My favorite Character in Super Smash Mario is Captain Falcon. He has some of the best moves, but sadly his rivals are aware of all his weak spots. Jerome or even Zara can easily defeat me, and they will always ask why I keep choosing the strong loser. Adia, who often times will share a wisdom way beyond her age, responds, “Don’t you see Daddy just likes playing with us!” as she resets the game for more defeats for Captain Falcon.
My friends, today we witness Jesus participating in a conflict in which the church and we Christians will often times find ourselves. Many will hope an encounter with Jesus would be one in which Jesus and by extension, the church becomes the local spiritual, health and financial care hub. After the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law, we witness the whole community bringing all who were ill and mentally disturbed to Jesus for His healing. This got to the point where even Jesus became mentally, spiritually and physically exhausted. The human desire for easy answers to life’s complicated questions can often times lead us into places where caregivers and receivers enter very unhealthy relationships; lines easily get blurred, ministry becomes compromised, and the work of God becomes diminished.
The COVID-19 pandemic revealed a lot about us socially. We discovered much about human relationships as lockdowns became lock-ins. As relationships became reoriented, power and control shifted; love went deeper; buried resentment surfaced; new love languages were discovered, and expressions of peace found new creative outlets. We discovered underlying conditions are not only physical health conditions, but human weaknesses that apply to every facet of our lives. This week we are witnessing a growing awareness of the disparities in the rollout of the vaccination in urban communities. These disparities are the outcome of an elixir of mistrust, misinformation, and lack of accessibility; all part of the underlying conditions of poverty that continue to inflict death and despair.
My people of God, this is the crucible Jesus encountered as he set out to teach a new way of engaging in relationships with God and with one another. “That evening, at sundown, 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.” (Mark 1:32-34) Jesus entered into a world of human weaknesses on every level and was challenged in every way to provide much needed healing. Jesus set out to engage people in the midst of their illness and anguish; however, He was well aware this sickness and suffering were symptoms of an underlying condition. God did not send Jesus to become a physician, mental health care giver or exorcist. As much as gifts were part of His work, His mission was the redemption of a broken world. Sin and greed were the underlying conditions which led to the huge disparities in power, wealth and access to health care. As soon as human beings discovered they could sell medicine, they were willing to see others die rather than give it away for free. Jesus became a threat to that health care system. Jesus’ mission was greater than the reformation of health care; it was the redemption of the human soul. Lost souls are anomalies; individuals deviating from their God-given purpose. Life becomes a cycle of pain and brokenness for oneself and for those with whom one shares relationships.
St. Paul set out to be like a father playing Super Smash Mario choosing whatever character is available in order to engage us in the ministry of love. One should know after the healing Peter’s Mother-in-Law, she immediately became a change agent, now a part of the solution. “Jesus came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.” (Mark 1:31) Her whole life now became one of service to Almighty God; from patient to care-giver is the mission of the church and the call of Christ Jesus. We are invited by Jesus during this pandemic to allow God’s Holy Spirit to change and transform our very inner being in order to participate in this new world.
Increasingly, the nation is witnessing a greater awareness of the sin of racism in every sphere of our society. Many are yet to accept it as the sin from which they benefitted and for which they should definitely hope for redemption. But there is no redemption without confession and reparation. As black Christians, we are urged to focus upon compassion and service. We are uniquely blessed to bring much needed healing, wholeness, and education to our communities. We are called to allow our faith to move us from patient to caregiver, victim to forgiver, hated to vessels of love, hopelessness to hope sharers. This is only possible through Jesus Christ!