As I looked at the Gospel this week, with the help of 44 of my closest pastor friends, it occurred to us that there are two categories of people in today’s Reading from Mark. However, it is always dangerous to categorize and simplify – and you’ll see why in a minute. We decided in the workgroup that the two categories are those who need to be Served and those who Serve. Let’s start by looking at Simon’s Mother-in-Law and I think you will see the problem also.
Simon’s Mother-in-Law, who has no name, needs to be Served. She is ill with a fever. In the days before Tylenol and antibiotics, she might have died from whatever the underlying reason for the fever might have been. However, Jesus took her by the hand and lifted her up – he strengthened her. He healed her. And she began to serve them. Do you see the problem with the categories yet?
It’s a both…and thing. The more I looked at this, the more I was struck by the both…and aspect of it because it is exactly how each of us here is. We all have something that needs to be served in our lives: a worry put to rest, an ailment to heal, a hole to fill…you can each fill in your own blank there. We all also are called to Serve – to find our ministry to follow Jesus Christ – our own way to proclaim the Good News and participate in the healing of the people around us and the world.
There is a coarse reading of the Gospel that I have giggled at myself – and probably still will again. She was healed and she served them. Sounds very paternalistic doesn’t it? As I thought more about it though, if I were her, I would want to feel good enough to show hospitality to my houseguests, I would want to be able to set the table and serve a meal, I actually get to do those things in my Call. I also remember when I have been sick and I just want to feel normal again – I imagine it was a relief to her to be able to get back into the swing of things after being ill.
Jesus allowed himself to be served by her – and he served the needs of others by proclaiming the good news and healing in this story – another both…and.
Our diocesan Communications Officer posted a story on her FB page about yet another real life, modern day both...and. In the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, there is a church that has worked with a severely physically handicapped boy named Victor so that he can Acolyte. He wanted to serve – and they figured out how to make it work. He has a buddy that assists him as he carries the cross attached to his wheelchair, and as he collects the offering plates when they are brought forward. He and his buddy Patrick are each served by the church and serve the church at the exact same time. It is a great story and I commend it to you.
Each of us needs to be served and needs to serve – it’s in our nature. We are a community made up of both…ands. We respond to those who need to be served in a variety of different ways: from contributing to Community Storehouse, to offering Christian Education to all ages – in a multitude of ways. We respond to those who need to clarify their Call through prayers, discernment – in a multitude of ways.
Let us respond to the Grace of the both…and by living gratefully in the both…and.