Reflection, February 5, 2012
Mark 1: 29-39
“Making Grace Visible” by Rev. Stacy Swain
I love words. I really do. I delight in a well turned phrase and appreciative thoughtful, articulate, speech. I remember what a joy it was to listen to one of my professors in seminary who spoke with such crystalline clarity that hearing his words was akin to gazing at a Vermeer painting.
Words wash over us here each Sunday morning as we read and pray and preach together. And maybe, once in a while there is a well turned phrase that gives us pause or if we are lucky maybe even a moment of crystalline clarity.
But words have limits. They can take us just so far. We can talk about grace and forgiveness, and love, but grace, forgiveness and love will remain an abstraction for us until what is spoken is experienced. Until we feel grace and forgiveness, and love for ourselves, until these words becomes embodied — in our flesh and blood experience.
Words can go just so far. That’s why, God gave us Jesus. Jesus — the word made flesh. Jesus, because people needed not just to hear about God but people needed to experience the sacred holiness of God for themselves. Jesus – because people did not just need to hear about grace and forgiveness and love; they needed to feel the hand of grace, and forgiveness and love upon them lifting them up and being changed by that touch.
In the passage from the Gospel of Mark we see this happening. Jesus has been in the synagogue teaching and I am sure he spoke beautifully – I am sure there were many well turned phrase, and many many moments crystalline clarity.
But words can go just so far. So Jesus leaves the synagogue and enters the home of Simon and after hearing that Simon’s mother in law is in bed with a fever, he goes over to her and without saying a word, he takes her by the hand and lifts her up.
It is said, that the church, all of us together in this place and all of us across the world together are the body of Christ. As church, we are to embody Jesus in this time. Certainly we are to speak and teach of what we know. But if we are the body of Christ in the world, we are also to go to the bedside of the one with fever and take her by the hand and lift her up. In the way we look upon each other, in the way we touch each other, in the way we walk through the world with each other, we are to make God’s grace visible, something seen and experienced.
But can we be the body of Christ, embodying grace, forgiveness and love, if we have not ourselves experienced grace, forgiveness and love for ourselves? How can we be Jesus in the world if we have not experienced him?
Thankfully, like that bumper sticker so succinctly puts it, “Grace Happens.” Grace happens all around us all the time, sweeping us up in moments of unexpected joy. Ordinary moments that open out into encounters with something extraordinary. You can name these moments can’t you? Moments in our live together in this place, moments of your lives out in the world? It happened to me yesterday when I was visiting a dear friend who had just had a knee replacement. We were chatting in her hospital room when all at once the room was filled with such an extraordinary presence of love and care that I could feel it physically washing over us both, healing her wounded body and calming my concern. I am sure that what we experienced was the touch of the sacred upon us, lifting us up.
And thankfully, we have these sacraments of baptism and communion. In them a window to the divine is thrown open, the Holy Spirit rushes down upon us. The hand of Jesus is on us and we are lifted up again, raised into life in Christ, fortified again as his body in the word.
Did you feel it just now? When the water streamed from Graham’s forehead, could you feel that blessing flowing over you as well? I know many of you came in here world weary but as you turned to welcome Graham as I brought him to you and as Suzie’s voice soared over us, did you see how your faces glowed? Did you see it in the face of the one across from you how beautiful it was? Did you see in that face grace, and blessing and love? Did you see it? Did you feel it?
And in a few moments we sit gather at the communion table with Jesus. We will take the bread that is broken for us and the wine that is poured out for us into our bodies, and as we do so the forgiveness and love of God will enter us again, Jesus will be become again part of who we are and in doing so we will be changed into and fortified as the body of Christ, again.
Here as the church, the body of Christ in the world, we do not just talk about grace, and forgiveness and love, we live it. We live it for Graham, we live it for each other and we live it for the one who is with fever, the one with pain, the one who is lonely, the one who is hungry, the one out in the world right now experiencing violence and hopelessness. We are the Body of Christ in the world. Thanks be to God, for a faith that is embodied. AMEN.