“Don’t Forget to Fly the Plane.” Sermon 02.08.2015

Mark 1:29-39 • February 8, 2015

Brothers and sisters in Christ grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.

There are two themes that I believe are closely related in our reading from Saint Mark today – healing and prayer. I’m going to guess that you can make several connections between these two themes – between healing and prayer. Think about healing and prayer for a few seconds, especially in light of today’s gospel reading.

Now, I invite you to turn to someone near you and share with them the connection you are making right now as you think about this.

It was just a few days after Christmas in 1972 on a flight from New York to Miami – filled with holiday travelers. As Eastern Airlines flight 401 was beginning its final approach into the Miami International Airport for landing, the pilot and crew noticed the cockpit light that indicates the landing gear has deployed correctly failed to come on. The crew of the plane wasn’t sure if the light bulb was just malfunctioning or if the plane’s landing gear had indeed not come down. They began circling over the everglade swamps to give them a little time to investigate.

To begin with, the flight engineer fiddled with the bulb. He tried to remove it, but it wouldn’t budge. Another member of the crew tried to help out…and then another. The entire crew was fixated by this little light bulb. Eventually, the plane just dropped out of the sky.

None of the crew bothered to notice that the place was losing altitude. There were 101 fatalities out of the 175 passengers and crew on-board that plane. A seasoned and experienced flight crew had become so preoccupied with a 75 cent light bulb that they forgot their role on this flight from New York to Miami – to fly the plane.

Before Simon, Andrew, James, John, and Jesus get to Simon’s mother-in-law’s house, they have already had a busy day. Preaching, teaching, casting out demons in the synagogue, etc. etc. I think that they were hoping to get a little rest. Which is why they chose Simon’s mother-in-law’s house as their hideout. Nobody will find them there. It’ll give them a chance to get something to eat and get away from the crowds for a little while.

But in staying true to Mark’s style of writing this gospel, there is no time for that. In Mark’s gospel the plot moves along quickly. As Jesus proclaims just a few verses before today’s reading – “the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near.” (vs. 15) Mark’s gospel is very passionate about getting to the point of what Jesus means when he says “the kingdom of God has come near.”

Jesus seems to barely make it through the front door of Simon’s mother-in-law’s house when he is called back into action – there is a fever. A fever that needs Jesus’ healing touch. And throughout the rest of the day, countless more are healed as the “whole city is gathered at the door” (vs. 33) of the house.

It’s fascinating to me that Jesus’ healings in Mark’s gospel don’t speak of a person’s great faith or even belief in Jesus. In today’s reading, it’s quite possible that Simon’s mother-in-law has never heard anything about Jesus. I mean, Jesus just called Simon to be a disciple a few verses earlier.

As one commentary lifted up this week, “it’s easy to think that all we have to do is pray and Jesus will heal us of everything that ails us. The reality is that we live in a world where bodies still get sick and die…that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t hear our prayers and isn’t with us!” (www.faithformationjourneys.org)

Jesus is with Simon’s mother-in-law without her even asking for Jesus to be with her or knowing who this guy named Jesus is.

So brothers and sisters in Christ, here’s the connection I hope we make today between these overarching themes of healing and prayer. What’s the result of these things? I believe today’s gospel reading lifts up this central message not only for today’s story, but the truth about all of the gospel accounts of Jesus and really the entirety of all scripture and our life together in Christ.

And Professor David Lose said it much better than I can, so I will use the words he wrote this week, “God wants to set free all of us so that we might live into our God-given identity and potential, claiming our calling as children of God, and join God in the mission to love and bless the world.” (www.davidlose.net/2015/02/epiphany-5-b-freedom-for/)

Jesus heals Simon’s mother-in-law. And in this healing he restores her to the purpose that God had called her to live out in the world. To serve in her household. And as anyone who has ever been graced with the hospitality of a great host or hostess knows, the result of this woman’s service is a great blessing to anyone who enters her house.

Jesus has had an incredibly busy few days of preaching and healing. Early in the morning he sneaks away to be alone for a little while and pray. Even Jesus, the savior of the world, needs a little time to reconnect with the source of his power.

Simon’s mother-in-law is healed in order for her to continue to serve others who visit her home.

Jesus’ goes to a deserted place to pray in order that he may continue to serve by proclaiming the message of God’s kingdom come near.

So…here’s the connection between healing and prayer in today’s text that I hope we receive. The result of healing for Simon’s mother-in-law and for Jesus after his time in prayer joins them both to God, in God’s mission to love and bless the world.

The great Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

Each day, you and I are in need of healing. For Jesus to take us by the hand and lift us up.
Each day, you and I need time away for prayer with the only one who can fully restore us.
And, believe it or not, each day you are gifted by God in amazing ways…to serve.

How do you and I respond to the unending presence of God in our lives?

How do you and I experience Jesus’ taking us by the hand and lifting us up each day, offering healing in order for us to be restored to serve where God is calling us to serve on that day?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how is God calling you to serve this week? Don’t forget to fly the plane.

I invite you to turn to someone right now and share with them how you feel God is calling you to serve this week. Feel free to get up and move around if you want…


About Bishop Craig Schweitzer

The Rev. Craig Schweitzer, of Bismarck, was elected as bishop of the Western North Dakota Synod on July 17, 2020, in the first-ever digital Synod Assembly. A historic event, Schweitzer is the first bishop in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to be elected in an online assembly. Bishop Craig Schweitzer began serving the Western North Dakota Synod-ELCA on September 1, 2020. He has always seen himself as an easy-going person who seeks to daily discover anew how God is present in his life and the world in which he lives and serves. Prior to service in the Office of Bishop of the Western North Dakota Synod, Bishop Craig served at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Bismarck, ND as Music and Worship Minister (lay staff from 2002-2010), Associate Pastor (2010-2014), and Senior Pastor (2014-2020). Beyond his service in the church, he has an eclectic background that is a diverse collection of musical, educational, and business experiences ranging from live concert production and promotion to recording studios and live performance to music education. Throughout all of his professional and personal experiences, the Apostle Paul’s words to the church in Rome have been a guiding light that has kept him grounded in whatever work God was calling him into – “Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Romans 15:7) Bishop Craig is a graduate of the University of Mary in Bismarck with a Bachelor of Science degree in Music Education and a Master of Science in Strategic Leadership. He also holds a certificate degree in Theological Education for Emerging Ministries (TEEM) from Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, CA. He was ordained as a Minister of Word and Sacrament on September 16, 2010. Outside of his life as Bishop, Bishop Craig enjoys reading, all music, a little golf, a cold beverage with friends, and intentional times of quiet. And, of course, spending time with his wife Wendy and their adult twin daughters Ilia and Taegan. View all posts by Bishop Craig Schweitzer

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