​“Fever Dream”

​It began with a fever.

She tried to ignore it. She had too much work to do; to many people counting on her!

But ignoring it didn’t make it go away. In fact it got worse … to the point where she couldn’t do anything and the people around her were frightened for her.

Our passage from Mark seems tragically relevant today, doesn’t it?

The disciples examine the fresh wounds on Jesus's body after the resurrection

Mark 1:29-39

February 7, 2021

Dr. Todd R. Wright ​​It began with a fever. She tried to ignore it. She had too much work to do; to many people counting on her! But ignoring it didn’t make it go away. In fact it got worse … to the point where she couldn’t do anything and the people around her were frightened for her. Our passage from Mark seems tragically relevant today, doesn’t it?

 

It happened suddenly. Simon’s mother-in-law was fine one day – baking bread and salting fish, fetching water and preparing meals, tending her garden and watching over a neighborhood full of wriggling, giggling kids – and then she wasn’t. She couldn’t. We’ve all heard similar stories about nurses and teachers, coaches and athletes, delivery truck drivers and entertainers. One minute they were fine … and then they noticed a fever. It was the first sign of COVID … and suddenly all the labor that defined them was snatched away and they were reduced to patients: people in quarantine; people laboring to breathe; people who might die. Back then or right now, the stakes are high – a person’s life hangs in the balance … and of course their life has a ripple effect on all the people around them: the people that love them; the people who depend on them; even people who will never know them, but who will follow the path they have made.

Mark tells us how Jesus responded to this crisis.

 

On the surface it seems like what any of us might do. Jesus approaches her sickbed, tenderly takes her hand, and whispers something – maybe it’s words of comfort; maybe it’s something encouraging; maybe it’s a prayer. You’ve done the same. So have nurses on COVID units when no one else was permitted. It’s simple human kindness. It has the power to remind the person that they are not alone. And, if the disease is something unknown or frightening, it can be a rare gift. But this is the point where it becomes clear that Jesus is the Son of God. As Mark tells it, “He lifted her up … and the fever left her!” Scholars remind us what the English translation may hide – this is the same word used when he raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead; it is the same words used about his own resurrection! So he is not just assisting her out of bed, he is raising her from death to life!

 

In most of Jesus’ healings, we never hear what happens next. Is the man we talked about last week welcome back at the synagogue after his outburst? Does Jairus’ daughter grow and marry and have kids of her own? Does the formerly blind Bartimaeus become a portrait painter? (Who knows!?) But this time we are told that Simon’s mother-in-law goes straight out “to serve them”! Some modern readers grumble at this. They do not care that the word for “serve” has the same root as deacon, or that the Book of Order celebrates deacons as a ministry … “of compassion, witness, and service, sharing in the redeeming love of Jesus Christ for the poor, the hungry, the sick, the lost, the friendless, the oppressed, those burdened by unjust policies or structures, or anyone in distress.” – G-2.0201 All they can see is that she is given the gift of new life (with all the freedom that implies) … and she is still stuck serving coffee and passing our sandwiches and cleaning up after five men. They want better for her. But what if serving others is what gives her joy? What if serving is her gift? What if this fever was the temporary barrier that made her all the more determined to pursue her dream?

 

Derrick Coleman would have understood. There will be lots of Super Bowl commercials shown tonight. For my money, none will be any better than the one for Duracell batteries back in 2014. “In just over a minute [it tells] the story of Derrick [Coleman] being bullied, picked last for teams, harassed by coaches, even not being drafted by the NFL [all because he lost his hearing at a young age.] And then comes the signature line: Coleman says, ‘Everybody told me to quit. They told me it was over. But I’d been deaf since I was three, so I didn’t listen.’ The last scene is of Coleman entering the Super Bowl arena [with his Seattle Seahawks teammates] and saying, ‘And now I’m here, with a lot of fans cheering me on, and I can hear them all.’”[1] The commercial is wonderful because in telling the story of an underdog it creates a sense of possibility, potential, and freedom. But it works because people dream of playing in the NFL. Shouldn’t people dream of serving others like Simon’s mother-in-law? After all, a few chapters later, when Jesus is trying to explain discipleship to his followers he will say, “Whoever wants to be great must become a servant … That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not to be served.”[2] May God raise us up … to serve. Amen

[1] Thanks to David Lose for putting me on to this (Duracell Derrick Coleman Commercial (Extended Cut) - YouTube) in his sermon “Freedom For”, 2/3/2015 [2] parts of Mark 10:43-45 from the Message by Eugene Peterson
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