PWS&D Sunday is a time when we can reflect on the work done by this agency of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. We situate our understanding of PWS&D in a passage from Mark’s gospel. This passage features the call of Simon’s mother-in-law.
Text Mark 1: 29-39
PWS&D Sunday – Called
This morning, before coming to church I was at home. I imagine that most, if not all, of you were also at home this morning. We woke up, got ready for the day, enjoyed breakfast and spent time with our loved ones. It was likely enjoyable time well spent.
Perhaps for some of us it was hectic, trying to get ready kids ready for church. Or we were running late for some reason or another. Either way it was time spent alone from others outside of our immediate family.
Now, of course we are at church. We have gathered together to worship God, to offer praise and glory to our creator. We do not worship alone, rather we gather together as a group. We have gone from being alone to being together.
After worship we will travel back home or to other tasks that we have during the day. We see a similar progression in Mark’s gospel this morning.
Jesus is with Simon, Andrew, James and John. They are at Simon and Andrew’s house. It is a small gathering. While there Jesus heals Simon’s mother-in-law. Later that day people are brought to Jesus to heal. The next morning we find Jesus alone, praying. Afterwards, he goes out to preach the word.
We find a progression of Jesus in a private space, then moving to a public one. This progression repeats itself in this passage. First, he is with Simon’s family, then healing everyone, then alone in a deserted place, the proclaiming the message to everyone.
This progression isn’t startling or breathtaking. In fact, it mimics much of our own lives. We come together to worship and do the work of the church, then we take time to renew ourselves and gather energy to repeat the process.
Discipleship is very much a process of preparing ourselves to go out in the world. As followers of Christ we are called to go out into the world for the betterment of the world. As Presbyterians what is our capacity to do good in the world? One of the ways which we do this is through Presbyterian World Service and Development.
PWS&D is at work in nine countries around the globe. They respond to emergencies around the world by providing immediate assistance in the form of food, shelter and medical attention. They also provide emotional and long-term rehabilitation for those who are affected by emergencies.
Much of this assistance is done in partnership with other organizations throughout the world. Sometimes the aid is on a grand scale dealing with large tragedies. Other times it is small investment loans made to entrepreneurs. In Malawi, a woman named Sara was loaned five dollars. She invested the money in a small retail business and netted two dollars. She used this small profit to purchase new dishes for her family, which increased the hygiene for the family. A small investment improved the health of one family. Staff from PWS&D visit with partner agencies and view these stories first-hand.
PWS&D works on behalf of all Presbyterians to go out and do good work. It is a call to service that we enable through our support of PWS&D. Over the past few years we have supported PWS&D by over $10,000 each year. These donations make a difference in the world.
As a follower of Christ, we are called and at its heart the story from Mark’s gospel is also a call story. Many people look at the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law and her actions after being healed. They view her acts of serving Jesus, Simon, Andrew and the others as an argument towards the place of women in the church. I’m not joking.
However, what I read in this story is of Simon’s mother-in-law, regrettably we never get her name, I read it as her call to discipleship. Her response to discipleship is to serve. Her serving Jesus and the others in an outward expression of her discipleship.
Jesus doesn’t to heal to prove his divinity. He doesn’t heal for the sake of healing or to confirm God’s activity in the world. Jesus heals for the sake of God’s kingdom, and we are a part of God’s kingdom. We play a role in God’s kingdom.
What we see in Simon’s mother-in-law is a foreshadowing of how Jesus will describe and live out his own ministry. The ministry of Jesus is a life of service to others. With the rare times when Jesus takes moments aside to rest and renew himself, everything he does is in the service to others. As we read later in Mark’s gospel, “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
What we see in our story today in Mark’s first chapter is a resurrection story. Simon’s mother-in-law is resurrected in this story. She is ill, receives healing and then rises. Professor, Cynthia Briggs Kittredge writes, “the repair of the bonds is a dimension of resurrection.” Her response is to serve others, just as Christ himself will continue to serve others until he is crucified and himself resurrected.
We are called, just as Simon’s mother-in-law was called. We serve in a variety of ways, we do the work of God’s kingdom through multiple channels PWS&D is one of those channels. I would encourage you to learn more about the work of PWS&D. It is God’s work that we do. As we read in Isaiah,
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? – Isaiah 40: 21
Thanks be to God. Amen.