Love and Service
I am still in Albany for the 187th Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia. Today, before returning home, we will ordain persons to the transitional diaconate, meaning they will serve 6-12 months as deacons in preparation for ordination to the priesthood. The ministry of a deacon is the ministry of service, the sort of service done by Peter's mother-in-law after her healing. I preached on this before saying in part:
Mark used the Greek word for service—diakonos—which really does mean to wait tables. But the word diakonos meant much more to the Christian community for which Mark wrote the Gospel. To talk about service in the early Christian Church was to use charged language. Just as we can talk about bread and wine today and for Christians, those words mean more. While we talk of having bread and wine with supper, it also brings to mind the body and blood of Jesus Christ. So the word diakonos was a word used a lot among the early Christians. Diakonos, we get our word deacon from it.The full text of that sermon is online here: To Love and Serve the Lord.
To deacon for others did mean to wait tables, but it meant a lot more than that too. Earlier in the first chapter of the gospel, Mark used the same word to describe the way the Angels ministered to Jesus after his forty days in the wilderness. So the first time he used the word was to describe the work of Angels. Mark used the same word diakonos again in quoting Jesus, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Jesus describes his own work on earth as service, and he does it using the word diakonos. Jesus told his disciples that they were to be deacons for God. Their work for God would be menial, it would be hard and they would get little or no credit for it here on earth. That life of service was one Jesus described as a life of diakonos, a life of being a deacon. Now we can return to our story with a new understanding.
Simon’s mother-in-law had a life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ. Jesus came into her house and touched her. And in Jesus’ life-changing touch, Simon Peter’s mother-in-law was healed and made whole. Maybe this is where you want to find yourself in the story. Are you looking for a life-changing encounter with God? Perhaps it has been a long time since you have felt that healing touch. If so, you have come to the right place. Right now, right here, this morning, you can turn your whole life over to Jesus and begin a life-changing journey.
But most of us have had an experience like that before. We have felt the touch of Jesus in our lives. That’s where Simon’s mother-in-law is in this story. And Mark describes Jesus going to her, touching her and healing her in the past tense. Jesus took her by the hand, lifted her up and the fever left her. These are all described as actions that are over and done with. But Mark said that Simon’s mother-in-law served them using a different verb tense—the imperfect tense. This imperfect tense means that she began to deacon, has continued to deacon and as far as I know when I am writing this, she is out their deaconing still.
The imperfect tense refers to an action that is begun but not completed. This one shift of verb tense means that she began to serve them and continued to serve them. Her service was not a one time over-and-done-with action like fetching some dinner. Simon’s mother-in-law began to serve Jesus and his followers. But the meaning of her actions was transformed by Jesus’ healing touch. She did not serve and minister to them because of some duty. She served out of love. Simon’s mother-in-law became as much a follower of Jesus as any of his disciples. Simon’s mother-in-law was not, as far as we know, ordained. Yet Mark describes using language that makes her the first deacon in Christianity. She was the first person to have their ordinary diakonos, or service of others, transformed into ministry.
How might you serve the Lord this day and in the coming week?
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor
Labels: Gospel reading