The Holy Gospel According to St. Mark the 1st Chapter
As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.
This Gospel lesson always reads like a Saturday Night Live skit to me! Jesus and the boys head over to Simon’s place after a hard day of preachin’ and exorcisin’ demons, ‘cause that stuff makes a disciple HUNGRY, don't cha know! Simon yells out for his mother-in-law. “Hey ma, whatcha got to eat around here?”…MA!! Where are you? Ma?” Simon looks all over the house and then finds her in bed with a horrible fever.
“OH MAN!” Simon says, “She’s got a fever! Now we’ll NEVER get something to eat!” Just then, Jesus hoists himself up off the plaid couch in the living room, walks over to Simon and says, “Lemme see what I can do.” Then, with a miraculous touch… WHOOSH! She’s HEALED and walks out into the living room… just to have Simon come up and immediately steer her off into the kitchen to whip up a bunch of mini corndogs, cheese dip and quesadillas!
So, that’s probably not EXACTLY how it happened, but every time I read that part that says, “as soon as Jesus healed her she got up and served them”… it always makes me chuckle. In reality, what Jesus was showing us here is how we are all intimately connected, and interdependent upon one another. Jesus healed people and cast out demons, NOT ONLY to bring an INDIVIDUAL to health again, but to also bring healing and wholeness to the entire community. With that individual restored to the community, able to once again use their gifts, now the whole community is made whole again!
Demons and illness aren’t just bad for the person affected. When sickness, demons or anything keeps an individual from playing their part and using their gifts to build up the people around them, it affects the wellbeing of the whole community! Simon’s mother-in-law was a widow. Which means she didn’t have a legal place in the community. She wasn’t living with her own family or even her husband’s family, she was living with in-laws. But even without a legal status, her role in the family and in the community was vital. She mattered because by using her gifts, she built up the community around her.
By healing the sick and casting out the demons, Jesus didn’t just heal an individual. He also returned the entire community to wholeness! That’s why this story isn’t just another miracle for us to marvel at the powers of Jesus. This was a parable, acted out without words. With this action, Jesus was teaching something very counter-cultural for his day and sadly it’s still very counter-cultural in our day as well. Jesus was insisting that EVERY individual is a critical, essential part of the community. EVERY individual matters, everyone has a place, everyone plays an essential role in making the community whole. When even one individual is put on the sidelines for ANY reason, the WHOLE community suffers without them being present and active in their lives.
That’s really the heart of the message Jesus was bringing to Capernaum and throughout Galilee. In Christ, God is about the business of making bodies whole. Individual bodies whole. Church bodies whole. Community bodies whole and the body of all of creation whole. Jesus insisted that the path to that wholeness was through the radical inclusion of ALL people. No person is expendable. Every person, town, city, state and nation is valuable and essential to the wholeness of the world. It was quite a lesson way back then and not exactly one we’ve fully learned even now. It’s a message that insists that until every single individual has an equal place where they can live with health, dignity and purpose and use their gifts… until that happens, none of us will be whole. Until that happens, the world just isn't working the way God intends it to work.
As Christians though, we’re called to do more than to simply lament over our species' slow learning speed. We’re ALSO called to transform those words and ideas into a new reality for our world… just like Jesus did. It’s not enough to stay out of the way and hope for God to bring in the Kingdom; we’re called to actively work with God to MAKE God’s Kingdom come and God’s will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
For most of us that won’t look like casting out demons in the classic sense or healing someone’s fever with a miraculous touch. It will look like more like widening our welcoming circle. It will look like finding a place for each person to fit... and not just a place to sit and watch, but a place where each of us can contribute and build the Kingdom alongside the rest of us. It will look like keeping our eyes open for those who have been cast out, cast down or cast away and finding a way to bring them in, lift them up and draw them near.
Jesus brought God’s wholeness to individuals, but he did that as a means to bring wholeness communities and to all of creation as well. As the Body of Christ bringing wholeness is what we do too! May we proclaim the message of God’s desire of wholeness for the world! May we cast out the demons that insist some individuals, communities or nations are LESS. May we, with even the seemingly simplest of actions, bring wholeness into the world, and may we smile when we realize that even something as mundane as shuffling out to the kitchen to make the "boys" some mini corndogs widens our circles and moves us one step closer to God's Kingdom. Amen.