In this season of Epiphany we reflect on the intrusive way that God comes into our lives to reorient how we see the world because of what we see God doing. God’s intervention in our lives is intrusive because we see God's presence not just through prayer, but in scripture and in the action of our world. Over the last few weeks we have seen and heard the places where God is moving us into a new orientation, a new understanding as we continue to hear voices that won't be silenced in the face of systemic racism and white supremacy, among others. So this morning’s scripture feels a bit disconnected from the themes we are living with in our world. The kingly stature and nature of God in Isaiah, the praise of that king in the psalms, and a bizarre waffling from Paul to the corinthians points us into the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law that leads into service. How does any of this have to do with reorientation or an intrusive relationship? It speaks to us about the true nature of what this kingdom life is all about.
Mark remains the Gospel of this moment in our lives right now because at its core is the reminder to us that Christ came to us in order to heal all of creation- both the natural and the human. This totality of healing was shown to us in the exorcism last week, the lifting of our heads from darkness into light, as we continue to do the important work of racial reconciliation and education in our world, among many other barrier busting processes. So to have a healing this week which is then connected to service shows again the scope of what this kingdom life is really about, it's about the freedom of every single aspect of who we are in this life. But to understand this freedom we need to understand Isaiah and Paul, because what Mark is actually asking us is more than just liberation. It's about structural movement.
The dominion of God flows through all our readings this morning, most potently in Isaiah and the psalm as we are reminded of both how great our God is as well as who is responsible for everything we see and enjoy around us today. The grand and sumptuous language used in Isaiah to frame the landscape of God's presence among is a reminder of just how big, broad, and high our God is in everything we see. From the beauty of the world to the complexity of our circulatory systems, God is a God beyond compare, and is capable of giving and bringing life to all things- we just have to wait. So then the psalm is the perfect refrain for our waiting, in the safety of our reflective praise to the God who provides everything. And all of this is well and good. Our God is a great God, worthy of praise beyond words for the goodness we are given to live our lives, but staying at this level is a reactive rather than proactive faith. Enter Paul, someone who is either misunderstood or misinterpreted in everything he says who offers an almost synchartistically proactive approach to engaging the world with our faith. We are to build relationships with love, a love which heals Simon’s mother in law, alongside the rest of us.
This love is important in the larger kingdom narrative, in light of Paul’s letter because of how sometimes our faith becomes legalistic rather than relational. We see that in the sin of white nationalism and racism, among many other walls that keep us apart, they are born out of fear and are then backed up in faith and scripture to demonstrate how they are the godly thing to follow. Yet it's a lie, isn't it church, all these weapons we use to keep eachother apart, they’re all lies because they aren't about love. This fear of difference, this fear of love, is what caused Paul to write to Corinth and speak to them about how to engage with the world they lived in, to build relationships of love. It's this sense of adaptability, that paul exhorts of us in our relational work that has led folks to assume paul is speaking of syncretism, which is a process of adopting practices of other faiths into our own as a way of evangelization- to show that our God is actually their God, and that they should come and worship with us. But he's not saying this at all, he's saying to build relationships with anyone you actually have to get to know them. To do that, you have to know yourself enough first. When you go to invite someone to church, for instance, we should be inviting them because this is the best place in the world for them to meet this amazing person who’s changed our lives. This is important because God and God’s love is not built on the scarcity of fear that establishes barriers between people, rules we must abide by before we are accepted and loved, no. Love is built on the Kingdom way of life that is constantly on the move. We invite each other to grow together as we walk this road of life, which is what Mark reminds us of.
The power to feel and know God's presence and ministry in our lives is ultimately about answering a human need. A human need for security and purpose, to find a place where we are loved and that our love matters. The challenge of this love, when we find it, is how large it feels and in that largeness it's almost overwhelming. Think back to Isaiah and the Psalm, the scope of God's providence in this life is huge which can be hard to trust sometimes. We need to routinely test the largeness of this love with action, which is why we so often keep coming back to stories of believers coming again and again to Jesus asking for a sign that this is actually real. I mean, we are encountering something that is so unreal, compared to the landscape of the time, which was about control and order, that to be given this freedom of love in what Christ was preaching would have been not just odd- but deadly. However, in the healing story of Mark this morning there is more at play. The Christ of Mark has come to redeem all of humanity, both the natural and the human, right, which means in this context that the redemption Christ offers in the healing of this woman is not just another sign for us of who he is, but a further invitation into what he is, which is a way of life.
It's human nature for us to want to define our spaces, and we do the same with God. Creating long lists of how we define or don't define God, and the same happens in scripture. As soon as we start to understand who God is, we codify it into a set practice, just like Simon. He begged Jesus to stay and do more of the healing work because of how popular he was becoming. But Jesus had a kingdom to serve, and said “let’s go” to the next town, because this kingdom of Love which we are healed into again today is about the forward movement of us and our neighbours because this kingdom is bigger than just you and me. Its about a love which is alight within us for the service of the whole world. Its about a love that wont stay locked in a building or in a single place, but is constantly on the move of engaging with communities to grow deeper in relationships of love through the healing love of Christ. A love which brings us together here to sit under God's word and grow together in this way of life.
So what are we supposed to do with all of this kingly praise, contextual love, and world wide redemption in Christ? It's already in front of us, in our emails this week, in our vestry report. Read it for yourself, not because you don't read it every year, but read it because it represents the movement of a parish that refused to let a pandemic hold it back from loving its community. Read it because in it we see the tenacity of God’s providence working within us the kingdom's love of Christ for the world in new and informed ways, while holding open the question of where we are going to next. This report represents a huge amount of work from this parish, but it is work that has happened, love that has been given, and today is asking about tomorrow. The Christ of Mark, the God of Isaiah and the psalms, and the love of Paul to Corinth ask you and I to reflect on where our next neighbouring town is as we come to vestry. What is crying out for love in our neighbourhoods this year, and how will we serve that cry in love together and what do we need healing from in love to allow us to serve our neighbours again this year? That's the whole point of the kingdom of God, to serve. To serve with the freedom we receive from Christ today from all that holds us back. So let us look back at the love we have shared this year, while looking forward to go and ask how we might continue to serve that love this year? How might you respond?