First Sunday after Epiphany – January 07, 2024

Posted on January 8, 2024, Pastor: Pastor Lara Forbes

Sermons are preached within the context of a particular worship service, and are most meaningful when experienced in that way. We encourage you to view or listen to the entire worship service. 

January 7, 2024

First Sunday after Epiphany

Mark 1:21-45

Worship Service Video Sermon Video Sermon  Audio

Sermon Text:

Grace to you and peace from God, our Creator, and from our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

When I served in Costa Rica, one of the first things I learned is that the congregations of the Lutheran church there are small by U.S. standards. They average 25-40 people at worship, so they’re a little larger than house churches. I worshiped with most of the communities when I was there, but there was one that I considered my “home” congregation.

And one Sunday after we’d gathered for worship, but before the service started, our pastor asked whether we’d be willing to relocate so that we could worship in a particular family’s home that day. It was a multi-generational household, and mom had been sick with I-forget-what, and was bedridden; one of her adult daughters was recovering from a hysterectomy, and the other had had knee surgery, which made it difficult for her to leave the home.

They were all caring for each other as best they could, but it was one of those times when a bunch of stuff hit all at once. And with all of it going on, it had been about two months since they were able to be at worship.

This family doesn’t live in a large home, but our pastor had asked them earlier in the week if we could do this for them, and they said, “Yes.” So, when he asked us, we said, “Sure!”

And so we went. There were about 20 of us; we all found a place in their home, and we had worship. And during that time, our community was whole again.

In Mark’s gospel, the people who witnessed Jesus healing people recognized that there was something special about him and the authority of his teaching. And it’s tempting to say that Jesus’ new teaching was only about casting out demons or healing people, but there was something bigger going on.

Because these events aren’t only about what Jesus says or how well he says it, they’re about what he actually does. What we learn about Jesus is that he refused to ignore people who needed healing. It would have been easy for him to do that.

He could have stepped around the man possessed by a demon and kept talking to the rest of the men that were in the synagogue. He could have refused to heal Simon’s mother-in-law, and all the others that were brought to him. He could have chosen to not make the man with leprosy clean.

But instead, Jesus paid attention to them and released them from the things that had kept them bound. He gave them back to their families and to their community. He made them whole.

Throughout history, there have been plenty of people that claimed they had the power and authority to do you name it. And that hasn’t changed. But for us as people who follow Jesus, his authority is the one that matters.

And living according to Jesus’ authority isn’t about shouting to be heard above people that disagree with you, or making sure your knowledge on a subject is known. Jesus’ authority is more than that.

The miracle that happened when Jesus healed people wasn’t the calling out of unclean spirits or curing illnesses so much as it was the power of God’s love to make us whole. That’s what the people witnessed.

They saw that Jesus has the authority, the power, and the presence to lead us to wholeness. We may know each other by our faults and our flaws, but God doesn’t see our broken places so much as God sees the beauty of our wholeness. And God longs for us to see that wholeness in ourselves and in our neighbor.

And God’s love works through us throughout our lives, healing the broken places within us so that we can experience wholeness even when we think it isn’t possible.

Because being made whole doesn’t always happen in one fell swoop. If only, right? More often, it happens in stages. When we went to that family’s home for worship on that Sunday, they weren’t instantly cured of the physical things that were keeping them housebound. But not only was the community whole that day, we also all experienced spiritual wholeness.

As God’s love works through us, leading us to wholeness, like the rest of our discipleship it doesn’t happen in isolation. It happens as part of the community that God calls us to. Through God’s love, we help each other witness and experience the wholeness that God desires for each of us.

When we think about what that wholeness is like, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking, “Oh good! We’ll be with people just like us!” And to a certain extent, that’s true. We will be with people that God loves and has healed and brought to wholeness. And in that respect, we’re with people just like us all the time.

But they may or may not hold the same political views that we do. They may or may not look like us. They may or may not speak the same language that we do. They may or may not be Huskies fans 😊 You get the idea.

It’s easy to take for granted our place in a community, especially in a faith community. But it’s important to remember that, particularly in a faith community, we’ve made a commitment to one another. And within that commitment is the understanding that the power of God’s love to make us whole is for all people equally, without exception.

I’m going to say that again: the power of God’s love to make us whole is for all people equally, without exception.

And people need to be reminded of that. Whether it’s because they don’t believe it’s true, or they’ve been told that they aren’t deserving of it, or whether it’s because they haven’t experienced it in a long time. Each person needs to be told, over and over again, that God sees the beauty of their wholeness, and that God wants them to see it for themselves.

In his life, Jesus revealed the power of God’s love. It’s the power that has worked in the world throughout history, but that people had never directly witnessed before. God’s love is the power that works through us throughout our lives, healing the broken places within us so that we can experience wholeness even when we think it isn’t possible.

And it’s the power that moves us to help each other experience the wholeness that God desires for each of us. Thanks be to God! Amen.