Reach Out & Touch Somebody s Hand Rev. Michael Blackwood United Church of Broomfield February 4, 2018

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1 Reach Out & Touch Somebody s Hand Rev. Michael Blackwood United Church of Broomfield February 4, 2018 Isaiah 40: Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? 22 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to live in; 23 who brings princes to naught, and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing. 24 Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows upon them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble. 25 To whom then will you compare me, or who is my equal? says the Holy One. 26 Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these? He who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them all by name; because he is great in strength, mighty in power, not one is missing. 27 Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God? 28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? 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. 29 He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. 30 Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; 31 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. 1

2 Mark 1: As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31 He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them. 32 That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34 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. 35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37 When they found him, they said to him, Everyone is searching for you. 38 He answered, Let us go on to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do. 39 And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons. **** Jesus, with his new disciples in tow, has been teaching and casting out demons through Galilee. They leave the synagogue and go to Simon and Andrew s home (this is the Simon who was known as Peter).they go to Peter s home where Peter s mother in law is in bed with a fever. [side note: Peter has a mother in law meaning he was married a married disciple? Yes we ll explore that in another sermon at another time] We don t know the name of Peter s mother in law, so I m going to call her Hortence to make things easier. Hortence was sick in bed, burning up with fever. I m imagining that Peter arrived home, invited Jesus and his new friends in and began to check in with whomever might be home at that time; his wife perhaps some children and he learns that his mother in law is seriously ill. He returns to the main room and tells Jesus about her malady. Jesus goes to Hortence, takes her by the hand and raises her up. He heals her. So, what does she do? She makes them dinner! Seriously? She s makes dinner? What do you think about this? Are these two verses of scripture put here, in the midst of Jesus preaching and teaching and healing, for the sole purpose of telling us that Hortence needed to get up so she could make some sandwiches? I mean, Jesus just cast out a pretty nasty demon back in Capernaum, do we need this little blurb to trust that he can also heal a fever? Don t get me wrong, it wasn t just a fever, Hortence was really very ill. We know Jesus can heal, why should we even consider that 2

3 Jesus healed Hortence because the guys were hungry, and they needed this woman to do the serving. I mean Peter did have a wife where was she? Did he maybe have a servant could they not help out? And God forbid men might prepare their own food? I m sure it s no surprise that that s exactly how these verses have been used by many MEN for a very long time. As I was reading and doing my research for today s sermon, I came across several sermons out there that use these verses to subjugate, oppress and put women in their place according God and Jesus natural intentions for how women should serve men and the church. So, let s return to the real world and talk about what these verses really say when we read them considering context when we read them considering the overall message all those verses that come before and after it and when we read them prayerfully and faithfully **** Our reading today was from The Message translation of the bible which says No sooner had the fever left than she was up fixing dinner for them. I purposely used the Message s translation today because its translator chose to say fixing dinner for them. There s no other version that uses those words that I could find. And I find it troubling, misleading and inaccurate. This is why it s important to understand that there are many translations of the Bible that are out there. There are currently 107 complete Bible translations out there More than 80% of those have been written in the last 100 years We need to understand why they were created, how the actual translations and interpretations were done and who was behind them. Why did Eugene Peterson, the author of The Message translation who is a retired Presbyterian minister, choose those words? There are some versions good for casually reading the Bible, but definitely others that are better for studying the Word of God. Some other translations include NLT, NIV, NRSV, KJV, etc. And here s how they translate fixing dinner for them. NLT she prepared a meal for them NIV, GNT, NASB she began to wait on them NRSV, CEB, NKJV, ESV she began to serve them KJV she ministered unto them 3

4 Surprising isn t that one of the oldest translations used widely today, the KJV from 1611, says that SHE (a woman) ministered. I like it best! I think it conveys the real understanding of what she did and is truly the most accurate when compared with the Greek. In seminary, we re taught that when we struggle with translations, go back to the original. Since we don t have the original, we go back as far as possible, which is Greek. The Greek for this verse is. kai prosthelon egeiron auten kratesas tes queros kai apheken auten ho pyretos kai diekonei autois the key Greek word is διηκονει (diekonei) o it comes from the Greek root Διακονος (diakonos) o which literally translates as through the dirt, but was used primarily when talking about serving others and not necessarily in terms of presenting food to someone like a waiter serves you your meal at a restaurant, but rather as performing duties or services for another person or group, like a soldier serves their country in the military or when you serve on the fellowship ministry here at church. o Diakonos is where our modern word DEACON comes from In the scriptures, the same word (diakonos) is used In Matt 4:11 to describe how the angels cared for Jesus in the desert after he was tempted by the devil In Matt 20:28 to describe Jesus example for us to serve and not to be served In Matt 25:44 to describe how we are to treat those who are hungry, thirsty, strangers, the naked, the sick and the prisoners In Matt 27:55 to describe the countless women who followed Jesus, provided for Jesus and witnessed Jesus hanging from the cross In Luke 8:1 3 to describe the work of the apostles, Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Susanna So when the word diakonos is used to describe what Hortence did when she got up from her fever, I can t sit by and let it be simplified to fixing dinner for them. Did she prepare a meal for them? Perhaps. Did she wait on them? Maybe. Did she serve them? Yes. Did she minister to them? Absolutely. She isn t an example of how women are supposed to behave, but how Christians are supposed to behave; in service to others. And Hortence wasn t just any deacon. Many theologians describe her as the FIRST deacon. Why? Because, unlike those first disciples and the many that followed, she GOT IT! With a simple touch, she recognized Jesus as the Messiah and gets to work immediately exemplifying 4

