Sunday, February 4th, 2024

Service of the Servant

Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and living Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. Before I begin this morning’s sermon, I want to express my appreciation for your kindness and concern and your interest in my well-being. Some of you asked last Sunday, “Are you tired? Are you alright?” and you know you don’t want a supply preacher to come in his first Sunday with you whining, but in my neighborhood last Saturday, someone had leftover fireworks, and they started going off around 11:30 and they stopped around 4:30, and at 4:30 I just decided to stay awake make some coffee and go over my sermon one more time, but apparently my insomnia showed at least to some of you. So, thanks for caring. I appreciate that and I want you to know that last night I got eight straight hours of sleep, thanks be to God. It was a busy Sabbath for Jesus in Capernaum, was it not? Earlier that day, he called his first four disciples, James, John, Andrew, and Simon Peter. He went with them to their synagogue and didn’t just sit and observe, but he served as a guest teacher, and as we heard last Sunday, there he taught with authority that none of the synagogue scribes had ever demonstrated, for they were mere mortals. And on top of all that, while in the synagogue he healed the man possessed with an unclean spirit. It was a busy day. And then our Lord goes with Andrew and Peter to their house after being at the synagogue. That shouldn’t surprise us. Many Christians like to go to their favorite restaurant for breakfast or lunch after morning worship to spend more time with their Christian brothers and sisters. Now you may even have servers at your favorite restaurants that call you by name when they see you walk in, Wecks, Gardunios, Flying Star or The Range, and perhaps some of you still have that, I think, very sweet older tradition of simply inviting fellow members over to your house for a meal after the Divine Service for extended fellowship and conversation on the Lord’s Day. So, it’s not a surprise that Jesus went to the home of Andrew and Peter. They were showing hospitality. And in their home another healing occurs, not as dramatic as the healing of the man with an unclean spirit who cried out, but a healing nonetheless. This time it’s Peter’s mother-in-law. She’s in bed with a fever. Jesus took her by the hand and helped her up. The fever left her, and she began serving them. Jesus heals with a word, with the touch. As we heard last week our Lord is the author of life who has all authority. His words have authority, his touch has authority, his mere presence has authority and power. So, let’s consider what Mark tells us in this portion of his gospel. Peter’s mother-in-law was there. Now in order for Peter to have a mother-in-law, he had to have a wife, right, and in order to have a wife, he needed to be married. Now some of you know the Roman Catholic Church considers Peter as the first Pope, the Bishop of Rome, and it’s no secret that many early bishops and priests had wives and children. It was not until 1123, during the first Lateran council that the Roman Catholic Church issued what they consider to be a universal requirement of celibacy, imposed on all clergy. All married clergy were ordered to renounce their wives and dependents and those marriages were declared illegal and invalid. Thanks be to God, the Lutheran reformers rejected this cruel, non-biblical requirement, and as most of you know Martin Luther, who had been an Augustinian monk, married Katharina von Bora, who’d been educated by the Benedictines, and then took her vows as a Cistercian nun. They were united in marriage. He was 41, she was 26, and Luther said of his marriage to von Bora that it would please his father, rile the Pope, cause angels to laugh, and devils to weep. Brothers and sisters, while it’s true that Peter was married, it’s certainly not the central theme of Mark’s gospel, this I know. But it does remind us that our Lutheran Confession is not based on the opinions or the changing ideas of man, but on the inspired, inerrant Word of God. This is clearly stated in Article 23 of the Augsburg Confession, on the marriage of priests. This Article affirms that there are men who are certainly given the gift of chastity, but the view that the church can and should forbid all men who are called to be priests from being married is rejected. So we confess that both lay people and clergy should honor the gift of marriage as an order of God’s creation. And Jesus healed this mother of peter’s wife, and she began to serve the people in the house , immediately as the fever left her. Now some of these days, some, have said that this action, the healing and her jumping up immediately to serve, illustrates the evil, patriarchal, misogynistic oppressive society of Jesus’ day ,and that in some perfect, egalitarian culture, without male oppression over women, Andrew and Peter would have done the serving, while Peter’s mother-in-law would have rested, and been waited upon herself, during her convalescence from the fever, but she didn’t need time to recuperate did she? Our Lord healed her completely, and she did what she wanted to do. No one ordered her out of bed, snap, snap, snell, snell, wait on these people. It was in her heart to serve the guests. We must not, as is the habit of so many these days, even those who call themselves Christian, read things into the Bible text that simply are not there. Peter’s mother-in-law showed kindness and hospitality in her service to the Servant, and that’s who Jesus is. In fact, the suffering servant of God, foretold in Isaiah 53 “He was despised, and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace and with his wounds we are healed.” Peter’s mother-in-law was healed that Sabbath day by the mere touch of our Lord. You and I are healed of sin. You and I are saved from death, by his wounds. Those who would protest this woman’s service to the guest in her house forget the service of the Servant. Look how Jesus was serving others that day. The whole city gathered at the door of this house. Historians estimate that the population of Capernaum when our Lord was there doing his earthly ministry, was somewhere between 1200 and 700 people. We don’t know for certain, but we do know that it wasn’t a small group that showed up. And even if it was only 500 people, even if it was only 500, imagine a crowd like that at your front door. What would you do? I think it would seem a bit overwhelming, but Jesus continued to bring healing. He made many sick