Jesus heals Simon Peter’s mother in law. 10th century manuscript. Public Domain.
See the texts, artwork and Revised Common Lectionary Prayers for this service at the Vanderbilt Divinity Library.)
Leccionario en Español, Leccionario Común Revisado: Consulta Sobre Textos Comunes.
Para obtener más recursos leccionario, Estudios Exegético: Homiléticos.
Lectionnaire en français, Le Lectionnaire Œcuménique Révisé
A reading from the "opening salvo" of "Second Isaiah" — a prophecy to Judean exiles in Babylon that their God is sovereign in all the earth and will continue to sustain, support, restore, and lift up God's servants.
Psalm Response — Psalm 147:1-11, 20c (UMH 859).
The psalm continues the themes of the first reading. Consider using the sung response this week, a familiar hymn tune and Charles Wesley text (AMSTERDAM, UMH 96).
1 Corinthians 9:16-23
Paul writes that he "can't not" share the gospel, and so has no basis for boasting about his commitment to his ministry. He also decribes his strategy of "identification" with others, of coming alongside them and seeking to connect with them as they are.
Mark recounts, in almost breathless fashion, Jesus' intensive ministry of healing and exorcism in Capernaum, his withdrawal for prayer, and his determination to move out into the other Galilean villages to proclaim the nearness of the kingdom of God (see Mark 1:14-15).
Today is the fifth Sunday after Epiphany. This period of Sundays in Ordinary Time concludes next week with The Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, February 18.
This Season after Epiphany models for us the course of Christian life, from baptism to glorification, with our call, response and engagement in the mission of God in this life in between. Last week, we focused on the ministries of deliverance. This week, we focus on ministries of healing and evangelism.
Today is also Scouting Ministries Sunday. Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts each provides resources or recommendations for such recognitions. The National Association of United Methodist Scouters office recommends that the February date be used for recognizing scouting programs with both boys and girls to avoid conflicting with Lent.
While Boy Scouts offers a full liturgy for this day in their calendar, it may be better to celebrate that liturgy at a later time to avoid the Sunday morning gathering from becoming dominated by Scout-centered concerns rather than the purpose of this day and its texts in the Christian calendar. It would be quite appropriate to include Scouts as acolytes and servers and to pray for scouting programs and these scouts as part of the prayers of the people in the regular Sunday morning gathering.
Next Sunday is also the Sunday nearest Valentine’s Day (February 14). Consider offering a blessing for couples as part of the prayers or an as act of response to the Word in addition to other elements on Transfiguration Sunday. This might include a reaffirmation of marriage vows for those who are married (see The United Methodist Book of Worship, 135 ff.) as well as prayers with laying on of hands for all who identify themselves as couples, seeking God’s blessing as they seek to honor each other and God in their relationship and discern whether they may enter the marriage covenant. See UMBOW 537 for a prayer for persons who are engaged. Consider modifying this prayer (deleting the second to last line) for those who may not yet be engaged.
All Month: Women's History Month
March 6 World Day of Prayer
March 8 Daylight Saving Time Begins 2 a.m. (USA)
March 15 One Great Hour of Sharing (Special Sunday with Offering)
March 29 Palm/Passion Sunday/Holy Week Begins
Atmospherics: Heading toward Lent
It’s time to start helping folks make the transition into Lent. Here’s an article to help you get started, if you haven’t already: Planning Lent and Easter Season for Worship and Discipleship.
This may seem an odd thing to do. Prepare for Lent? Isn’t Lent its own season of preparation?
It certainly is. But all too often among Protestants in the U.S., at least, we have treated Lent as an extended Ash Wednesday or Holy Week, focusing on self-reflection, confession of sin and spiritual disciplines for our own sake, individually.
The primary purpose of Lent, however, as we announce on Ash Wednesday, is not self reflection, but a time in which we as a whole congregation come alongside people to prepare them for baptism, for reconciliation, or for taking significant next steps in discipleship and ministry in Christ’s name. While we certainly engage spiritual disciplines and self-denial as we do so, we do not do these things solely for ourselves as if Lent were some sort of personal spiritual marathon. We engage these disciplines more intensely for the sake of others on their intensive journeys of preparation.
Put another way, in Lent, the whole church becomes midwife for new life to be born or renewed among us.
And to be an effective midwife, we do need to prepare!
The first three weeks of this season after Epiphany have helped us get in touch with what it means to be baptized and called as disciples, and have prompted us to call others.
This last week and today focus on ministries that disciples of Jesus engage in, as Jesus himself did and still does—deliverance, prophecy, healing, and evangelism.
Next Sunday marks the Transfiguration of Jesus, where we and those we are now inviting to join us for further preparation during Lent can see our destiny with the Risen Lord and renew our calling in ministry in this life.
