A big game!
Long time rivals!
Excitement building on both sides!
I could be describing the anticipation of tonight’s game… but I have another in mind. It was September 23rd, 2000 in Ohio. With Penn State lined up against Ohio State, the Big Ten rivalry continued. It was the fifth game of the season for the Nittany Lions. However, with less than two minutes left in a 45–6 blowout, with Penn State on the wrong end of the score, and Adam Taliaferro, a freshman, the defensive back, was the Nittany Lions hope against powerful Ohio State.
In the next run, Taliaferro held the line hard against the offensive until a hard tackle came. He hit the player’s knee at an angle bursting his own vertebra and bruising his own spinal cord, rolling on his neck, and ultimately becoming paralyzed with no movement from his neck from neck down. Immediately after that horrific hit, Taliaferro was rushed to Ohio State Medical Center for surgery to fuse vertebrate. Immediately, he was airlifted to begin his recovery here in Philadelphia. Even with quick surgery, great resources, and in one of the best facilities, he was given a 3-percentage chance of ever walking again!
What I remember best were prayer vigils on Old Main and St. Paul UMC. Groups of teammates, fans, people of faith and fear alike who began to pray like a life depended on it. Signs popped up throughout town supporting Taliaferro. Vigils continued beyond football season. People kept praying. No one expected that miracles were necessarily instantaneous – not even college students! The Community wanted nothing more than to be agents for his healing – to see him restored to the community. Even if he never played football again – that is big, in a football town!
After eight months of incredible and intense rehab, against the odds, Taliaferro had learned to walk again. The following football season, Taliaferro, walked, skipped, and jogged onto the field in Happy Valley to a standing ovation. He became a student coach with Joe Paterno, a man of faith, himself, who said, “Adam, never lost faith that the miracle was coming”. You can read his story in his book, Miracle in the Making: The Adam Taliaferro Story. Since then, he has worked to serve others with spinal cord injuries, as well as advocate for those underserved in other ways.
When he knew healing and restoration, he served others. This is where we find Jesus teaching in the Gospel of Mark. Immediately, the disciples tell Jesus about Peter’s mother-in-law. Jesus’ touch is the healing. Healing is miraculous and awe-inspiring and gratitude-provoking. However, the healing was not exclusive. Healing is restorative. Healing is of mind, body, soul, and relationship. In healing, Peter’s mother-in-law’s healing restored her in relationship with all those in her circle. Her healing was a communal as it was personal. Jesus impact one as much as ten or twelve. She got up and made lunch for those present. She goes back to the life she lives. She goes back to service. Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law, and she made lunch.
Mark does not dally with fluff. Immediately, there was the healing of those who were sick and those had demons. Their healing included no longer being excluded and ostracized. Can you imagine full healing and restoration? Go back and know full healing! Even Jesus, after all of this healing, gets up early and goes off by himself to pray. This models for us reconnect and reflection. This models for us meditation and prayers. When called upon, he responded to the need, immediately to cast out demons, and restore life and wholeness to those most in need. Healing and wholeness, restoration and hope is communal as well as personal. With Jesus, removal of stigma and physical healing both are integral as well as being a part of community.
During World War II, Irena Sendlerowa, was a nurse in Warsaw. As a young girl, her father, a doctor cared for a population with typhus, which ultimately caused his death. Impressed upon her, were his words “if a person was drowning, they must be rescued.” Her work as a nurse had her checking for infectious disease in the ghettos. This gave her a front row view to the horrific way that families and children were treated. She collaborated and joined the underground resistance. They developed a plan. With the Jewish families, the children were hidden. They were given Christian names and identities and found Christian families who would care for them. She would write the information about each in a marmalade jar and bury it under trees. She saved over 2,500 children. After the war, she dug up all of the jar and restored children to their families. The families and parents who were yet living. Her greatest hope was restoration of children with their families.
Often, God uses our hands to bring about restoration and hope in someone’s life. God whispers in our ears, settles in our hearts, urges us in our souls. We know what we must do. Where is God calling you to go back and serve? Where is Jesus using your hands to rescue the drowning? Maybe God is calling you to care for those in need of healing by visiting your neighbor whose mother is dying and listening well to whether they need babysitting, casseroles, or a listening ear. Maybe God is calling you to care for those in need of healing by participating in family promise and getting to know more about systematic poverty in Southern Chester County. Did you know over 80 people, including agencies and organizations poised to impact lives met here this Tuesday to continue dialogue on strategies? Maybe God is calling you to listening to where you need healing in your life – body, mind, spirit, relationship – and letting God use others – medically, emotionally, spiritually, through counseling.
This year, we are reminded to “But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves” (James 1:22). When you find that God is healing you, go back to the restored places in your life and serve. When you find God needs your hands to heal someone else’s life, go back to the restored places and serve. Perhaps, God has been healing you or someone in your life. Perhaps, God is using your hands to bring healing in someone’s life, God used, Irena.
Three times in the Gospel, Jesus goes back – once with Peter’s mother in law, once with those need of healing, once when called from prayer. Immediately, Jesus in Mark goes to serve and to heal. Immediately, Jesus cares for those in need of care. Hear the call! Go back to your community, love God, and serve God’s people. The place, where you have known Jesus and be hands available to God for the healing of yourself, others, and the whole community.
This is the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, thanks be to God, Amen.
Old Testament Lesson: Psalm 147:1-11
Praise the Lord!
How good it is to sing praises to our God;
for he is gracious, 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 downtrodden;
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,
prepares rain for the earth,
makes grass grow on the hills.
He gives to the animals their food,
and to the young ravens when they cry.
His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his pleasure in the speed of a runner;[a]
but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,
in those who hope in his steadfast love.
Gospel Lesson: Mark 1: 29-39
As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured 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.
In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.
Meditations For Your Week
Sunday, February 4th ~ Saturday, February 11th
Sunday: “God heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147: 3. Binding wounds means giving time for sinews and tendons to heal. Where is God binding your wounds and giving you time to heal, even when you would rather already be healed over?
Monday: “God determines the number of the stars; the Creator gives to all of them their names.” Psalm 147: 4. The intimacy of the Creator is not only in development, but in the act of naming. Consider time today in awe of God’s creation.
Tuesday: “The Lord lifts up the downtrodden; he casts the wicked to the ground.” Psalm 147: 6. Those who have been downtrodden have no advocate, but God, who lifts them up. Where have you seen God moving among the downtrodden, the traditionally ignored? Where can you sing God’s praises?
Wednesday: “Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.” Mark 1: 30-31. Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law and restored her to her family. Her healing made her feel whole body, mind, spirit, and relationship. Pray today for healing in body, mind, spirit, and relationship for yourself and others.
Thursday: “That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door.” Mark 1: 32-33. Jesus’ power and presence was so incredible that the whole city came. Who have you told about Jesus?
Friday: “In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.” Mark 1: 35. No matter how much life seems pressing, Jesus found time to pray. Consider finding moments today, even if you have to steal moments in the bathroom or laundry closet.
Saturday: “And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, ‘Everyone is searching for you.’ Jesus answered, ‘Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.’” Mark 1: 36-38. Do you know your life purpose? Are you living with such focus? If so, thanks be to God. If not, prayerfully ask God to grant you wisdom to see your life purpose.