Good morning, friends.

My name has been lost to history but my story has endured for almost two thousand years, if you can believe that.  You’ll find me in three of the four gospels—Mark, which you just heard and also Matthew and Luke.

My story doesn’t begin with me but rather with my son-in-law Simon.  Simon did the unthinkable.  When he met Jesus, a rabbi from Nazareth, he left his work fishing.

Now you should know that Nazareth wasn’t exactly the most prestigious of places.  In fact, we often had our doubts about people who came from there.

I loved Simon like he was my own son but let’s face it, even though he was good-hearted and earnest he didn’t always “get it.”  He was quick to jump to conclusions and he often acted on impulse.

Being a loving mother-in-law, I’ll be generous and say Simon was a passionate person.  Certainly the decision that he and his brother Andrew made to give up everything and follow Jesus was that—passionate.   Simon was excited, of course, but the rest of us were pretty uncertain about all this.  Grown men didn’t do this sort of thing.

And then there’s this:  my daughter and I were dependent upon Simon and so his decision left me feeling more than a little anxious.  Living in his home, I already felt vulnerable because my husband had died and with him, my means of support was gone, as well.

Complicating things, too, was the fact that my daughter and I were left feeling, well, at risk.  Not only had Simon and Andrew dropped their nets and given up their livelihoods to follow this man Jesus, they were going to be following him around Galilee.  And you know what that meant.  We would be left alone and unprotected.  In addition to having to somehow make ends meet, we weren’t sure how we were going to keep ourselves safe.

And yet, even with these unexpected changes, we too felt a rush of excitement and even some relief because Jesus was saying things like “Now is the time!  God’s realm is at hand!  Change your hearts and lives and trust this good news!”

I’ll tell you words like these gave us all such hope.  Living under Roman occupation was hard on everyone.  In Capernaum, we had a little more freedom but the closer you got to Jerusalem, the more oppressive life became.   We were never quite sure if things were going to get better or get worse—and that’s no way to live.  So we needed some good news.  We needed to feel that God was with us, that God was on our side.

As Jesus got closer to Capernaum, I fell sick very suddenly.   I developed a raging fever and grew so weak I couldn’t hold my head up.   None of us knew if I would live or die.

Simon brought Jesus to the house along with Jesus’ other new disciples.  The next thing I knew Jesus was holding my hand and then I was standing up with my strength renewed.  I was reminded of the prophet Isaiah’s promise “He is the one who took our illnesses and carried away our diseases.”

Yes, I know you know what Mark said happened next.  “Then the fever left her and she began to serve them.”  This might sound like a backwards move, like my worth was all bound up in my ability to fix everyone a hot meal.

But believe me when I say I was more than grateful to be restored to the fullness of health.   I was afraid, we had all been afraid, that I might die.  But no, I was healed.  Brought back from the edge of death.  I was saved by this Holy Person who carried the Good News of God’s realm right into my home, straight into my life.

Looking back, it’s as if in that moment of healing I was called into a new family, into a realm of love and wholeness that was being created by this Jesus.  And my healing was part of what Jesus was creating.  A new way of being in relationship, a new way of belonging.

I’m not the only one Jesus healed.  Then or even now.  Think back to a time when Jesus transformed your life and created new possibilities, possibilities far beyond what you ever imagined.  Once that happened and you took it all in, you wanted to do something, right?

I’m no different from you.  And the something I felt moved to do was to serve Jesus.  Of course I wanted to serve him and everyone else.  That meal I fixed was a feast, a celebration, a time for everyone who was there to experience ourselves as a community gathered by love, not simply connected by family ties.

That meal helped us all catch sight of a vision of the life Jesus knew was possible for everyone regardless of our social standing, regardless of our accomplishments or our lack thereof, regardless of feeling, as so many did, that all we could do was stand on the outside of life’s goodness and blessings, and just look in, hungry not only for food but belonging.

That healing, that meal, it wasn’t the end.  It was the beginning.  Any time Jesus comes to us and heals us, restores us, shows us that there is a life waiting for us beyond what we might have experienced before is a beginning of the best kind.

It’s the beginning of a life full of grace and goodness, a life where we all gather as equals, bound by love, freed to be who we truly are because who we truly are is a blessing to everyone around us, a blessing from God.

