Here is the worship service for February 7, 2021, the 5th Sunday after the Epiphany! The bulletin can be found here. The bulletin has the order of worship and corresponding hymn and page numbers, all the words to the liturgy (with your responses in bold), and the sermon in full (which can also be found under the worship video).
If you would like to make the most of your at-home worship time, you may have a few elements in your space. You can have a bowl of water in front of you for the Thanksgiving for Baptism, something small to eat and drink for communion, and a lit candle for the whole service that can be extinguished with the candles on the altar at the last hymn. These are all optional of course, but designed to enhance your interactive worship experience.
May God bless you throughout your time of worship and always!
Holy God, speak to us this day and remind us of what has been told from the beginning, that your gracious Word is the foundation of the world: the life and teachings of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
So I started this past week in a bit of a funk. I don’t know if it’s because this pandemic has gone just a few months too long, or because of this intense meeting I had with my colleagues that really reminded me of how much of an anomaly I am being the only Canadian-born Asian male clergy that I know of in all of the ELCIC, or because I’m becoming more and more aware of how many more greys I’ve had to pluck out of my sideburns lately, but I just wasn’t in a good place.
Perhaps you’ve had days like this too. Or weeks. Maybe even months. I should say that if this kind of funk gets you really down and keeps you down, please do seek out professional help as mental health isn’t something that will just get better on its own. Fortunately for me, it was just a couple of days, but what a couple of days they were. I mean, I was moping around which is weird for me, really unproductive which isn’t that weird for me, and I didn’t even really want to play with our kids which is basically unheard of for me.
All my usual tricks didn’t work. You know, the usual sleep more, eat way more, get some quality “me” time by just sitting at my desk listening to sick beats. Even a couple hours of watching tech reviews and fan theories around Marvel’s WandaVision Disney+ series didn’t help. I basically had to force myself to get stuff done, and quite honestly it was surprising just how much I was able to get done judging by how I was feeling.
But then I went and got a haircut of all things. And I know, I get my haircut often, hey I like looking good and I need to keep the greys at bay. But as I was chatting with my stylist, something happened. It isn’t even so much what we were talking about or what, but something just clicked in my head. I remembered that I actually have a pretty good life.
I know right? Duh. I mean I have a beautiful and supportive wife who works so hard in being a mom and general manager of the family. I have these three monster kids that are actually pretty great and I wouldn’t trade them for another (except for maybe a nice long vacation to somewhere warm). And I serve without a doubt, the greatest congregation that I’ve ever worked for as an ordained minister. Life is good. Somehow, this sudden realisation and remembering just snapped me out of that funk. Music sounded better. The weather looked nicer. And I finished writing this sermon lickity split, giving me a bit of time off to enjoy this rediscovered vigor that was missing for a couple of days.
Now again, these little things don’t replace professional help, so if you’re really feeling down I strongly encourage you to see someone or you can even drop me a line and I would be happy to help you in any way I can. I mean this pandemic has been tough on many of us for many different reasons, but I believe that together we can get better even if the pandemic doesn’t. I believe that together we can strengthen our community even if we can’t be in the same space. I believe that together we can collectively heal and be brought back to wholeness.
And this is the kind of healing that we see in the gospel reading we just heard about half a sermon ago. Jesus and the disciples went to hang out at Simon and Andrew’s place, where they learned that Simon’s mother-in-law was bed ridden with a fever. Now, the last time we heard this text 3 years ago, we probably didn’t think much of a fever. We’d be like, meh, it was just a fever. But now we hear “fever” and we are more acutely aware of just how scary and serious it sounds.
But in the seriousness of the situation, Jesus enters. In the isolation of those who are possibly contagiously ill, Jesus approaches. And in feelings of being absolutely out of commission, Jesus lifts up and heals.
And then she goes and makes them all sandwiches.
I know, this is like the weirdest part of the story. Many people draw on the misogynistic and patriarchal society that they’re in that forced her to serve them just as she was healed, but I think it’s deeper than that. Her serving them wasn’t just an oppressive duty that Simon’s mother-in-law was obligated to do, but rather she was healed to serve. She wasn’t another unappreciated housewife who has to do everything for the males, but she was brought back to wholeness to appreciate her Redeemer. She wasn’t being treated like an unloved second-rate human, but she was loved back onto her feet so she can in turn love her Lord and Saviour.
See her healing wasn’t just a physical healing, I mean she will be ill again and very likely died sometime in the past 2000 years. Her healing wasn’t another authoritative display of power to show off Jesus’ abilities. Her healing wasn’t even a “quick fix” so the disciples can get fed. Rather, her healing was an invitation to her to return to her community in hospitable service. Her healing was a welcome for her back into wholeness and her being her. Her healing was an act of love as a parent to their child, lifting her up out of what was holding her down, and allowing her to see the wondrous grace and mercy in God’s love and redemption for us all. Life is good, indeed.
See this is the healing that I felt this past week. This doesn’t mean that I’m free from feeling sad anymore or that I won’t ever get into this uncharacteristic funk that will take me out for a couple of days. It doesn’t mean that things won’t happen in the future that will bring down ever again. It doesn’t even mean that the end of pandemic is near or that I’m somehow immune to the effects of it. Rather, it means that I’ve been invited back to live life. It means that I’ve been welcomed back by God to serve those whom I can with grace and compassion. It means that I’m reminded yet again of just how much I am loved by God, which empowers me to joyously love God and others in return.
And the same is for all of us. There is healing that can be found in God’s love. There is wholeness that we are invited back to, whether it be through just remembering the little things that makes life so wonderful, or through the love and support of our peers and community, or even through some miraculous epiphany of just how good God is. There is a gracious redemption in God’s mercy, that lifts us up with wings like eagles from the depths of that which ails us, and reveals to us all joy, peace, and love.
Yes, I know life can be tough, believe me because life is tough for me too. I know life in this pandemic still isn’t something that we’re used to and frankly for many of us, we’re sick of it. I know life can seem so bogged down by all the things that stand in our way, blocking us from seeing, holding us back from being, and disallowing us to live the life that truly is life. But believe me when I say that it gets better. Even if this pandemic doesn’t, it gets better. Even if things continue to be tough, it gets better. Even if we find ourselves flat on our backs, completely spent and just done with everything, it gets better. Because as I’ve said a few times in this sermon so far, life is good.
Because God is good. And God’s love for us is one that goes beyond comprehension, beyond understanding, and beyond imagination. God gives this love freely, bringing us into community, healing us into wholeness, and lifting us up with arms of grace and mercy, declaring us as God’s own.
Friends, this is the good news of Jesus Christ our Lord.
In this season after the Epiphany where we learn of the person of Christ which grows our faith and the church, may we lean on God’s restoring healing and redemptive grace, that we be strengthened to serve, empowered to love, and freed to be. Thanks be to God. Amen.