Going About Your Business
Thomas Merton says it beautifully “It is by the Holy Spirit that we love those who are united to us in Christ. The more plentifully we have received of the Spirit of Christ, the more perfectly we are able to love them: and the more we love them the more we receive the Spirit. It is clear, however, that since we love them by the Spirit Who is given to us by Jesus, it is Jesus Himself Who loves them in us.”
One of my favorite books of the Bible along with all the other books of the Bible is our first reading, the book of Isaiah. Chapter 40 is part of the books that are said to be thought of through recent research, to be the books that presume that Judgement has been pronounced and restoration follows soon. It can thus be read as an extended meditation on the destiny of Jerusalem into and after the Exile. (40-55) The book’s essential unity has become a focus in this current research. Isaiah 1–39 promises judgment and restoration for Judah, Jerusalem and the nations, while the later books 56-66 describes how God will make Jerusalem the center of his worldwide rule through a royal savior (a messiah) who will destroy her oppressor (Babylon); this messiah is the Persian king Cyrus the Great, who is merely the agent who brings about Yahweh’s kingship. Isaiah speaks out against corrupt leaders and for the disadvantaged, and roots righteousness in God’s holiness rather than in Israel’s covenant. Isaiah 44:6 contains the first clear statement of monotheism: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no God”. This model of monotheism became the defining characteristic of post-Exilic Judaism, and the basis for Christianity. Isaiah was one of the most popular works among the Hebrews in the Second Temple period (c. 515 BCE – 70 CE). In Christian circles, it was held in such high regard as to be called “the Fifth Gospel”, and its influence extends beyond Christianity to English literature and to Western culture in general, from the libretto of Handel’s Messiah to a host of such everyday phrases as “swords into ploughshares” and “voice in the wilderness”. John the Baptists quotes Isaiah as he states from the book of Isaiah 40:3, “A voice is calling, ‘Clear the way for the Lord [YHWH] in the wilderness; make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.”
William Barclay explains the wonders in this text of Isaiah as “The imperatives of the first part of this chapter “Comfort,, prepare, cry,, get you up,, fear not, contrast with the theoretical questions of the second” verses 12- 31 The logical connection between the two parts is the deliberate contrast between, on the one hand, the frailty of chastened, frightened Jerusalem, and on the other hand, the incomparable power of God as revealed in the sheer cosmic scale of his creative activity, as the scripture states “Put your faith in the former and you will wither like grass; put your faith in God and you will “mount up with wings like eagles” How glorious a sound”
This first reading shows us how our past can live in our present; and how our present will live on in our future. As it ties to the readings in Corinthians and lives in the second reading of Mark, it shows not just the reality of God and how God is our true power and savior over all things; it shows us just how connected we are to that power and how all things were and are created by the lord, showed to us how to live as he gave himself for our sins and lives through us as the Holy Spirit; the Christ.
This is a comfort for us to live and move as he did; to know the creation of God is doing wonderous things all the time that we cannot even fathom. As easy as our hair growing; well your hair growing; haha our fingernails growing; The grass and the trees growing.
It’s the day of Sabbath and the people of the town are celebrating the lord’s day. A woman sits in the dark; in a room by herself as she shakes and writhes with a fever. Her son in law is very concerned about her and what has become of her. She has collected a bad sickness. The people of the time call it a “Burning Fever” as it will read later in the Talmud. She doesn’t know what to do as her son and law leaves for synagogue. This was normal during the time as Paul of Tarsus the Disciple often had bouts of a fever that he had gotten from were he lived in the swamps of Tarsus.
As Peter talks to the others they converse over the mother and laws sickness and what to do about it; as they speak to each other; as they ask around for a cure they are told by the ones that know, the teachings of the time taught by the priests. This is the practice that is handed down and is to be done for her. They figure out the plan as they discuss what must be done as she becomes sicker and sicker; they need a Knife, a knife entirely made of Iron. They need a braid of hair as they are to take the braid of hair, tie it to the knife. After they have tied the lock of hair to the knife, then they are to tie both to a thorn bush. After successive days of this there is a magical formula pronounced and thus the cure is to be achieved. As much in the time that there were exorcists in practice along with Jesus as Jesus was starting to show to the world that he was Jesus son of man; Son of God; others also claimed to have these same powers but not really powers at all. But this was the ritual cure of the Burning Fever; this was the way that it was done. So why would anyone think that Jesus, this man from Nazareth; would be the reason for this women’s cure; for this woman’s freedom. Freedom from pain; from here fever; freedom from all sin as we are shown. Why would he be different than the exorcists that ran about.
So, the men followed as all good Hebrews did on the Sabbath and went to synagogue. Jesus preached that day by showing his true grace to all by the exorcism of demons; maybe not by what we think as demons as thought of in those times but maybe as we think of demons to be today; as the pain and hate of someone, that their freedom may be held at bay but brought to life; that they may be brought to life again resurrected by the Christ, to serve the Lord. After Jesus performed this great feat of Grace that he is the living God; the son of man; the truth they left the synagogue; Jesus joined his friends and went to Peter’s house.
They were astonished by what he had done; that Jesus had brought out these demons that as even as they followed him they followed him blindly; with a faith that had not even really been defined; the faith of a mustard seed; as they all had more trials and tribulations to overcome, their whole lives to overcome; to be followers of God as much as we all do, they put their faith in this man who showed them love. They put their trust in a man that showed them as we are shown everyday that he is our way; our path to Love; the truth; the way; and the Life.