Did you ever notice that the word for salvation has the word “salve” in it.  To be healed is to be saved.  And to be saved is to be healed.

So many think that salvation is a goal.  An end point.  But it’s not.  It’s something that happens over and over again.  It’s how our lives keep becoming richer in meaning, fuller in scope, deeper in connection to God and one another.

To be saved, to be healed, is to renew our relationship with God.

And with those around us, too.  When we are made whole again, when we experience true healing, we can’t help but want to share the good news and to do whatever we can to show mercy and compassion.  Which is how the world heals—one act, one gesture at a time.   My gesture was a meal.  Your gesture, well, yours depends on you.

It doesn’t matter to me that no one knows my name.  What matters is that my experience with Jesus has been remembered for generations.  That my home became a true sanctuary.  That by the end of the day all of our neighbors were at the door, some of them being healed, others witnessing the healings, everyone open to the good news that was on full display.   At one point, it felt like everyone in town was there.

Who doesn’t want to be around good news and healing like that?  Who doesn’t want it for themselves and those they love?  It was my humble privilege that day to be a part of something beautiful and good that Jesus was doing, something unlike anything any of us had seen or felt before.

Even though it was all so exhilarating, it was quite exhausting for Jesus to give everything he had to give to so many people.  So during the night, he slipped away quietly so that he could go pray and renew his energies.

Believe me when I say I was put out but not at all surprised when I heard that it was Simon who organized the disciples to go looking for Jesus.   And that they interrupted Jesus’ prayers and solitude by insisting “Everyone is looking for you!”   They meant well, I suppose, but they just didn’t understand.  And they wouldn’t, not for a long time after that.

What they said is still true, of course.   Think about the people on your street and in your community.  Think about the world.   Everyone is looking for the God we saw in Jesus, but not everyone knows this is what they’re seeking.

Can’t you just sense the hungers people have that they don’t even realize they have?   For some, it’s loneliness.  For others, it’s a lack of meaning or purpose.  For others still, it’s feeling afraid to be themselves or maybe it’s that they can’t yet face themselves.   Some of us are hungry to belong to a community and a world where the realities that foster anger, hurt, brokenness and injustice no longer prevail and we live together as whole people, as truly healed people.

So many of you have found the Jesus who heals.  Or rather, he has found you.  You have received the love and light of Jesus in your life, in your family, in the community you call your spiritual home.

You have let him do for you what he did for me.  That is, you have allowed him to take your hand and lift you up and restore you.  And so you are familiar with that same stirring that overtook me—that inner impulse to serve Christ by reaching out and serving others.

It’s a kind of giving that results in so much receiving, right?   When you give from a place of love, what comes back is always greater, always sweeter and more rewarding than anything we’ve chosen to do.   That’s certainly what I discovered that day.

I never lived through a pandemic like you all are doing.  But if you think about it what Jesus was doing—is still doing—was kind of like your pandemic, only instead of harming, what Jesus was doing was passing along something that healed and helped and gave hope.

Jesus was a one-man super-spreader, passing his love, his salvation from one person to another and then to another.   Everything spread by word of mouth, by the people telling each other about what they had experienced, how they had been changed, and revealing that change in the way they related to others.

Jesus was all about the personal touch.  He spoke to people.  He touched them.  He looked into their eyes to see the person deep within.   That’s how his love spread.  His reputation too.

Jesus was never interested in being the only one.   He gathered up disciples and encouraged them to join him.  He inspired people like me to join him in spreading the good news.  Even now, he’s eager to have his friends tell their friends, even acquaintances and strangers, about the good news.

So just as I have shared my story with you this morning, I want to challenge you to share your story with someone along the way this week.   There’s no telling the difference this can make—to them and also to you.

“Lose your shyness, find your tongue.”  I did.   And look where it’s taken me—into the homes of millions over the years.   Including yours, now.

Bless you, friends.  Bless you all as you heal and serve, as you share the good news with those around you using words, a meal, a loving gaze, a commitment to justice.   There are as many ways to serve as there are people.

Please allow me to pray for you before I take my leave:

Jesus, you come to us so that we might be made whole.  You come to us so that we might discover we belong to you and one another.   Bless each one here with a renewed sense of your love.   Bless each one that they in turn might be a blessing.    Amen.