THE 5TH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY AD 2018
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
Do you not know? Do you not hear?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
and spreads them like a tent to dwell in;
 who brings princes to nothing,
and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.
 Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,
scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,
when he blows on them, and they wither,
and the tempest carries them off like stubble.
 To whom then will you compare me,
that I should be like him? says the Holy One.
 Lift up your eyes on high and see:
who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
calling them all by name,
by the greatness of his might,
and because he is strong in power
not one is missing.
 Why do you say, O Jacob,
and speak, O Israel,
"My way is hidden from the Lord,
and my right is disregarded by my God"?
 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
 He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
 Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
 but they 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.
Praise the Lord!For it is good to sing praises to our God;
for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.
 The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
 He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
 He determines the number of the stars;
he gives to all of them their names.
 Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
his understanding is beyond measure.
 The Lord lifts up the humble;
he casts the wicked to the ground.
 Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;
make melody to our God on the lyre!
 He covers the heavens with clouds;
he prepares rain for the earth;
he makes grass grow on the hills.
 He gives to the beasts their food,
and to the young ravens that cry.
 His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his pleasure in the legs of a man,
 but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,
in those who hope in his steadfast love.
1 Cor. 9:16-27
For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!  For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship.  What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.
 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them.  To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law.  To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.  To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.  I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
 Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.  Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.  So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.  But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.  Now Simon's mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her.  And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
 That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons.  And the whole city was gathered together at the door.  And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
 And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.  And Simon and those who were with him searched for him,  and they found him and said to him, "Everyone is looking for you."  And he said to them, "Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out."  And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.
And the whole city was gathered at the door. It’s a beautiful scene, one that I wish were being played out here this morning. Wouldn’t it be marvellous if the whole town of Listowel were gathered outside our doors today - all pressing in to hear Jesus … see Jesus … touch Jesus … receive Jesus. He is here without question, in the flesh and blood, with us two or three who have gathered in His name. Just as He has promised to be, even unto the end of the age.
Wouldn’t it be marvellous, yes, marvellous, if they would just flock here all on their own, which they just might do if only Jesus were doing the kind of healing here that we see Him doing in Capernaum today. If all the people with flu could come here and have their fever’s leave them, if various diseases could be cured by one quick visit, if the lame left walking, the blind seeing and the deaf hearing, the whole town of Listowel and more would be gathered around our front door.
If only Jesus were still doing that kind of healing today. If only? I stand before you as a testimony to the truth that there is no “if only” when it comes to Jesus. The Lord Jesus continues His miraculous healing work day by day even up to our own day. “Miracle man” that’s what the Rehab staff called me when I visited them this week in Stratford. I was pleased to hear them acknowledge God’s hand in my recovery, even as they attributed some of it to hard work on my part and their helping hands. I know it was the Lord Jesus who told me to get up and walk, but He took hold of my hand through those dear people, even as He gifted me with the faith, strength and determination to get moving again.
No there is no “if only” when it comes to Jesus. He is still at work to help and heal many in our day, as He works through the doctors and nurses He has put in place to serve us, along with the wonderful technology He has helped us develop to accomplish His miraculous work. I saw the wonder in the eyes of my Doctor this week as He reflected on how they went in through my side into my heart to sew up that troublesome hole that I had. Amazing? Wondrous? Incredible? Yes, it is and Jesus did it. As He gave my Dad a new knee and our sister Joyce a new hip. Yes, Jesus is still doing miracles like the ones He does in Capernaum today. He’s just doing them in hospitals.
Which is why the Church used to play such a big role in healthcare, why it built hospitals and trained Doctors and Nurses. Christians knew that they were called to this work, not only because the Lord had called them to serve Him in the sick, but because they understood that this was one of the ways that He wanted to be at work through them in this world to overthrow the power of Satan and fight the effects of sin. Christians didn’t just sit around and pray waiting for God to act out of nowhere, they knew that God acted by stretching out their hands. There’s no question that God’s people need to be renewed in this calling. Our society more than ever needs faithful Christians as doctors and nurses, especially in light of its growing preoccupation with ending life rather than saving it.
But we must not confuse this good and faithful calling with the Church’s true mission. The healing arts without question can highlight and serve that mission as the Lord's healings in Caparnaum did. The Lord Himself points to that mission as He is sought out by Simon and those who were with him. He responds to the news that everyone is looking for Him by saying that He must move on to preach in other towns, for that is why He came out. “Came out” is incarnation language - it points to the truth of the Son of God coming out of heaven to be made man. It is also Epiphany language, the language connected with a King coming out amongst His people to reveal His glory to them.
The reason Jesus came out He said was to preach - to proclaim. But what? The Gospel. The Good News of the coming kingdom of God which is fulfilled in His very coming out amongst the people. He comes to announce the arrival of that Kingdom even as He ushers it in with His presence. The miraculous healings are all signs that the Kingdom has come in Jesus. The miracles back up Jesus’ claim, but they are not its foundation. They are not its main point. The first miracle with Peter’s mother-in-law shows us just what Jesus has really come to do. As Jesus stretches out His hand to this dear woman, takes her up from her bed and sets her back into her life, the whole thing looks like a resurrection.
Hints of resurrection flow throughout all the events we hear about today, from Jesus coming out of the house like a tomb to heal the people at its door to His early morning rising on the first day of the week, on a Sunday, to pray and go on His way to preach God’s Gospel in all the other towns. The Gospel that Jesus comes to proclaim is all about God’s Saviour who has come to recreate … rebirth the world through His own bitter sufferings and death and His glorious resurrection. Others had sealed the sick and raised the dead, but none had been raised Himself to raise the whole world with Him. The Gospel Jesus proclaims is the Good News that all God’s promises were being fulfilled in Him… all God’s hints in the lives of the Prophets before Him were coming together in Him.
Right down to this day, beloved, even as the Lord continues to stretch out His hand to heal through Doctors and nurses He also continues to carry on His main calling in the world - the reason He came out in the first place, to proclaim to you the Gospel of God. That is what He does here today in this place as He comes to manifest Himself to you in the Word that He proclaims to you through me and in the gifts that He shares with you in this place through His ministry. His plan, His goal for your life… is the renewal… the rebirth… the resurrection… that He was won for you by His cross and empty tomb.
The Lord comes out to you here to overthrow all the powers of darkness in your lives, not just one symptom… one pain… one grief… one sorrow… but all of it. He is here to be your bridge back to God. He is here to be your way home to the Father. He is here to be your life of peace that has no end. The Lord Jesus is here, beloved, not just to fix one part or another of your lives - He is here to revamp them completely. He is not here to be a miracle worker who just fixes what you want Him to fix. He is here to be your Saviour. He is here to be your Lord and your God. That is why He is here in the flesh and blood today - not so that He can just fix holes in the heart but to create brand new ones, not just to get people like me up walking and talking again for a time but to raise us up forever.
I have no doubt that we’d have the whole town of Listowel out here this morning if Jesus were doing those minor healings like He did in Capernuam in this place, but He has so much, so much more that He wants to give. If only others knew it and believed it! May He deepen each one of us in this truth, beloved, as He comes out to us today, that we might live in the joy of it and be made ready to share this good news with the many who still need to know it. Amen.