Such a lovely room

Such a lovely room

Sunday, February 4, 2024

YEAR B 2024 epiphany 5

Epiphany 5, 2024
Isaiah 40:21-31
Psalm 147:1-12, 21c
1 Corinthians 9:16-23
Mark 1:29-39

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

There’s trouble in the kitchen.  It’s not easy to hear.  But there is trouble in the kitchen.  In a culture that prides itself on hospitality, this is a very big problem.  People come to visit.  People you’ve never even met.  You want to show hospitality, to be gracious hosts, to show them love and compassion and the best you have to offer.  But there is trouble in the kitchen.  This is not the way you want it to be.  You may never get a chance to show them your best side, because there is trouble in the kitchen.

Back in Jesus’ day, gender roles were . . . gender roles.  People had their place in society, and in the home.  Simon’s Mother in Law would be expected to provide food for any guests, whoever they may be.  And she would have taken pride in that.  Simon is bringing guests to the house—one them happens to be God in the flesh—and serving them food would have been her moment to shine.  Even if she didn’t know they were coming, even if she didn’t  know who was coming, this would be Simon’s mother in law’s moment to be lifted up.  To take her rightful place of glory.  To do what she does best.  But there is trouble in the kitchen.

The hostess has a fever.  She is not well.  What should be a feast is not going to happen because she simply cannot do it.  She lacks the health to put on a proper meal.  Maybe there’s some food people could scrounge up in the cupboards, but it’s not the same.  

But then what happens?  Because of the people who love her, Jesus comes to her.  As we heard, “they told him about her at once.”  Does Jesus say, “Let’s go eat somewhere else”?  No.  Instead, “He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up.”  He lifted her up.  He restored her to her rightful place in the community.  A place of pride in her time.  She is not ignored or condemned because there is trouble in the kitchen.  No, she is lifted up and healed and given new life.  And then, what does she do?  She steps back into her dignified place, as the one who serves guests in her home.

To be clear, she is not healed because Jesus needs a sandwich.  She is healed because she is beloved.  And her response to being healed and beloved is to serve.  To serve Jesus and God’s people.

And just think of all the ways she could have responded once the fever left her.  She might understandably have said, I appreciate feeling better, but why don’t you go visit someone who hasn’t been sick with a fever.  It’s great that she has been healed, of course, but she’s probably exhausted from being sick.  You’d expect her to send them all away and go back to bed.

But in her gratitude, she begins to serve them.  Is the gratitude for the healing?  Maybe.  But I think it’s probably even more true that her gratitude is for being restored to her particular ministry.  To be able to step into the place of pride in being a good hostess.  To be able to exercise her unique gift of hospitality.  The trouble in the kitchen has been transformed into a place of ministry with gratitude for the healing hand of Jesus.

Our words hospital and hospitality are similar for a reason.  They both come from the idea of shelter for the needy.  Granted serving in the emergency room seems a long way from serving by taking coats and offering beverages.  But is it really?  When we offer hospitality to our guests, we are offering shelter.  And respite.  And a place away from the cares and concerns of the world.  Sometimes it is for healing our guests, as in a hospital setting.  And sometimes it is because we have been healed by the loving touch of Jesus.

We serve others because we ourselves have been healed.  We offer hospitality because we ourselves have been sheltered.  And we love our neighbors because we ourselves have been loved.  There doesn’t need to be trouble in the kitchen because Jesus takes us by the hand, and we too can serve our guests with gratitude.  We just have to see it for what it is:  We welcome others because we have been welcomed.


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