5 his message of love and servant leadership. No delays. No proclamations or exhortations. No questions about how do I serve? No contemplation and time to take it all in. No. Simply serve others. In this moment, how do I care for those around me? *** Jesus s message was so simple. In these two brief verses, beyond the casting out of demons and healing lepers that proceed and follow, we learn so much about how to be like Jesus. We see that this unnamed, underestimated woman who society pushed to the margins because of her gender was an incredibly wise disciple, without having to say a word. In silence, Jesus demonstrated powerful healing through touch and presence. Upon hearing that Hortence was ill, he went in, took her by the hand, and raised her up. It doesn t indicate that Jesus said anything at all. She doesn t say anything in response. Jesus goes to her and without saying a word, he touches her. He takes her by the hand and lifted (or raised) her up. Her instant healing is seen as miraculous. As we explore this scripture, I ask you Was it miraculous because it was Jesus who touched her OR Was it miraculous because she was touched by anyone at all? You see, Hortence had a fever, which in the first century wasn t understood as a symptom of another disease or ailment, like we understand it. The fever was thought of as an illness itself it was the disease, the sickness; a fire in the bones. We don t know what caused the fever we can only surmise that since it was a fever so debilitating that she was bedridden she must have been suffering from some illness that was pretty bad. In that time, there were rabbinic rules for visiting sick people. Nahmanides, a 12 th century Jewish scholar, detailed ancient Talmudic sources that said, if one is in such severe straights due to fever we do not visit him directly. Rather, we enter the outer chamber [of his house] and (#1a) enquire after him, and we investigate if there is a need to sweep or sprinkle down [the dirt floor], or (#1b) other tasks such as this. (#4) We listen to his distress and (#3) ask for mercy on his behalf 1 So, those who had the fever, were basically quarantined. Minimal to no touching. That s what happened with illnesses. Exclusion. Separation. Isolation. It can be harsh. Yes, there is 1 Bikkur Holim: The Origins of Jewish Pastoral Care by Rabbi Charles Sheer. Page pdf 5

6 some level of reasoned safety when encountering the unknown we don t know the cause.we don t know if it s contagious we don t know if it s lethal but at some point someone has to say, that s a person that s Hortence in there.they re a child of God. The year was Ten years had passed since AIDS had been officially named and defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It was the year the virus became the No. 1 cause of death for men ages 25 to 44. It was the year the international AIDS conference had to be moved out of the United States due to federal travel restrictions. And, it was the year that Bailey Boushay House opened its doors in Seattle as the first nursing care residence and day health program for HIV/AIDS victims in America. [Photographers Saul Bromberger and Sandra Hoover] had initially been commissioned by Virginia Mason Medical Center to document the opening week of the Bailey Boushay House, to help ease the stigma associated with HIV and AIDS. As they began to connect with residents, family members, and staff, Saul and Sandy decided they couldn t stop after just a week. [They spent the next 3 years visiting the house a few times each week, sometimes taking photos, sometimes just sitting and visiting with the residents. In 2014 as Saul and Sandra looked back over some of the photos they d taken decades prior, they reflected and shared their memories ] o George Hill, sitting with his partner Adrian said, Sometimes the best medicine is the touch of a friend s hand. o Resident Jerry Walton once said, that the only he wanted for his 48 th birthday [was] to be surrounded by love. o Randy Maudsley recalled of his BIL, Michael, I don t know how many times I walked in and [his nurse] Sherry would be [sitting at his bedside] stroking Mike s head. 2 Quarantined.excluded rejected because of what. A fever Leprosy Cancer AIDS Depression Mental illness Psychological abandonment Demonic possession What kind of healing happens when we simply choose to be with someone? How might people heal with a simple touch? Jesus demonstrated love and healing through touch and presence. He went in, took Hortence by the hand and raised her up. It is interesting to note that the Greek word used is ηγειρεν (egeiren). Elsewhere in scripture, this word is used when speaking of Lazarus and Jesus resurrections. When Jesus healed Hortence, he resurrected her. He brought her into new life life as a disciple who serves through touch and presence. 2 living with aids at the bailey boushay house/ 6

7 **** Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is the everlasting God who is present now, has been present and always will be present. It is the everlasting God who, in times of loneliness is always there. It is the everlasting God who, where there is sickness and disease, takes you by the hand and raises you up. It is the everlasting God who serves through simply being It is the everlasting God, who through Jesus Christ, exemplified the power of touch and presence. We Know. We ve heard. We ve seen. Now let s serve. AMEN! 7