How many people attend your congregation?” or “How many members do you have?” Rather, we should ask ourselves, “How are we following Jesus?”
Thinking about the health of San Lucas, we should be asking ourselves:
How do we respond to our own encounters with the divine by serving our neighbor or helping the other?
How do we share our faith in our daily life?
How do we fight for justice in our community?
How do we pray for the needs around us, instead of only for our own families?
How do we push our children in spiritual leadership?
How do we develop discipleship in adults who haven’t been baptized?
How many San Lucas youth have we sent to seminary to become pastors?
How do we show welcome and hospitality to people different from us?
How do we serve Jesus?
These are questions in which we should focus, upon thinking of our minsitry at San Lucas. Numbers and statistics are important, but they aren’t everything. Like the woman in today’s Gospel, we have an encounter with Jesus. He touches us. He transforms us.
Immediately after her healing, she starts to attend to her guests. She continues her ministry of hospitality and welcome. She’s healed to serve. She’s blessed to be a blessing. She’s cured to care. She’s strengthened to strengthen.
We live in a world with a fever. We live in a community that needs an encounter with love. We live in the midst of so much corruption and poverty and injustice. But we also have encounters with Jesus:
Reading the Bible.
Eating his Holy Supper.
Praying with devotion.
Enjoying God’s natural creation.
In the eyes of a neighbor.
With divine encounters, we are blessed. We are strengthened. We are transformed. With God’s help, San Lucas welcomes those who haven’t found hospitality elsewhere. With God’s help, San Lucas teaches a Christian message of love and reconciliation. With God’s help, all of you can leave this sanctuary, ready to serve.
Ready to attend to our neighbors. Ready to respond to the baptismal call. Ready to be transformed by an encounter with Jesus. Ready to shout: “Go in peace; serve the Lord. Thanks be to God.” Amen.