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The Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

[Mark 1:29-39] Immediately [Jesus] left the synagogue and entered the

house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s

mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about

her. 31 And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the

fever left her, and she began to serve them.

32 That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or

oppressed by demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered together at

the door. 34 And he healed many who were sick with various diseases,

and cast out many demons…

A Terribly Good Place

There’s a noise coming from under your hood – a shaking in the

steering wheel – and a squealing in your car’s brakes.

You made a mistake, and now your taxes are a complicated mess.

You have a troubling pain in your body – and your google search is

finding a flood of bad-news diagnoses and uncertain solutions.

And your appliances are all breaking, and your kid has a fever.

What an overwhelming mess it is to you. But to your mechanic, your

doctor, a tax-preparer, and the appliance repair shop, this is all just

business as usual. It’s what they do.

There are a lot of terrible, good places in our world. The mechanic’s

shop is filled with broken vehicles. The hospital is filled with sick people –

like an apartment building for only the ill. The lawyer’s office is full of people

with legal troubles. And the repairman works only on things broken. His

place is full.

Terrible, good places. These are places full of all the world’s problems

– yet equipped with the people, and means, by which these problems are

healed and fixed. The patient leaves healthier than when admitted. The

repairman easily handles your broken blender.

Imagine, however, if your doctor only rebuked all the patients for

being sick and provided no cure. Or just told them, “Get better!” Or if your

mechanic turned away all broken vehicles and only accepted those not in

need of repair.

Or, the opposite: Your doctor approves of your diseases and says,

“It’s okay – being sick is just as good as being healthy. Be happy with who

you are.” Or, your mechanic admires broken vehicles and doesn’t believe

they should be fixed.

In either case, what good would these places be? They would just be

terrible places – Reviling wrongs but offering no forgiveness and no cure –

Or affirming wrongs as right and therefore leaving you in the same

condition in which you came.

The church is not called to be this kind of terrible place, nor to be

merely a good place, but to be a terribly good place.

The house where Jesus Christ is on this evening in our Gospel

reading is a terribly good place. It is a house where a sick woman – the

Apostle Peter’s wife’s mother – laid ill with a fever, near death, but now, by

the hand of Jesus, is healthy and serving.

But, as evening settles in, and the sky and the room grow darker, the

house becomes all the more filled with terrible physical and spiritual

disease: “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…”

The whole town brought their overwhelming problems into the house

where Jesus is, so that they didn’t even fit inside but were overflowing out

the door.

Imagine what a terrible place that house was that night. Fever,

disease, and illness. The uncleanliness of the people. The noises of those

sounding out their pains. The yells and shrieks of those oppressed by

demons and unclean spirits, like the man in last week’s Gospel – now the

house is filled with them.

The house where Jesus is becomes a true doctor’s office and

mechanic’s shop. A terrible place, but a very good place. Terribly good. He

doesn’t send anyone away in the same condition in which they came.

He heals, He cures, He forgives, He delivers, He builds up, He

improves and repairs. To Jesus, this is business as usual – He has the

ability and will to do so.

Jesus does not leave us sinners the same as when we came. He is

forgiving, delivering, and shaping us unto something better according to His

will and commands.

Jesus stopped no one from coming in the door that night. He brings

them in – not as one who says our diseases of sin are okay, but as the true

Physician of our souls who both forgives us and is repairing us. It was a

truly good place for those terribly afflicted.

The church – which is the congregation – including this congregation,

gathered in this house where Jesus is – is called to be a terribly good place

similar to that house where Jesus stood in today’s Gospel.

The world knows how to revile and how to affirm. The world might

reject and judge a person it deems guilty (of real or imagined wrongs). Or

the world might affirm your diseases of sin and morally wrong decisions as

good and valid in your life.

The church is called to do better. Not to only revile. Not to affirm. The

church is a place where God’s Word diagnosis what is broken in us and

gives Jesus, the cure.

On the cross, Jesus made Himself the cure for us to gather to. He

said of Himself, “When I am lifted up from the earth – lifted up on a cross

– I will draw all people to myself” [John 12:32-33].

Jesus won the victory over your sin and flesh there on the cross. Now

He draws you to Himself here in His house. The risen, living Jesus is

present with the healing and cure of His cross.

In your baptism, you were washed and gathered to Jesus be His

forever. Around His words and teaching you are gathered. Around the

Supper of His true body and blood, you are gathered. “Where two or three

are gathered in My name, there am I among them” [Matthew 18:20].

Through His Word and His Sacraments (Baptism and the Lord’s

Supper) – which we call the “Means of Grace” – Jesus is present in a way

that we can gather around Him, making this house the house where Jesus

is today.

God’s forgiveness of your sins through the death of Jesus in your

place is complete, full, once and for all [Hebrews 7:27], and is applied in

full every time. That’s the cure.

Becoming better – becoming better men and women of God – is bit

by bit, piece by piece, year by year, and is completed in full in the

resurrection when Jesus returns.

We don’t depart on Sunday already perfected, but we don’t depart

this house unchanged either.

John Newton, who wrote the hymn, “Amazing Grace”, said, “I am not

what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in

another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of

God I am what I am.”

Be in the terribly good place where great sinners in need of a great

Savior gather around Jesus to become men and women better than we

once used to be – by God’s grace – and, in that life to come, finally what

we ought to be. Amen.

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