Jesus joined Peter and John as they came out of the synagogue and they went to the house of Simon and Andrew. As the mother in law still suffered from here sickness this was no time for pleasantries as it says in the scripture. “Immediately after they went to the house of Simon and Andrew. Peters mother in law was in bed with an attack of fever. Immediately they spoke to Jesus about her. He went up to her and took her by the hand and raised her up, and the fever left her, and she attended to their needs.
As we look a little deeper into the time and all that it entailed; the day of Sabbath was and is a lot different then what it was then. Sundays for Christians have changed and even we have maybe become a little jaded as we might be thinking of what were going to cook for the game today rather than what the Sermon is on. But as we are shown on a constant basis; as it speaks of in Isaiah of our strong loving God, as Jesus is our loving action our reason of a new life. We are shown this Love; this unstoppable love every day; every minute.
Th time of Sabbath was a time of celebration as it should be; to celebrate the love of God much like we do here every Sunday in celebration; in fellowship; in fellowship of the Church; of the Christ. Of the true action of the Holy Spirit; in us and through us. In the synagogue Jesus spoke and acted in the most amazing way; the true action of Love, the authority of God.
According to Jewish custom the main Jewish meal came directly after the service at 12noon. The Jewish day started at 6 A M and the hours are counted from then. Jesus might well have been tired of such an exercise as in the synagogue but again his grace was appealed to; once again he gave himself for others; as he shows us the way; to give ourselves for others.
This seems to show us a couple of realties about Jesus and what Jesus truly was and is as God. Jesus did not need an audience to be the power of God. He was the healing spirit of God in everything and everywhere; as he is now. He was the love of God in all places, whether it was in front of a huge crowd as in the synagogue or when he died for our sins; as well as in the little places; the little ways that Jesus is Love. Like seeing the sun through the trees; or looking a loved one in the eyes. Or just being happy to be alive.
He is never too tired to heal no matter who it is. The need of others took precedence over his own desire for rest as he shows the reality of Gods endless love to us in action. But as I spoke of earlier about the exorcists, Jesus shows us the true Love of God that he is.
As I spoke of earlier about the knife with the braid of hair tied to it; tied to the thorn bush and how the knife was to heal the woman; the exorcists of the time used many elaborate incantations and spells and formulae that would baffle the crowds as a magician showing his wares at the fair; or like the fire eater; or the juggler. But as Jesus healed in the synagogue with one authoritative word; no fire; no fakeries; he healed the women in the same way. The disciples were changing as they’re faith was growing as they were starting to see the Messiah, much like all the people that were there were changed; as they were all starting to believe that Jesus was who he was; the Messiah the true answer to the question. Our question. Maybe not the one everybody expected or expects; maybe not even the one everybody wanted or wants. But the true messiah; the unswerving; unending grace of God.
The disciples in this growing to Jesus started to take all their problems to him, as we should take all our problems to our Lord in prayer. As we might follow the simplicity of conversation with our best friend as conversation with God. Paul Tuornier states as I believe “We should talk to our lord as we have known our Lord and savior all our lives, as he has known us all our lives; a close fellowship that Jesus, as Jesus lives, lives in our lives, every part of them.”
Let me read to you this great hymn; lyrics written by Nolan Williams Jr.
What a friend we have in Jesus All our sins and grieves to bear What a privilege it is to carry Everything to God in prayer Have we trials and temptations Is there trouble anywhere Our precious Savior He is still our refuge Take it to the Lord in prayer Some things we have not Because we ask not When we have a friend who’s there When we’re weak and heavy laden Cumbered with a load of care We should never be discouraged When we take it to the Lord in prayer Some things we have not Because we ask not when we have a friend who cares Oh what peace we often forfeit Oh what needless pain we bear Oh what peace we often forfeit Oh what needless we bear Oh what peace we often forfeit Oh what needless pain Oh what needless pain Oh what needless pain we bear We should never be discouraged when we Take it to the Lord in prayer.
This is the basis of our life with God; as shown to us in the action of the Disciples as they started to see; as we start to see; see more; more and more. As we form and reform again; we should bring all our problems to our Lord in prayer. This is a habit of a life time as shown to us through all in the Bible.
The end of the reading shows the loving action of God healing the women of her fever as that same love heals us every day. That same simplistic love that isn’t fake; that isn’t a juggling act; just pure true love. As soon as she was healed she went about her business to be the action of God to Jesus; As we are called in Mark 12: 28-31 The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
As the mother in law shows this commitment it seems as she was washed clean of her sickness of her fever; of her demons; that she is reformed in the grace of Christ. That in this resurrection; this reformation that she is cleansed of her past and lives now in the true commandments of the Lord. To be Love. As a great Scottish family’s motto says, “Saved to Serve”
Jesus shows this same commitment to us in the morning as when his Disciples came to him as he was meditating he said “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.” 39And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.
This is his commitment to us as we are called to make the same commitment. As the mother in law showed her saving grace to be the action of God. How Jesus shows us through his action to be that same love. How the Holy Spirit acts through us to all we meet and see; how God acts and reacts in our lives in creating and recreating all day every day. We are called to join in this same action of grace that was given to us by God, one on three and three in one. The way the truth and the Life.
Martin Luther wrote “God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars.” We are apart of the living Gospel to act; to love; to be; all that Jesus is; all that Jesus shows us.
Let us commit; commit as God commits to us every day. As the Disciples committed to Jesus; as the Mother in law was saved to serve. Let us wash ourselves in the grace of Christ, let us be about his business. May Gods peace be with you: