Sermon Briefs: Mark 1:29-39 Part 2
A Day in the Life of Jesus, the title Kenneth Stangeland1gives his sermon, sets a pattern for us to live our days in full use of the gifts of Jesus' promises and power for living in the present. He cites the characteristics that from the beginning enliven Jesus' ministry. Jesus brings his "yes" to the ordinariness of everyday life; he guides us in a pattern of daily renewal, and he persistently pushes the boundaries to minister to people beyond his community.
Stangeland observes that the action in this text takes place just after worship in the synagogue, and asks us to look for a connection between worship and what happens after the service. He mentions the illegality of healing on the Sabbath, and Jesus' willingness to exercise the healing gift. Of course an immediate reaction to the news of the cure of Peter's mother-in-law was a gathering of multitudes also needing healing. Jesus is present and willing to heal them also.
The day in Jesus' life described by Mark and reported in Stangeland's sermon continues through to the following morning. Combined with the willing "yes" of his mid-day activity, his early morning seeking of renewal through solitary prayer also sets the tone for his later ministry. Stangeland commends that pattern to us.
Jesus then moves his ministry to neighboring villages, evidencing enthusiasm for proclaiming the good news of the kingdom in the now of everyday life, constantly renewed by God. The gift of faith in the one who was and is and is to come is made alive not only in our worship but wherever our today experiences his presence.
Eduard Schweizer2, in his sermon Who Is Supposed to Serve?also responds to the three-fold form of the gospel text. First, there is the healing that reveals Jesus' power and identity. Then there is retreat, in which Jesus can acknowledge and be renewed by God's presence within him. Finally there is the movement of the message to the wider community.
Schweizer focuses on the healing of Peter's mother-in-law as an example of what happens when the presence of God breaks in upon a person. The woman so healed does not simply recognize Jesus, as did the demons who were subsequently drawn out of many people. Recognition, understanding correctly the identity of Jesus, produces orthodoxy; this woman reveals not an orthodox belief but an attitude of service.
The healed woman also does not move into a state of adoration, mirroring the excitement of the city where the healing has taken place. Neither the self-centered pride that may be produced by such inspiration, nor any other kind of extraordinary emotion visits her. She simply serves. Jesus is also apparently unimpressed by the fervor of the populace. Everyone is seeking him and he withdraws, renewing the sense of God's presence within himself.
Schweizer reflects upon the role of those women and men who serve as the disciples of Jesus. He reminds us that equality of service for women and men was remarkable in Jesus' time and place, and that in all the gospels we find women serving Jesus. He muses that the apostles are having to learn the role of servants, entering a place occupied by the angels who served Jesus in the Markan temptation, and the position of the Lord himself, among us as a servant.
In an untitled sermon labeled as preached in a blue-collar congregation, Mark Ellingsen3 describes the text's message for us: if we refuse to be open to change, God may be passing us by. Naturally, the message centers on the portion of the text where Jesus, having attracted great attention by healing Peter's mother-in-law, and then having been renewed in prayer, turns to his disciples and says that it's time to move on.
Ellingsen confesses his own resistance to change, in contrast with the on-the-go picture of Jesus in Mark's gospel. Mark would have us believe that Jesus does everything immediately. Since Jesus' activity reveals what God is like, the God of creation who sent his Son to die for humanity is again revealed as a God who is willing to change and create, and who expects a willingness to change from those who are called to be disciples.
The Ellingsen sermon is in a volume of his work entitled Doctrine and Word, and this sermon from the beginning of Jesus' ministry comes at the end of the volume, in a chapter entitled Eschatology and the Resurrection of the Body. Remaining in the present is comfortable, but the present is actually the time to be aware of and united with the God who is renewing us toward the future. In this sermon, perhaps Ellingsen is reflecting upon an immanent change of direction for his particular blue-collar congregation and its pastor.
Karin Bascom Culp
Aldersgate United Methodist Church
North Charleston, SC
1. Augsburg Sermons—Gospels—Series B, (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing, 1975), pp. 73 ff.
2. James W. Cox, Ed., Best Sermons, (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988), pp. 88 ff.
3. Mark Ellingsen, Doctrine and Word, (Atlanta: John Knox, 1983), pp. 168 ff.