Called to Live
Topic: Biblical Verse: Mark 1:29–1:39
The Fifth Sunday after Epiphany
February 7, 2021
“Serving Jesus-Living in Community 2021: Called to Live”
Although today is the first Sunday in February, and the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, if you ask most people what today is, they’d tell you it’s Super Bowl Sunday. Reigning Super Bowl champs, Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs are up against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tom Brady is now in his tenth Super Bowl, and at age 43 has no plans to retire. There is an unbelievable 18-year age difference between these two quarterbacks. Of course, there are bigger questions to consider here: like what kind of snacks will you be having for Super Bowl Sunday? But there is something bigger than the Super Bowl that I want to call to your attention: Captain Tom Moore, a British WWII veteran, who died this past week at age 100 from the coronavirus. Capt. Moore became a celebrity last year when he raised £45 million (over $61 million) by walking 100 laps around his patio garden for his 100th birthday last April. His goal was to raise £1200 to support frontline pandemic workers with Britain’s National Health Service (NHS), but his pledge soon went viral and 1.5 million people contributed to the cause. Captain Tom Moore became Captain Sir Tom Moore when he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in July (Captain Sir Tom Moore—Who Raised $45 Million For Frontline Workers—Dies At 100 (forbes.com). I share this with you because this individual, even at age 100, understood how he was called to live and do what he could for others. That should serve as inspiration for each of us to do the same. This moves us into what this final Sunday of our Epiphany focus, Serving Jesus-Living in Community 2021, is about today. Today, based on the Gospel lesson, our theme is “Called to Live.” May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.
There is a loud-and-clear call to live that echoes through today’s Scripture lessons, flowing out of healing and renewal from the Lord. In today’s Old Testament lesson (Isaiah 40:21-31), we are told about the One who, unlike us, does not grow faint or become weary. This week’s Scripture memory verse reminds us of strength greater than our own: “but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31). In the strength and might of the Lord, we are called to live. In today’s Epistle lesson (1 Corinthians 9:16-27), Paul the apostle writes about his ministry and how he “has become all things to all people, that by all means, I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22). In keeping with a Super Bowl Sunday image of athletes competing, Paul explains how, as believers in Christ, we are running a race – the race of faith – to receive an imperishable crown. Like any athlete, this involves training and discipline. This is how we are called to live. In the Gospel lesson for today (Mark 1:29-39), Jesus’ ministry of proclaiming the good news that the kingdom of God is at hand (Mark 1:15) is especially concerned with healing and renewal, first with Peter’s mother-in-law, and then with many others. We are told that so many people came with needs to Jesus that “the whole city was gathered together at the door” (Mark 1:33). And then what? Did Jesus go away on vacation somewhere? No, instead he rose up very early, went out to a quiet place and prayed. Is there something for us to learn from Jesus here? Here is a call for us to learn from Jesus and to live as Jesus lived: seeking quiet time with our heavenly Father in prayer at the beginning of the day. Even then, there can be interruptions, as Jesus found out and as we, too, find out. The disciples track Jesus down and blurt out: “Everyone is looking for you” (Mark 1:37). Jesus’ response makes clear that he knows who he is and he knows what his mission is: “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out” (Mark 1:38). Jesus knows how he is called to live. The question is, do we? Do we know how we are called to live?
When Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law in today’s Gospel lesson, we may be taken aback with what we read here: “And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them” (Mark 1:31). Huh? Why didn’t everyone just leave the poor woman in bed to rest and recuperate? Why did she have to get up and start making lunch for all of these people? We are not told about why she did this. It may well have been what she wanted to do in order to offer thanks to Jesus for his gift of healing. Jesus’ action here is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. He “came and took her by the hand and lifted her up,” and so allowed her to experience what God had promised through Isaiah: “they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31). Jesus lifted Peter’s mother-in-law up, and he lifts us up as well. He lifts us up from our sickbeds. He lifts us above life situations, giving us renewed strength and fresh hope. He lifts us from our sins to a restored and right relationship with our heavenly Father. And in lifting us up, Jesus calls us to live not just for ourselves, but for him. And being called to live for Jesus, we learn that Jesus calls us to live for others; to serve others as God in Christ has loved and served us.
Peter’s mother-in-law understood that through her healing she was called to serve. Her healing was immediate and dramatic. What happens when the healing we so desire and pray for, not just for ourselves but for others, is not immediate, or maybe doesn’t come at all? What then? It can be a difficult thing for us to pray that petition in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy will be done,” because it means submitting my plans and desires, my life, to that of the Lord Jesus. “Thy will,” not my will, be done. I came to understand this some years ago through a husband and wife who had to come to grips with a terminal illness that he was diagnosed with. They sought out and received the needed medical help, as well as spiritual guidance. They prayed, and I along with them, for God to intervene and deliver this man from his illness. But that did not happen, and through this, they came to understand a truth which they helped me to understand as well: the difference between curing and healing. Although they very much desired and prayed for that cure and restoration of physical health, even if the Lord did not grant this, there was healing and restoration of the spirit. This couple knew that no matter what happened, their future was secure in the Lord’s care and keeping. Through Jesus, there was healing and forgiveness, there was life and salvation. Illness and death would not have the final word. And because of this, there was peace; peace which passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7); peace which the world cannot give (John 14:27). That is healing. By his death, Jesus has destroyed the power of death. In Jesus, even when we die, yet shall we live (John 11:25). We are called to live in this sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life in Christ.
With thanksgiving in our hearts for the gift of healing which Jesus has brought to us all, we go forth to live, not for self, but for Christ. God help us to do this for Jesus’ sake. Amen.