We are a small Episcopal Church on the banks of the Rappahannock in Port Royal, Virginia. We acknowledge that we gather on the traditional land of the first people of Port Royal, the Nandtaughtacund, who are still here, and we honor with gratitude the land itself and the life of the Rappahannock Tribe. Our mission statement is to do God’s Will in all that we do.

Sunday’s Thoughts Feb 4, Epiphany 5

This week is unique in how it unfolds. The message from the Gospel shows Christ during a typical day as healer to Peter’s mother, casting out demons in the community and creating wholeness during his preaching.

But he found time for renewal – “In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.” In Isaiah, “From Isaiah “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.”

This is an important lesson for all of us in our time. The Washington Post reported in April 2022.”Unlike every other industrialized nation, the United States has no mandatory paid vacation or holiday leave. Workers who have paid leave often don’t take it. And even when we take leave, many of us can’t leave work behind. The technology that lets us work anywhere, anytime, makes it hard to disconnect even when we’re supposed to.”

Taken as a whole, last week’s Epiphany 4 prefigures Epiphany’s major themes — healing, restoration, and hope. We continue them this week (Epiphany 5) that will define the heart of Jesus’ mission.

Healing  – The passage pivots around four key verbs:  (“to come near”),  (“to take hold”),  (“to waken, to raise”) and  (“to serve, to minister”). The first two verbs go together: Jesus “comes near” Peter’s mother-in-law, close enough to “take hold” of her hand. Throughout the Gospel, Mark distinctively emphasizes the power of touch, including the idea (as we’ll see in the weeks ahead) that Jesus is unafraid to touch and be touched by the supposedly “unclean.”

Restoration – Having taken her hand, Jesus “raises her up.” The same word (egeiro) is used of Jesus himself at the resurrection — it’s there in the famous line, “He has been raised; he is not here” (Mark 16:6) — and so the term evokes a renewed strength, a reinvigoration, a reawakening, a restoration, a return. She is awakened – restored.

Illness not only debilitates the body but it also can cut a person off from his or her social life and contributions to community — and this can feel like a loss of dignity or purpose.

Hospitality was highly prized in the ancient world, and for early Christians, to be hospitable in a way that advanced the Jesus movement was both an art and an honor. in this way, for Mark, the healing in this story is not only a matter of a fever departing; it’s also a matter of restoration to community, and of participation in the movement. This social dimension of healing is a key theme to which Mark will return again and again.

Hope – And while the episode with the possessed man in Epiphany 4 provides a sense of what this liberation is “freedom from,” this week’s story points toward what it is “freedom for.”

What is she renewed for? For diakonos, “ministry, service,” the same root that gives us the word “deacon” (she is the original deacon!). What’s more, the word diakonos literally means “to kick up dust” — this is an active, practical, on-the-move, change-the-world sort of work. In short, she is lifted up to serve. She is freed for ministry, to kick up some dust and get some things done. She is the pioneer who blazes the trail for the anonymous woman who causes a little dust-up near the end of Mark’s Gospel by anointing Jesus (“what she has done will be told in remembrance of her,” Mark 14:3-9), and also for the group of women at the crucifixion who stay and keep watch and remain with the vandalized body, even as the male disciples panic and flee (see Mark 15:40-41; the Greek word translated as “provided for” is diakoneo).