people well, and cast out the demons. The suffering servant continued serving, and this is all on his first day in Capernaum. These days there are many who speak of rights, not RITES as in liturgical rites, but rights, RIGHTS. There are many who speak of animal rights, human rights, civil rights, and Lord have mercy, I’ve lived long enough to find out that there’s even universities with professors and students now crying out for plant rights, and that’s not the right of a business factory or a manufacturing plant. These people seriously get very emotionally involved talking about the rights of tomatoes, corn, dandelions, and cacti. But who these days, dares to speak of Gods rights, Gods authority, Gods sovereignty. The author of life has authority and does not need our permission or empowerment or advocacy to do anything. We do not grant the Lord his power, his authority for his right to do as he pleases with his creation. When I served as an army chaplain, there were many soldiers, and many other chaplains, as well, who took issue with the sacrament of Holy Communion. They insisted that there’s just no way Jesus can give us his own body and blood in the sacrament of Holy Communion, and I said “Well why?” “Well, they said, because that would be impossible.” And so I would ask them “Is it possible for Jesus to born of the virgin Mary?” “Well yes, that’s not impossible. No God can do that. God did that.” “Did our Lord have the power to raised Lazarus from the dead when he was already beginning to stink in his tomb?” “Well of course, he’s the Lord of creation, he can raise anyone from the dead he so chooses.” “Does Christ have the power to walk on water,” I’d ask them. “Well yes?” “Even though it violates our understanding of gravity and viscosity?” “Well yes, he can do that because he has power and authority. He can heal the blind man by the pool of Siloam, by taking some dirt, spitting in, it putting it on his eyes telling, him to wash his eyes in the water and his sight is restored. Amen, he can do that Chaplain Wilder.” “But the same Lord Jesus who can do all that cannot give us his body and blood in the sacrament of Holy Communion?” “Well no.” “So well why?” “That would be impossible.” Go figure. So, with authority, Jesus served. With authority and grace. Today he gives you his true body and true blood. The same Jesus who told demons to be silent and they were. And he chose to leave Capernaum the next day even though the crowd was still looking for him. Because he does, with authority, what he chooses to do, and what he came to do, and that’s why he came out, as Mark puts it, he came out of Nazareth, after being a carpenter there, until he was about 30 years of age. He left his home in order to fulfill his mission. It was all about obedience. Obedience to death on a cross. Mark tells in verses 38 and 39, “And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns that I might preach there also, for that is why I came out.” And he went throughout all Galilee preaching in their synagogues, and casting out demons.” Yes, the servant came to serve. He told those first four disciples it’s time to move on move out. We’ve got to go to other towns in fulfillment of God’s plan, according to the Father’s will. God has chosen in Christ to serve for your sake. Jesus the suffering servant, went the way of the cross, for your sins and to save you from death, the man healed in the synagogue, Peter’s mother-in-law, the people that were healed standing outside the house, they all eventually died. We all die, and the Gospel tells us that we have died with Christ, in baptism, and that we have been raised with Christ in the same, and that we will live with Christ forever. And as for those who would dare to criticize Jesus for perpetuating some so-called patriarchal structure in which women were subservient to men, well we know better, because we know what the suffering servant Jesus did. He knelt before his disciples and washed their feet, something only a slave would do, the lowest ranking slave. In Mark’s Gospel, chapter 6, the servant Jesus saw that the crowd of 5000 was hungry. He made sure they were served a miraculous meal of fish and loaves. First Christ said of himself in Mark chapter 10 “The son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Suffering servant served perfectly according to the Father’s will. We serve him by grace, by God’s mercy, by God’s calling, and all the ordinariness of our daily lives, what Martin Luther referred to as our vocation, our ministry, our witness, our service, right where God has planted us. I’m going to conclude this sermon with a quote from a Lutheran theologian that many of you may know, the Reverend Doctor Robert Kolb, a Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology at our seminary in Saint Louis. Please listen to what he says and how it describes you in Christ. “Luther’s teaching on vocation is valuable today as an aide for concrete instruction. It is important to reflect the Biblical truth, that God’s commands are not arbitrary, but rather the plan designed by the Creator who determined the reality of life as he shaped his creatures. God provides and cares for his world in significant ways through calling people to their places in society, recognizing that God call gives us a place, several places in fact. Comfort to those who feel adrift in our society, for those who wrestle with tarnished images of their own worth and dignity in the world. A sense of calling provides strengthening for our new identity that God gives us when he brings us to faith in Christ. There is no greater worth than dignity than that accorded those who God has chosen as his own and brought to new birth through Christ blood and his reclamation of life to the resurrection. But a secondary level of worth and dignity arises out of service according to God’s plan at the behest of this calling creator as the Holy Spirit bestows the ability to respond to others needs, and live with them in the conversations and in the communities for which God made us in the first place. So, God bless you servants of Grace Lutheran Church. God bless you servants of the servant. God bless you and your service to the Lord, for the sake of one another, and for the sake of the world that is still in darkness, that does not know the light who is Christ. God bless you servants of the Lord. God keep you in faith, hope, and love. And may the peace which far surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord this day and until we see the Savior face to face. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.