Whom will you as a congregation and individually be coming alongside intentionally this Lent? What do you need to be doing now to be ready to start doing that later this month, just one and a half weeks from now? Are there practices of prayer, fasting, or searching the Scriptures you may need to get a “running start” on now so you can be ready to share them effectively with others in the weeks to come?
Consider, too, preparing yourselves as a congregation musically. Your choirs or praise teams have already started! Plan to learn one new song for Lent each of the next three weeks, or at least sing one Lenten song each week, starting today.
An added bonus: By making such clear preparations for Lent starting now, you also create an effective segue between your current worship series and the worship series you will experience beginning on Ash Wednesday. It will no longer be or feel like “that was the Season after Epiphany, this is Lent” as if the two had nothing to do with each other. Instead, you will help your congregation experience the evangelical flow of the Christian year as it is intended, and not only in worship, but in the rhythms of their lives of discipleship as well.
OT/Gospel Stream -- Core Ministries of Disciples, 2: Healers and Evangelists
“Have you not known? Have you not heard?... The LORD gives power to the weakened, strength to those worn-out” (Isaiah 40:28-29).
This line from today’s reading from Isaiah is the primary reason this larger text from Isaiah is paired with today’s gospel reading from Mark. It is exactly what we see Jesus doing as he continues to inaugurate the kingdom of God in the midst of the people in Capernaum and, in the process, trains his disciples (and us!) to be ready to do the same.
Simon Peter’s mother–in-law was weakened by illness, and Jesus visited and healed her. Her power restored, she was able to prepare a meal for Jesus and all his disciples that night. (Mark 1:30-31).
Crowds of people afflicted and worn down by many diseases and demons began crowding around the house later that evening, seeking a cure. And Jesus gave it, strengthening them anew. (Mark 1:33-34).
When Jesus left the house and the town before sunrise next morning, and his disciples wondered why, he told them he and they were heading out to make sure people in the surrounding towns and villages both knew and could hear the message of the coming of God’s kingdom. (Mark 1:35-38)
That is exactly what he and they did—proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out more demons—so that everyone there could know, and everyone there could hear (Mark 1:39).
This is the work of Jesus. And it is our calling as his disciples to join him in it, that everyone may know, everyone may experience and everyone may receive the good news that God’s kingdom has drawn near.
We encountered the ministry of deliverance from demons last week. If you need to review any of that in worship today, by all means, do. But this week focuses on the two other ministries that figure most prominently in today’s reading—evangelism (getting the word out that God’s kingdom has come near) and healing (offering others the healing power unleashed because God’s kingdom has drawn near).
In Your Planning Team
This is a day to be bold and proud about the panoply of ways evangelism and healing are happening in Christ’s name and the Spirit’s power.
There are strong, effective church-based resources all around you, ready to equip and train folks in your congregations for the ministries of evangelism and healing that are our calling as disciples of Jesus. Some in your congregation may already be involved in one or more of these.
How are people where you are being trained in evangelism? And then how are they getting the word out that God’s kingdom has drawn near? (Discipleship Ministries has some excellent resources and training, starting here: http://www.umcdiscipleship.org/evangelism).
And how are people where you are being trained in healing? (Stephen Ministry is one excellent resource). What process do you or others around you have in place to prepare people to lay hands, pray, and anoint with oil for healing (James 5:16)? A number of Episcopal churches have found support for this through the Episcopal Healing Network. Is there a parish nursing program in your congregation or community? See the International Parish Nurse Resource Center and UMCOR’s Parish Nursing Site for guidance and support. How are you engaged in health-care ministries and in advocacy work to improve health care and access to health care where you are? A local Community Health Center may be a great first contact to find out how you can get involved effectively where you are. Your General Board of Church and Society can also provide much helpful guidance on effective advocacy. And of course, Christians who are actively engaged in the whole panoply of health-care ministries, from EMTs and nurse’s aids to neurosurgery, from dentistry to podiatry, from pediatrics to geriatrics, from opthamology to psychiatry can all provide lots of insight about how the Holy Spirit empowers and uses them in ministries of healing and can use more of us.
Invite people from one or more of these places, as well as people in your congregation who are already effectively engaged in ministries of evangelism or healing, to talk with your worship planning team about how they were trained, discipled, in these ministries and how they experience themselves as disciples of Jesus when they offer them. Maybe this becomes a video you show in worship, a formation hour, in small groups, or on your website. Or maybe you invite one or two of these folks to share a brief testimony live in worship. Or maybe you host an evangelism and healing ministries training fair before or after worship. Or offer any combination of the above.
And strongly consider making use of the Service of Healing offered in our Book of Worship today.
Whatever you do in worship today, remember who you are as the baptized disciples of Jesus, and both celebrate and pray for the ministries of evangelism and healing already in your midst and that the Spirit will continue to stir up among you as you follow Jesus together.
