Sermon for Epiphany 5, Year B February 4, 2018

Isaiah 40:21-31                  Psalm 147:1-12, 21c                        1 Corinthians 9:16-23                      Mark 1:29-39

Capernaum, located by Sea of Galilee, is the site of today’s Gospel.  I visited it as part of the course I took at St. George’s College in Jerusalem, and it is one of the places that I remember well.  Not because there is a Kentucky Fried Chicken in Capernaum like there is in Bethlehem, but because it is an archeological dig, and a monastery. Its location was unknown for many, many years until it was rediscovered and its ruins uncovered.  At the time of Jesus, it was a fishing village and it had a synagogue, so it was a place of great importance.  Over time people relocated, the buildings fell into disrepair, collapsed and were then covered over by vegetation – and forgotten.

There are places like that in our country, places in this county that are named on a map but easily overlooked as you drive through them.  For me it’s a reminder that what we consider important today, often turns out to insignificant over time.  Too often we fail to see the bigger picture, we fail to “Lift up [our] eyes on high and see who created [the heavens and the earth]” as Isaiah direct us.  Our teaching from Isaiah continues and he challenges the idea that anything we might do might be “hidden from the Lord,” or “disregarded by my God.”  Isaiah says:


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.

He gives power to the faint,
and strengthens the powerless.

The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.

Thus, over the course of time, and in the grand scheme of things, it is God that matters, not us.  BUT in this passage, I also read that we matter to God – for God gives power to the faint and strength to the powerless.

In our Psalm, God is praised, for God gathers those in exile and rebuilds Jerusalem.  And, God “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”  This is a Psalm that offers comfort to those of us who have been displaced for a period of time because of work, illness a death, a divorce, or anything that disrupts our lives and separates us from those we love.  God, we are told will rebuild our lives and heal our broken hearts.  Why? Because we matter to God.  The Psalmist says, “[God] counts the number of the stars and calls them all by their names.”  We are not just a number, God knows our name as well.

What we think is important is often not as valuable as we believe, but we are important to God, our Creator.  In the Gospel, after Jesus heals Simon’s mother-in-law, the townspeople gather at the door and Jesus heals countless others.  The next morning, he leaves, however, before any more can come to him.  Then, we are told, “When [the disciples] 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 does not leave Capernaum because the people there don’t matter or because the village itself doesn’t matter.  Jesus leaves because he came to proclaim “the message,” throughout Israel.  And, what is this message?  I believe the message is of God’s love and the people’s need to realign their priorities.  Jesus comes when the people of Israel are too focused on “the Law” and not its purpose.  The people of Israel are also so focused on themselves as the chosen people of God, they were do not understand why they were chosen.

You’ve heard the saying, “give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach him to fish and he eats a lifetime.”  Well, if we hear the message as being we are to love God and love our neighbor, and that we are chosen by God to help our neighbor – meaning God calls us to help other who are in need, then it makes sense that Jesus would make spreading this message a priority over establishing a residence in Capernaum and healing everyone who came to him.  Jesus came to make disciples of us that we might heal the broken hearted, that we might help others to understand that it is the love we share that is more important than our buildings and our villages.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe it is important that we take care of this wonderful building we are in so that it will be around for generations.  And, I think the renewal of our downtown is something we need to support.  We should do these things not because St. Paul’s is a beautiful place to worship, or that our downtown is full of history.  No, none of that matters if we fail to recognize that it is God that gives us life, and it is important that we preserve these wonderful gifts for others so they may grow in faith and hope and love as we do here.  The buildings downtown, including St. Paul’s, are not important if we fail to use them to build a sense of community, a community that cares for one another.

When Jesus healed Simon’s mother-in-law, she got up and started to serve.  She is for us, a reminder that whatever gifts God has given us, they are to be shared.  What gifts have each of us been given, and how might we use them?  I can’t speak for each of you, but I can say that St. Paul’s facilities are a gift and one that we share with our community.  The Boy Scouts, two AA groups, and an Al Anon group all use our facilities to meet, and these are groups that provide needed services in our community.  And, many of you are involved in helping with our Community Meals on Thursday evenings – which is something we that includes using our time, as well as our facilities, in service to others.

The closing verses of today’s Psalm, tell us “[God] is not impressed by the might of a horse; he has no pleasure in the strength of a man; But the Lord has pleasure in those who fear him, In those who await his gracious favor.  Hallelujah!”  It is what is in our hearts that truly matters.

Let us pray.

Loving and gracious God, help us we pray, to see that which you have created, and to focus on that which is eternal – your love; so that keeping our hearts fixed on you, we might use the gifts you have given us to make this a better place in which to live.  We offer our prayers in the names in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.