Epiphany 5B

image: wikimedia


Voice in the Wilderness:Mason Parks

Featured Musician:Whym


Tasty Wafer:

Featured Musician: Rob Leveridge



Exegetical Notes

Mark 1:29-39

Initial Thoughts

  • Mother-in-laws get a bad wrap

  • Only reference to Simon being married, or really any family of the disciples (except for the sons of Zebedee)

Bible Study

  • Context

    • Follows the exorcism of the demon in the synagogue

    • Second healing story in Mark

  • Healing

    • fever- not a demon or impure spirit, simply something that renders her powerless

    • ἐγείρω -   to lift up - literally, but same word as in the resurrection in 16:6. He “resurrected” her

    • He doesn’t say anything, simply takes her by the hand and the fever leaves her

    • Does Jesus heal her in a miraculous fashion or does he simply sit with her and his being present heals her?

    • Touch is important- it can be both incredible healing and incredible damaging- how to do it right?

  • Response

    • Διακονέω - service - part of the ministry of deacons

    • Serves Jesus and the disciples on the Sabbath - grateful serving was more important than legalism

    • What did it mean to serve? Not with cookies and iced tea - perhaps Simon’s mother is the first to understand what it is to follow Jesus - to serve

    • Simon’s mother is the first deacon

    • This story does not reaffirm patriarchal gender roles but challenges them

  • Sabbath issues

    • Jesus sits with Simon’s mother, but wait to heal the others

    • It isn’t an all or nothing- Jesus does not simply throw out the law, but addresses the needs as they are presented

  • Jesus’ Real Estate: Location, Location, Location

    • Where does healing happen? Where 2 or 3 are gathered: in the synagogue, in the house, throughout Galilee

    • On the Sabbath and after the Sabbath, in the day and in the night

  • Jesus the introvert

    • Jesus came to proclaim the good news in thought and deed, not to be a healing vending machine

Sermon Thoughts

  • Jesus doesn’t say anything he simply “came”,  “took her hand” and “lifted her up”. We often spend much time and energy trying to find the right words when what is needed is simply to show up and hold someone’s hand

    • We have many people suffering from dis-ease in our congregations, are we willing to sit with them and be with them in the midst of their impotency?

  • This is a great story to preach on the ministry of women. Women in the gospel tend to “get it” long before the men. Service is not the “proper place of women” it is the proper place for all Christians

  • Make room for introverts - Church is not often a friendly place for introverts. How do we allow people to reclaim their deserted places to encounter God and prepare themselves for the ministry ahead?

Isaiah 40:21-31

Initial Thoughts

  • Inspiration for a few songs “On Eagles Wings,” and “Everlasting God,” a Contemporary Christian classic by Chris Tomlin.

  • “On Eagles Wings” reference in United Methodist Hymnal points to Exodus 19:6, when God’s voice calls out from Mt. Sinai, “You saw what I did to the Egyptians, and how I lifted you up on eagles’ wings and brought you to me.”

Bible Study

  • Literary Context

    • Part of the introduction to Second Isaiah.

    • Christopher Seitz, author of the New Interpreter’s Bible, v. VI calls this passage “The Pre-Trial Statement”

      • “Chapter 41 introduces a trial scene… Preceding this, a long speech is made on behalf of God (40:12-31). The statement defines God’s relationship to the nations, to other gods, to idolatry, to the divine testimony already delivered, and to those who would speak on God’s behalf from the divine assembly.” (Christopher Seitz, p. 341)

    • Ch 40 is the first chapter in what is widely recognized as Second Isaiah. Very roughly, Isaiah can be divided into three parts, 1-39 is about the coming judgment, especially in face of Assyrian invasion. 40-53 is about the exile itself. It is the judgment, and the condemnation of Judah. 54-66 is about the road home. The suffering servant has come and allowed the people to return from exile.

    • Seitz does not divide 40-66 into two distinct books, as many modern critics do.

  • Answers the rhetorical Question posed in v. 18: “To whom will you equate God?” The answer is a resounding - no one, nothing. There is no god like God.

    • Seems like a silly question, but when seen in context of ancient religious understandings of warrior gods, and the stated reality that Israel was overthrown, it is a real question that God deems worthy of consideration.

    • Two-part answer.

      • Part one is somewhat sarcastic, drawing image of God as creator, superior to all things.

        • Answer should be obvious. Almost sarcastic in response to such a question. Could have been, “You should know this by now.”

        • “God inhabits the earth’s horizons”

        • God is above all human institutions

      • Part two is more pastoral, encouraging the people to have faith despite current surroundings.

        • The second time the “Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard? feels more comforting, said to give the people strength to endure.

        • The people don’t have to understand, they should know that God is working.

        • “His understanding is beyond human reach, giving power to the tired and reviving the exhausted.” (v. 29)

  • They will fly up on wings like eagles - similar imagery used in Exodus 19. Preparing for the “second exodus.” Recalling the power of the Exodus to triumph over Pharaoh is a source of strength, and can serve as a reminder that it is the same God that will triumph in face of exile.