Epistle Stream: Getting the Church Ready (to Surround Others with a Community of Love and Forgiveness), 3
Ready to Respond Contextually
Some Christians in Corinth wanted to know whether apostles should charge for their services. In earlier verses (starting in 9:1), Paul argues that yes, indeed, he and other apostles have full right to expect others to cover their living expenses, and maybe a bit more. He and others have come to provide spiritual blessing to the people. But to do this, they also need to eat and have shelter, at the very least. If you don’t muzzle an ox while it’s treading the grain, so it can have a bit to eat as it works, why would you even think about not providing at least the basics for those who have come to work among you to proclaim the gospel and teach the way of life in Jesus (verses 1-12)?
While they were in Corinth, however, Paul and his companion Barnabas had freely chosen not to exercise their right as apostles. This is why they worked as tentmakers in the mornings to cover their living expenses, freeing them up to focus on teaching, discipling, and preaching in the afternoons and evenings. That was a choice they made, not to show they were superior to others, but, as their first pastors, if you will, to give them an example of what it means to engage ministry contextually—becoming all things to all people that by all means they might save some (verse 22).
That was the point.
The culture of Corinth was almost completely foreign to Paul and Barnabas. They could both speak Greek, so they could get along in the language. But they knew no one there, nor how the culture worked, nor even how business was actually transacted. So they set themselves up in business, as tentmakers in Corinth, both to earn some money, but more importantly so they could immerse themselves in the daily life of the average worker/trader in that place. With this lived experience, which continued for the eighteen-plus months they were there, they were learning what it would mean to proclaim the gospel and teach people how to live the way of Jesus right where they were, in Corinth itself. Only by doing this could they hope to be effective founders of the new Christian community there—because by the time they would leave (and they both knew they would), this new community would have to have learned how to live the way of Jesus right there in Corinth—with all its particular blessings and challenges-- themselves.
Paul and Barnabas focused on learning and operating in that context because this is exactly where the new Christians in Corinth would have to do the same.
The new Christians in Corinth couldn’t presume to approach their neighbors of very different background as if they had all the answers and their neighbors had nothing. They, too, couldn’t presume to be “the experts.” They too, would have to come alongside their different neighbors. And to do that, they’d have to keep learning all of the dramatically varying contexts of their neighbors as they interacted together in multicultural and international Corinth.
For those of us who live in “western” and “professionalized” cultures, and at the same time increasingly diverse cultures, this is our challenge as well. It will take some diligent practice on our part to shift from “being the experts” to “coming alongside,” to shift from “giving the answers” to “becoming all things for all people.” But this is what we do that by all means we may be involved in saving some.
Back to top.
In Your Planning Team
So where are the places in the cultural settings folks in your congregation already inhabit that they can learn how to come alongside others—to be all things to these others that they may by some means be part of their salvation? Talk about this in your worship planning team, and be sure to include images of such places from your local setting in worship today.
Consider how your planning for worship today can help people both become aware of their need and the opportunities available to support them in making this shift. Start talking now in your worship planning team, as well, what else you may put into place between now and the beginning of Lent (less than two weeks!) so that more people in your congregation have had some practice in “coming alongside” those you will be walking with during that season of baptismal preparation.
- BOW 307
- BOW 615 — Greeting in Healing Service I (Healing service, Mark)
Canticle/Act of Praise following the opening prayer: UMH 82 (chant) and 83 (said with a sung response)
Concerns and Prayers:
- UMH 265, "O Christ the Healer," stanza 1 (Mark)
- BOW 314 (1 Corinthians), BOW 524 (Isaiah)
- BOW 615, Service of Healing (Mark)
- Ecumenical Prayer Cycle: Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands
Confession and Pardon:
- BOW 479 (Isaiah, 1 Corinthians), preceded by an invitation and followed by a pardon or words of assurance.
- Or this:
Presider: Let us confess our sin and faithlessness to God and to each other:
All: God, our creator and redeemer,
you never grow weary or faint
but we have doubted your will or ability to care for us.
We have said, "My way is hidden from the LORD,
and my right is disregarded by my God"?
We have let anxiety to consume us
and we have let fear paralyze love for the poor and lonely.
Forgive us for holding to our doubt.
Free us to walk in faith
and the strength of your mercy,
through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen
Presider to the people:
Hear the good news:
"Those 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."
In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.
People to the presider: In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.
All: Glory to God.
Prayer of Thanksgiving if there is no Communion:
Consider inviting brief offerings of thanksgiving for healing, strength found, life restored, faith renewed, experiences of compassion, and sensitivity from others.
Dismissal With Blessing:
- A deacon or assisting minister/layperson could dismiss the people using BOW 559 and the pastor speak the blessing using BOW 561 (2nd item) or UMH 669.
- TFWS 2281, "May You Run and Not Be Weary" (Isaiah), inviting the people to turn to one another and sing this blessing to others.