Epistle Lesson: 1 Corinthians 9: 16-23
If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission. What then is my reward? Just this: that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel. For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.
Gospel Lesson: Mark 1:29-39
As soon as they 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.
As parents and as children we have grown up with a phrase that simply cannot fly within the confines of the Church. This phrase in which I am speaking about is one that I believe haunted every last one of us as we have grown up, or maybe still as some of us are under the roof of our parents. The phrase that I am referring to is, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Man oh man this phrase use to irritate the heck out of me growing up. It irritated me and I am sure many of us because all it says to the one who hears it is, “I am a hypocrite and you have to be different.” Well, within the church, and I want to reiterate the church is not this building that we are in, but it is the people who have confessed their faith in Jesus and have allowed him to be Lord in their life, this saying simply cannot stand. This phrase is in opposition to foundations on which we as a church stand. I began with talking about this phrase today because today we are looking at the meaning of another word that describes who we, those baptized with water and the Spirit, are. This word is incarnational.
Now to some of us, this word incarnational should sound somewhat familiar. It is a word that we often hear within worship though only once throughout the church year. Actually, it is during the time of Advent and Christmas that we hear this word most often used within our worship. Incarnational, anyone want to take a guess at its meaning? Well, carne means flesh, and so incarnational means literally “to make flesh”. Hence the reason why we hear of this word so often around Christmas time, because Jesus was God incarnate or the fleshy existence of God. So some of you may be asking, “Why is it that we, who are already flesh, being called in and by our baptism incarnational?” Well to be incarnational is an adjective or a description of the type of ministry we are called to do. We, the church, those who follow after Christ, are called to be incarnational, to put flesh on God’s love for other people. In order though for us to be incarnational, we first must be authentic to our devotion and love of God, and not be someone who says, “Do as I say, and not as I do.” To be Incarnational though it means to go and be among. And to be among often means to self-deny. Let us look toward our Gospel lesson today as we explore this meaning of Incarnational.
In our Gospel lesson today, we picked up right where we left off last week. If you were not here, or perhaps you may not remember, Jesus and his (four) disciples are in Capernaum. They had entered a Synagogue on the Sabbath and a man who was possessed with a demon had cried out for help. Jesus, with the words of authority prophetically casts out the demon and the man was healed. This is where we left off. Jesus and his disciples then leave the Synagogue and go to Simon Peter and Andrew’s house where Simon’s mother in law was.
Now this walk was not very far. In actuality as I walked from the ancient ruins of the Synagogue in Capernaum to Peter’s house, it was only like walking from here to the other side of the parking lot, maybe. It actually was probably a little bit shorter than even that. Here are just a couple of pictures of the synagogue and the house of Peter.
Now the scriptures tell us that she was sick and had a fever. Now with that being said, I know that I am certainly one who typically does not go into a sick persons home. For instance, I know that when Jackie is sick, I am typically one who Lysols the house, I don’t kiss her, I don’t sleep in the same bed with her. I try to keep my hands, and myself away from any germs or illnesses that she may have. My example of me by the way is the opposite of what it means to be incarnational in ministry. I know…hypocrite. Anyways, Jesus rather gives us the example of being incarnational, he instead of running away from the sickness, moves towards it and touches her, raises her up, and the fever left her. After these two healings, people begin to get word that there is a healer in town and they begin after sunset bringing people to him. Jesus goes among the sick and the demoniacs’. And it says he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. In being among the people, Jesus denies the earthly temptation to stay away from the sick and stays among them. Now with that being said, early the next morning, Jesus goes away to pray. His disciples begin to look for him and upon finding him Jesus answered them by saying, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message their also; for that is what I came out to do.” Now when Jesus has said this, he has just begun his ministry. People have heard him preach with authority and they have seen him heal and cast out demons. People are interested in coming to him. It seems obvious to you and I wouldn’t it be best for him to just stop there and set up shop. I mean let’s build a church and plant ourselves here in Capernaum and let people come to us. Right? Isn’t this the model that we often try to do our own outreach? We put up a church building, with the tallest steeple, and we open the doors and say, alright Franklin County where are ya at? Come on in! The issue with this type of ministry is that this is not the type of ministry Jesus had, nor called us to. Rather Jesus told his disciples let us go to where the people are. If they are hurting, then let us go and hurt with them. If they are hungry, then let us share our own bread and be hungry with them. Our Epistle lesson today certainly portrays this type of incarnational ministry. Paul wrote to the Church of Corinth, “For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some.” Paul in this letter clearly shows that although he is free from all, and free in all, he restricts himself, he self-denies in order that he may share the Gospel with them where they are at in their journey with Christ. This is precisely the type of ministry that a lady by the name of Dorothy Day understood. Dorothy Day is a lady who understood incarnational ministry very well, she understood what it meant to be among the people where the people are at, even at great costs to her and her family. She did it so well that it even began to get the Roman Catholic Cardinals disgruntled. I want to show you a clip of a video that to me is a great example of what it means to be incarnational in ministry.
I believe Dorothy does a great job of showing the difference of being called the church and being the church. “The Church is a community that God calls into existence to incarnate, to live out, and proclaim this new reality. But this requires that in Christ people find the radical freedom to indentify fully with others, to become as they are, and thus to experience a genuine transformation of the self.”
As many of you may have noticed, on our altar today are symbols of many different missions that this Church does or is in the process of doing. From our Teddy Bear Brigade to our Youth who are preparing to go into the mission field this summer in West Virginia with ASP. However it is we are in mission it should make an impact on the lives of whom we go to, but also it MUST make an impact and transform and change the way in which we reach out. We as a church cannot say, “Dear Lord, house those who are without homes” and then leave worship and go to our own home, which often is more than we need, and pay no more attention that week to those without shelter. Rather, we must continue to strive to be the church, the people in which Christ called us to be: to be the hands, the feet, and the flesh of God’s love for others, no matter where they may be in life. Amen.