  • “The fundamental lesson that prepares the human heart for the entrance of God is the lesson of God’s oneness and uniqueness. It is the lesson that cultivates out of human powerlessness not helplessness and despair but openness to the power of that alone can save, God’s power.” (Paul Hanson, Interpretation Isaiah 40-66, p. 31).

Sermon Thoughts

  • Israel claims that God has abandoned them. God’s defense is not, “No I didn’t.” It is encouragement and exhortation. God understands that the exhaustion can lead people to losing their way. “It is a difficult but essential discipline to learn how rightly to assess our degree of weariness and exhaustion in the walk of faith. Sometimes these twins are directly responsible for our inability to hear God, and for misunderstanding God is actively at work.”  (Christopher Seitz, p. 341)

  • To pretend that the walk of faith is not exhausting is dishonest. To believe that the remedy is simply having more faith, more strength, more determination, is a recipe for disaster. Instead, see the walk/work of faith as one that is done with God, not for God.

  • Cannot underestimate the importance of the question that is asked by the people. They want to know where God is in the midst of the exile. The answer is I am here, and I never left you. God recognizes that the people lost their way, and promises strength for those that seek to find their way again.

1 Corinthians 9:16-23

Initial Thoughts

  • After reading this text I have to shout out to Dr. Peggy Way of Eden Theological Seminary. And every student of Dr. Way knows, “It’s all about the context.”

  • Might not want to share this text in the midst of negotiating a salary - unless you include the first part of chapter 9

Bible Study

  • Historical Context - There is no institution yet.

    • There is no board of ordained ministry

    • There is no job description for “Minister.”

    • Paul is inventing it as he goes, and he is identifying himself as “Apostle” in the midst of a challenge to his legitimacy as one

    • Great teachers and philosophers lived by patronage. They were supported by wealthy disciples.

      • Paul, choosing to work for himself, which with it had low social status attached and less time to do the gospel work.

      • The argument from Corinthians seems to be that this choice demeaned him, and challenged his legitimacy.

  • Context within the letter - Brief interlude in the meat-eating debate. Seems like a digression, but is related to this argument about freedom and apostleship. It is also about his legitimacy and authority.

    • Chapter 9 seems to be answering a direct criticism of Paul for not accepting payment from the Corinthians.

    • 9:1-14 Paul makes a convincing argument that he should be paid. “Don’t I have a right to eat and drink? Doesn’t a shepherd drink the milk?”

    • V. 15 is the turning: “But I haven’t taken advantage of this. And I’m not writing this so that it will be done for me. It’s better for me to die than to lose my right to brag about this!”

      • This feels like Paul is saying that he doesn’t get paid, and he is being criticized for not being paid

  • Paul’s legitimacy

    • “Real Apostles” seem to not eat meat and get paid for what they do.

    • Paul is saying that he does whatever he needs to do because he’s answering to something higher.

    • He eats meat or not based on his company

    • Critics may be arguing that Paul never takes a stand on important issues - but his argument is that the only issue that matters is sharing the Gospel with others.

  • Freedom and Compulsion

    • Freedom in Christ is not “do what you want.”

    • Freedom in Christ is binding to something else, namely - an obedience to the Gospel.

    • “The Gospel is not intended only to be heard and enjoyed; it is to be lived and preached.” (Charles Cousar, Texts for Preaching, Year B, p. 139)

    • “The life-and-death character of the gospel dictates that no unnecessary hindrance should stand in the way of retelling the story. Evn what is justly due is waived if the situation seems to warrant it. The compulsion of the gospel determines the exercise of non exercise of rights.” (Cousar, p. 139)

  • Mission over Rights

    • Paul is willing to do whatever it takes to spread the Gospel.

    • Singular focus on mission is to share about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

    • This is more important than the rules, the standards, or even his rights.

    • He sacrifices his rights for the sake of the Gospel, but in so doing, there is no real sacrifice.

    • His choice to not accept money keeps him in lower social standing, where he can be in relation to more people.

  • Relationship above all

    • In the end, both his argument about meat and his argument about being paid comes down to this: How can he be in authentic relationship with others?

      • Patronage trades freedom from want for dependence on a few

Preaching Thoughts

  • Paul hold two things in tension - freedom in Christ and the compulsion of the Gospel. This seems to be a paradox, but this is the life of faith. In Christ’s resurrection, we have freedom live fully, authentically, and eternally, but that kind of life is bound to a purpose - and that is to share the Gospel with others. The Gospel is both freeing and compelling.

  • How much of a pastor’s time is spent with those in the lower class? How much effort do we make to maintain the institution - and put bluntly, keep getting paid. It can be argued that Paul could have done more by stopping with his marketplace tentmaking (and 2 Corinthians shows that the argument was not settled here). How do we balance the critical needs of fund-raising with the prophetic voice and pastoral authority?

  • Paul seems to be saying that the Gospel is more important than unity over issues of doctrine (which hadn’t been invented yet). He seems to be arguing for a relativism based on context.


Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com,@pomopsalmist). Thank you to Scott Fletcher for our voice bumpers, Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Misirlou”), Nicolai Heidlas (“Sunday Morning”,"Real Ride"and“Summertime”) and Paul and Storm for our closing music (“Oh No”).