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Two Kinds of People

San Williams

February 5, 2012
Mark 1:29-39

02-05-2012 Sermon My sermon this morning starts with a simple idea:  There are two kinds of people in the world.  Such a statement may give rise to a collective groan.  Mark Twain once made fun of folks who classified the world this way.  He wrote, “There are two kinds of people in the world: People who classify the world into two kinds of people, and people who don’t.”  I particularly relate to the variation on classifying people that makes fun of us math-challenged folks.  It goes: “There are three kinds of people in the world.  People who can do math, and people who can’t.”  While acknowledging the limitations of a simplistic classification of people, I’m going to do it this morning anyway.

There are two types of people in the world: People who need help and people who need to give help…people who need care, and people who need a calling…people who need a hand, and people who need to extend a hand…people who need assistance and people who are able to assist.

So my question this morning is, where are you today?  Do you need help, or do you need to offer help?  Do you need care, or do you need a calling?

As you think about that question, let’s go with Jesus and the disciples to the home of Simon. Our reading today has any number of preaching possibilities, but I’m zeroed in on the one verse that tells about Jesus and Simon’s mother-in-law.  As soon as Jesus and the disciples return from the synagogue and enter Simon’s house, Jesus encounters Simon’s mother-in-law who is in bed with a fever. In other words, she is a person who needs help.  Recall that in the ancient world a fever was not a minor medical condition, but often a symptom that could lead to death.  Not only did her fever threaten her life, but also it took away her work, her calling, her ability to be a contributing member of her community. So right here in the first chapter of Mark, Jesus comes in contact with yet another person in serious need of help.

Look how Jesus responds:  Without delay “Jesus came, took her by the hand and lifted her up.”  Earlier Jesus had announced his mission to proclaim the Kingdom of God that has come near. Now we see a specific instance of God’s Kingdom breaking in.  Time and again, Jesus demonstrates that God comes to us in order to restore, to heal, to help, to bring new life.  God does not come to scold or destroy or punish, but to take us by the hand and lift us up.  That term “lifted up” is the same term Mark later uses to describe Jesus’ own resurrection.  It suggests that God’s purpose is to bring new strength, new life, new beginnings.  Mark has given us a tender, vivid demonstration of God’s compassion breaking into the world:  “Jesus came, and took her by the hand, and lifted her up.”

“Then,” Mark says, “the fever left her and she began to serve.”  Her service should not be understood as a woman’s menial work under the domination of lazy males. Simon’s mother-in-law is not an un-liberated woman, whose role in life is to serve the men of her house.   Rather, she is the first character in Mark’s Gospel who “gets it.” She is an example of a true disciple.  Mark presents her as the church’s first deacon who joins with Jesus in the same kind of servant ministry that defines his life. Having been helped, Simon’s mother-in-law starts to help others. Having experienced the compassion of God, she extends compassion to those around her. Having been touched by Jesus, she begins to live like Jesus—helping others!

You didn’t see an obituary for David Arthur, who died last Saturday.  But if you’ve ever volunteered at Micah 6, you probably know who David is.  Homeless and hungry, he came to Micah 6 for help several years ago.  He received more than food.  Through the caring folks who staff Micah 6, David was helped to get his life back together.  He was so grateful for having been helped that he became a regular volunteer. He died this week of complication from diabetes before the age of fifty, but not before he had experienced the blessing of God’s Kingdom in his life.  Pick up the pink card in your pew rack and you can read a poignant story by our own Frank Adkins, who received help and is now himself a helpful, contributing member of our community.

So there you have it:  two kinds of people in the world. People in need of care, and people who need a calling. At any given moment, we can be either of these two people, and sometimes we may be both.  But I’m curious: Where are you this morning? You have a blank card inserted in your bulletin.  Do you need help? Write it down and put it in the offering plate.  Maybe you need someone to pray for you…help you with transportation…bring you a meal or pay you a visit.  On the other hand, you may be waiting for an invitation to serve in some meaningful way.  If so, write it down.  Are you looking for a volunteer opportunity? Can you help with IHN, UPlift or Micah 6? Can you become a mentor to our children or youth?  Can you pray for others, deliver meals, or serve on a committee?  Perhaps you feel a calling to lead us in some justice or peace-related initiative. Of course, you don’t have to put your name on the card, but if you do, maybe we can match some of you who need help with those ready and willing to lend a hand.

So friends, this is what it means to be a Christian community in action—a community caring for each other and turning toward the world in love.