Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sermon for 05 February 2012, Epiphany 5B

The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.
St. Mark 1:29-39
Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, 05 February 2012
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, WY

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
          The Holy Gospel appointed for this Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, St. Mark 1:29-39 is the Biblical basis for this morning’s sermon, entitled, “Rest.”
          Most Christians are familiar with this verse from Matthew 11: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” In this morning’s Gospel lesson, St. Mark shows our Lord Jesus at rest and giving rest.

And immediately he [Jesus] left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.  Now Simon's mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her.  And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
Simon Peter’s mother-in-law was lying down, but not truly resting, for she was not free from disturbance—she was ill with a fever. Suffering from a fever, with the accompanying chills, uncertain sleep, and tossing & turning is not rest. Jesus came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her. Jesus gave her rest from her fever. And what happened next?
She didn’t go back to bed. She began to serve them. One of the definitions that Webster gives for “rest” is “freedom from activity or labor. Jesus’ rest gave Simon Peter’s mother-in-law the freedom for activity and labor—freedom to serve. The rest that Jesus gives frees you from the burdens and cares of the world so that you can serve Him by serving those God has already given to you. Are you a father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife, or worker? Whom has God already given you to serve? How does the rest you enjoy in Christ give you freedom and opportunity to get up and serve them?
Christianity is more than just a Sunday thing. It’s for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and even Sunday afternoon. The actions of our lips and hands and feet are called to be consistent with the Word of God we profess on Sunday morning.
One more thought on this paragraph. The Word of God brings rest to a world going at a feverish pace. The Word of God is rest for the weary and burdened. A great burden currently weighs upon some of our brothers and sisters in Christ due to the sexual abuse scandals in the Church of Rome. What Word of God can give rest to those who are ill at the very thought of such abuse going on? There are many I could mention, many that need to be shared because the pain is great and deep. This one I offer from the text: “Simon's mother-in-law.” This is but one example from apostolic times that pastors were married—they always have been. It’s impossible to have a mother-in-law without having gotten married. Denying pastors the opportunity to marry is unbiblical and invites sexual immorality.
The Lutheran Augsburg Confession of 1530 echoes today’s situation in its concern for clergy, families, and young people in the church, as well as providing for a Biblical solution: From everyone, both of high and low degree, a mighty, loud complaint has been heard throughout the world about the flagrant immorality and dissolute life of priests who were not able to remain chaste; their vices reached the height of abomination. In order to avoid so terrible offense, adultery, and other immorality, some priests among us have entered the married state. They give as their reason that they are compelled and moved to do so by the great distress of their consciences, especially since Scripture clearly proclaims that the married state was instituted by God to avoid sexual immorality as Paul says that to avoid immorality, “Each man should have his own wife” [1 Corinthians 7:2]….
More should be done about this problem in Christian circles than just buy insurance. It is high time for all Christians to return to the Scriptures for all teaching and all practice.

That evening at sundown they brought to him [Jesus] all who were sick or oppressed by demons.  And the whole city was gathered together at the door.  And he healed 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.
Healing and exorcism are two more kinds of rest that Jesus gives. Christ was there at the beginning, active in creation, for “without Him was not any thing made that was made.” In His Incarnation, or taking on human flesh at His conception, Christ is the beginning of the renewal of all creation, that which will come to its fruition in the resurrection of all flesh and the new heaven and earth.
That Jesus can heal diseases shows that He is the author of life. That He can cast out demons with a word and hold them silent shows us that the Devil is powerless against Him. See what kind of rest Jesus gives you! We pray for Jesus’ rest from the devil the world and our own sinful flesh when we pray, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” We pray for forgiveness for past sins that were inspired by the Devil, and that God would protect us now and in the future.
What about healings? In them we see the renewal of creation, the beginning of a return to the pristine conditions of Eden. What about healings today? Today, miracles are not impossible. They happen every day. In God’s continuing care for His creation, His hand is seen in the wonder behind how His creation is put together. It’s impossible for an eye to evolve! Scientists are daily discovering new natural cures and treatments that God built into His creation. Discovery is nothing more than finding something that was already there.
We are certainly called to pray for people in all kinds of conditions and situations, especially rulers, persecuted Christians, the sick, the dying, the erring, and the troubled. When we ask for spiritual things, we have God’s promises that He will answer us. This is like praying, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.”
When we pray for physical blessings, including healing for ourselves or loved ones, it is always according to the petition, “Thy will be done.” Any other kind of “faith healing” like the frauds on TV just after money, are being dishonest and teaching contrary to Scripture.

