Isaiah 40: 21-31; Psalm 147: 1-12, 21c; 1 Corinthians 9: 16-23, Mark 1: 29-39
THE REV. JAMES M.L. GRACE
In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. AMEN.
Jesus and his first four disciples leave the synagogue where he had been teaching, and they go to Simon and his brother Andrew’s house where they meet Simon’s ill mother-in-law. It sounds like the beginning of a joke, but that is really the story from the Gospel this morning.
Simon’s mother-in-law sick with a fever, and Jesus sees her, extends his hand to her, and her fever immediately goes away. Poof! Gone. Word travels around fast that Jesus is there, and people naturally begin to show up at the house, curious about the healings and miracles Jesus had been performing. Many of these curious people were also sick themselves - and Jesus heals. What are we to make of these healing miracle stories? Do we believe that they really happened the way the Bible describes? A common follow up to that question is that if we believe Jesus healed people in miraculous ways, is it possible that miracles such as the ones Jesus performed during his life occur today?
For me, the answers to both of those questions are yes. Yes, I believe Jesus healed people the way the Bible describes, and yes, I believe miracles the likes of which were performed by Jesus continue to occur today. They’ve never stopped!
Miracles are simply manifestations, or to use a more seasonally appropriate word, epiphanies, of God’s work in the world. They are really big and bright obvious signs that God is alive and active in our world today. God is not asleep at the wheel, allowing his creation to veer of the road in the midst of tragedies we see on the news we can hardly explain or even understand. I would suggest, that if you are like me, upset, concerned, and knowing no explanation for some of what is going on in the world today – imagine yourself as one of those curious people that day who walked to Simon and Andrew’s house because you heard of miracles occurring in that place.
Imagine yourself as one of those curious bystanders, and if you are sick, bring your illness, if you are scared, bring your anxiety, if you are ashamed, bring your shame. Whatever your illness is, bring it to that house, and I promise that if you allow Jesus to hold it, your illness will be transformed. It might not go away, but through your prayers, through bringing it to God, you will have new eyes to see that maybe whatever it is that is the thorn in your side is nothing more than a splinter – and a splinter no more than a reminder that to be alive in this world means to be in touch with pain and that all pain is redeemed.
Phillips Brooks, a former Bishop of Massachusetts, offers these words which help us to understand how we actively participate with God in birthing the miraculous into our midst. He writes: “Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger women and men. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers, but pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle, but you shall be the miracle.”
The question these words leave us with is simple: where are we going to be a miracle today? At church this morning? In our homes? At school or at work? There is simply no limit to the places where the miraculous happens, because with God, indeed all things are possible.Simon and Andrew’s house, where Jesus performed miracles, is every house, every workplace, every school, every church, because Christ is always present. You are God’s great miracle.