Healed to Serve - Reflections 2-4-21

Texts for the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany
February 7, 2020

TODAY’S TEXTS
Isaiah 40:21-31
Psalm 147:1-11, 20c
1 Corinthians 9:16-23
Mark 1:29-39

I am old enough to remember the original bra-burning uprising of the feminist movement. I was a sophomore in high school when the administration finally let female students wear slacks (which mercifully reduced the “kneel-in-front-of-the-assistant-principal-for-measuring-how-far-the-hem-was-from-the-floor” incidents). 

I remember the ordination of the first woman as pastor. A decade later, I was at the seminary where all women students (less than 1/4 of the student body) wore black business suits every day which meant jacket, A-line skirts ending at the knee, and low heels. I was also present when a woman who had just preached at our daily worship was told that dangling earrings were too distracting during a sermon. I witnessed the development of feminist theology, and watched it be both dismissed and praised. I wore those business suits the first five years of my first call and rarely ever in the 13 years that I served wore slacks (except, of course, at youth events).

The reason for this brief history is to provide background before I tell you that for years, I took offense that in the Gospel for this week Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law who then jumped up and served them. Oh sure, keep the woman toiling for men. Couldn’t let the little old lady rest? 
(Ironically, I am probably older than that little old lady just because of life span expectations in our respective eras.)

Well, I was humbled but delighted to read in my commentary resources this time that the Greek verb for the mother-in-law’s serving is from the same root as deacon. Well, doesn’t that change the story for this deacon!  T
his woman could almost be considered the first deacon! Or at least the first deacon that got to serve Jesus. OK, the first human deacon that got to serve Jesus. (In verse 13 of this first chapter, the angels served Jesus; same Greek verb hence angel deacons.) (OK. I didn't count Jesus' mother; she served beyond compare.) 

The women who faithfully stood at a distance as Jesus died were the ones who followed him as he traveled and provided for him; same Greek verb, hence group of deacons. These women received and answered the call to serve Jesus in the flesh. That is essentially the raison d’Être of a deacon’s call: To serve Christ, and more specifically these days, serve Christ as he is enfleshed in the other, the vulnerable, broken, poor.

Mark does use that word one more time. Mark 10:45 tells us that Jesus came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many; same Greek verb hence ultimate model for a deacon.

This is what we are called to do. Our denomination describes it as God’s work. Our hands. Serve others, have compassion for others as Christ first did for us.

This use of the word serve also points to the cross. There are different ways to give one’s life for others; not all entail death. They do require surrender to God’s will. They do necessitate obedience to the call to bring about the kingdom of God. Surrender and obedience are hard words to sell. Jesus takes our hands and heals us and we are ready to serve.

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Written by Pam Larabee-Zierath


Gathered by Grace, Scattered for Service
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