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he [Jesus] departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. 
According to His Divine Nature, Our Lord had no need for rest. He took rest after six days of creating, but He didn’t have to. According to His Divine Nature, Our Lord had no need for rest. But as 100% God and 100% man, He needed rest according to His Human Nature. He slept, He ate, He drank, and He was tempted. All this, but He never gave in to temptation—Jesus never sinned. He did need rest. This is good for us to see. All of us need rest from something.
The Old Testament Sabbath was designed as a day of rest. On the seventh day God rested from His labors of creating and set in motion a pattern for His people. Our Lord died on Good Friday and spent part of that day in the tomb, as well as all day Saturday, which we can call His Sabbath Rest. Part of early Sunday He remained in the grave, Rising on the first Easter Sunday. Jesus’ Resurrection on a Sunday is the primary reason why Christians meet on Sundays, gathered around Word and Sacrament.
Have you ever missed a Sunday service and then felt like you didn’t what day it was the whole rest of the week? Sunday is a day of rest from the world when we receive Jesus’ rest given in Word and Sacrament. It also recalibrates our clocks so that we’re ready for the week to come. That way, you know what day it is. Each day is Jesus’ day, a day for Christ to live in you.
As a pastor, it is a relief and a joy to see Jesus departing and going out to a desolate place to pray. I first learned to more deeply cherish my days off, vacation, and time with my wife, when I served a vacancy in Rock Springs while I was the called pastor in Green River. I had been humbled by the fact that I did not have the time or opportunity to take care of everything that I had wanted to at either Emmanuel or Trinity. Everything essential got done, but I sometimes had to make tough choices. Not doing some things truly grieved me. It still does being both Pastor and Headmaster.
Pastors are imperfect. Sometimes, my omissions were unintentional. Due to a weary mind, I have forgotten to do some things here. After the fact, I have remembered some, but perhaps not all. If I have neglected to care for you or someone you know through a visit, a prayer, to return a phone call, or to answer a question, I ask your forgiveness and for your kind reminders in the future. I am only a man and a sinner, just like all of you. I say these things not in the way of excuse, but in the way of confession.
The same rest, the same forgiveness of sins that I preach is also the same rest and forgiveness that I need. J When I got to the seminary, I wanted to take such classes as “Walking on Water 101,” “Reading Minds 342,” “Pleasing Everyone All the Time 811,” and “Cloning Yourself During a Vacancy 901,” but not one of those classes was offered. J So, since I’m not Jesus, but His called servant with His authority, in His stead and by His command, I’m asking for your help.
Jesus regularly showed His care and concern for His flock by His presence. He gave rest as if beside still waters or in green pastures. According to His Divine Nature, He knew all things. But, according to His human nature, like human pastors today, we have an example in our text of people seeking Him out to ask Him to come to them. It’s not too difficult to imagine Simon Peter as an elder informing the pastor, Jesus, about a congregation member’s spiritual and physical needs.

          And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he [Jesus] departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.  And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, "Everyone is looking for you."  And he said to them, "Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out."  And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.
          The term “pastor,” the Latin (and German and English) word for shepherd, is a most appropriate title for a called servant of the Word in a Christian Congregation. As your shepherd, I count it a privilege to be one of the Lord’s “undershepherds” in His church. And that means that I am here to care for you the Lord’s way, in Word & Sacrament ministry, to be a shepherd to the flock of Christ.
          In addition to making bi-monthly and emergency visits to shut-ins and trying to regularly be in the homes of all congregation members, I would like to care for anyone in need.
          You can help me help you. I am not always aware of every member’s needs or concerns.  I can best “shepherd” or “pastor” the members of this flock as they give notice of their needs, or as I learn of them from a caring friend.
          Don’t be afraid to be like Simon Peter and contact me, even on a day off, when there is a life-and-death emergency. Together we can rejoice in the comfort of the Word and the gifts of Baptism, Absolution, and Holy Communion. Please leave messages on either answering machine. Both machines have “remote access,” so I can even check messages while away at a conference or on vacation!
Please call me, your pastor, any time, and especially:
W    when hospitalized for any reason
W    before outpatient surgery
W    when concerned about a friend
W    after a birth to schedule baptism
W    when there is a death in the family, especially a congregation member, before making funeral arrangements
W    when contemplating marriage
W    before seeing a lawyer for divorce
W    when you just need somebody to listen to you
W    when you have a family crisis
W    when you have questions about your faith
W    when you have a prayer request
W    when you have sorrows,  joys, or concerns that you want to share
A pastor is placed by God to serve you with His good gifts of Word and Sacrament. You can help me to do that. (Cell phone coverage isn’t always what we’d like it to be. Please leave a message so I can get back to you.)
Rest. We all need it—even Jesus according to His human nature—even pastors today. Our Lord Jesus gives rest. He gives rest in His Word. Don’t doubt it or dismiss it until you’ve actually tried it. As creator, Christ can bring about healing. He is eager to answer the prayer, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.” We remember to pray, “Thy will be done,” when praying for physical things. “Come to me,” He says, “all you who are weary, and I will give you rest.” Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.