Sunday, February 4, 2018
Year B Epiphany 5 The Time That Has Been Given Us
Year B Epiphany 5, 4 February 2018
St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA
“The Time That Is Given Us”
Collect: Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
After Jesus and his disciples left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them. That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured 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. In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.
Today I am going to keep it short. With the baptisms and some event is happening tonight that seems to have everyone distracted, I am going to be direct.
We are all equal. Right?
That was not rhetorical. We are all equal. Right?
We say it in our founding documents of our country, “We hold these truths to be self evident that all [people] are created equal…”
We say we believe it, but we know it’s not true. We are not equal when it comes to money, talent, or looks. Some have more, and others have less. Some are born into privilege that enables them to be closer to the goal line than others, and yet there is one thing in which we all are the same.
Time. Time is our common equalizer. We are all give 24x7x365, and it is up to us what we will do with it.
The other way in which we are all equal is our Now, the Times in which we find ourselves.
As I listen to the news today, I am often cautious. What are headlines these days, would not have been discussed in polite company in my childhood. I am aghast almost daily at the level to which we have devolved in what is decent, acceptable, and discussable. We are living in days which are trying. It is so troubling, I am quick to switch to music when my daughters are in the car with me. Too often I question how can I “train them up in the way they should go,” just like Everett’s parents and godparents will be promising to do today for him during the baptism, with the headlines of the crass, the crazy, or the filth.
But we only have one choice when we are faced with troubled times, JRR Tolkien put it this way in an interaction with Frodo and Gandalf…
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
And that is it my friends, what are we to do with the time that is given us?
You will hear more from me about this more in the days to come, but if I could sum up two priorities for the coming year, I would urge to look to what Jesus did in the Gospel story today.
“...they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons…”
Each and every one of us should be doing something for somebody else. Jesus taught and cast out the demons. He FED the people. He made sure to give them what they needed: the Good News, healing, deliverance, wholeness. A two year old can be a help to their family, and they WANT to help. It may take three times as long, but it is essential to training them up to make the world a better place. A 90 year old has a calling and a role to play. If you are still breathing, God is not done with you yet.
But right after this we are told…
In the morning, while it was still very dark, [Jesus] got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.”
Jesus had to be fed as well. He went out alone to pray. He had to make sure he was fed, as well. This is not rocket science.
And when the road is hard and the way is dark, know that our Father cares for us. Last week we sang it, and this morning we read it, Isaiah 40:
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
God will provide, and we can trust in that. We all need to feed, and we all need to be fed. Maybe I feed you, and you feed her, and she feeds him, and so on and so on and so on. Jesus modeled for us that need to go and charge our batteries so that we can use them again.
Every night I charge my phone. Every day I use my phone. Now some would say that it would make sense to leave my phone in the charger so that is never depleted. BUT THEN IT STOPS BEING A PORTABLE PHONE. But if I kept my phone in my pocket, so that it is always with me, it would not work for long. It has to be both. It gets charged so that it can be used, that is the point. And listen to what Jesus says: “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” Jesus could just pray and stay in communion with the Father, but he could have stayed in heaven for that. We could just stay in Church and get our souls filled on a Jesus Buffet, but then we would stop being the Church. We get Fed so we can Feed. We Feed so others can be Fed. It could not be more simple, nor more necessary.
In Eucharistic Prayer C, which is too often controversial, but in one passage it makes this point very clear:
Open our eyes to see your hand at work in the world about us. Deliver us from the presumption of coming to this Table for solace only, and not for strength; for pardon only, and not for renewal. Let the grace of this Holy Communion make us one body, one spirit in Christ, that we may worthily serve the world in his name.
Solace and Strength. Pardon and Renewal. Fill us with your Grace so we can spread to the world.
As your Pastor, my prayer for us in this year to come, is that you all find the ways you need to be Fed. And moreover, that you find a way to share that goodness in a ministry that is as unique as all of us.
We are all equal: we are all given the same amount of time, and the time at hand, we were made for such a time as this. If you get discouraged, remember, you were born for such a time as this, as Esther puts it. We may question “Why?” But know this, no one in the history of the world is as equipped as you are right here, right now, for the task that is set before you. Jesus knew what it was he “came out to do.” Do I? Do you? As we seek that together, God will be glorified.
And an example to close with is what started the Gospel reading for today.
After Jesus and his disciples left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
Peter’s mother-in-law was healed, and then she fed them all. She was blessed, and then was a blessing. So may it be for us all. Amen.