As I prepare to preach on Sunday, I am drawn to the gospel lesson (Mark 1:29-39), but I admit I'm having a hard time figuring out what to say. I think it's because there are so many different elements to this story, none of which is an obvious choice for a sermon.
You might remember that this same lesson came up as the gospel lesson in the Daily Office a few weeks ago (Jan. 14), and I preached a midweek sermon on this text. You can read it here, but I'm not sure I want you to since I might be preaching the same sermon again on Sunday.
Like Steve Pankey, I was drawn to the word "hunted." I also hadn't noticed that word until I preached on the text a few weeks ago. It's a fascinating word, and Steve wrote a great post on it that's worth a read. There's a very good chance that some of his observations will end up in Sunday's sermon.
I am also fascinated by the encounter with Peter's mother-in-law. Forget what it says about the "first Bishop of Rome" being married. And likewise ignore the fact that as soon as she was healed she got up and served them. Sure, there's an interesting sermon about servant-hearted mothers-in-law, but I'm even more interested in what it was like to be Jesus, who walked into a house only to be met by another need.
Yesterday, Seth Olson and I had a conversation about the phrase "very dark," and I think that's his sermon focus for the 5pm service this week. I confessed to him and confess to you now that I'm jealous. In addition to being held at a time when it's mostly dark outside, our 5pm service offers the preacher an opportunity to deliver a meditation on a theme like darkness. I think that would be fun, but I don't think that's quite right for Sunday morning.
In the end, I worry a little bit of all of these things will work their way into not one sermon but six sermons to which a weary congregation will be subjected. Can you imagine hearing a sermon for which the thesis is "Jesus shows us what it means to heal others so that they can reach their full potential yet also shows us that healing sometimes must wait so that the healer can reach his full potential despite the fact that the world doesn't want to wait?" Yeah, that sermon sucks. I know.
I think I'm going to preach on Jesus' response to the disciples inquiry: "Let us go on..." What does it mean to encounter the desperate needs of the world--of people we know and love--and to keep on moving? Maybe that's what it means to offer healing to the world.