February 4, 2018–New and Amazing

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Brian Hiortdahl, Overland Park, KS

 Warm-up Question

What is the one thing you have received that changed your life the most?

New and Amazing

Allan Peterson will soon receive the Argus Two, a bionic eye.  Currently blind from retinitis pigmentosa, Allan will become the eighth person to have this breakthrough technology which he explains will allow him to experience “a new way of seeing.”  His vision will not be the way it was before he began losing it 25 years ago, but this revolutionary surgery offers possibilities which would have been unimaginable until recently. A camera on a pair of glasses sends video to a computer chip.  Signals are then transmitted to a retinal implant.  When the retina is stimulated, the signal is carried by the optic nerve to the brain and the patient “sees.” Peterson says he looks forward to seeing his grandchildren, rather than just hearing them.

Discussion Questions

  • What have you lost in life that you wish you had back?
  • What blessings and abilities do you have that you take for granted?
  • Can you think of a time when you learned something new that was like a bionic eye—something that made you see the world in a completely new way?

Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

This passage builds on the story immediately before it (see last week’s Faith Lens) in which Jesus expels a demon from a man in the synagogue on the Sabbath.  The crowd marvels in amazement:  “A new teaching—with authority!”  In the biblical world’s hierarchy, Jesus demonstrates that his cosmic power and status (“authority”) are higher than that of demons, which are known to be higher than that of human beings.

Next he moves to Simon’s house, and cures his mother-in-law’s fever.  He thus restores her to her place of honor in the household as the chief hospitality authority, just as he restored the honor and social standing of the man in the synagogue.  Read together, these stories reveal that Jesus heals in public and in private; a man and a woman; supernatural and natural illness.  The kingdom of God that he proclaims is for everyone, as the next scenes illustrate.  After the whole town crowded around him at sundown, Jesus tells his disciples that God is sending them to other towns too, beyond the edges of the little world they currently see.

Notice that it is before sundown that Jesus heals Simon’s mother-in-law—a second healing on the Sabbath.  This will soon get Jesus in trouble.  It is one of many religious rules he breaks:  working on Sabbath, touching a woman he does not know, touching the unclean, engaging Gentiles and tax collectors and demoniacs and other “sinners” assumed to be beyond the edges of God’s favor.

Jesus’ behavior suggests that the God no one can see cares more about people’s wellbeing than about their social position or obedience to religious rules.  This is completely revolutionary.  This is a brand new breakthrough.  This is cutting edge, space age religion and lifestyle.  This is a whole new way of seeing.

Discussion Questions

  • In what ways does the church of Jesus showcase the amazing kingdom he announces and demonstrates in his words and deeds?  How does the church obscure or hide it?
  • What about Jesus excites you?  What about him scares you?
  • Who are the people we don’t see?
  • Who are the people who need their dignity and social standing restored?  What we can do in Jesus’ name to help and heal them?

Activity Suggestions

  • Begin your study with participants blindfolded.  (Please be nice—don’t rearrange the furniture!)  How does that change the experience?  What is it like being in the world without sight?
  • Learn about the health ministry in your congregation or another church, or interview a medical professional.  What inspires them in their work?  What frustrates them?  How do they understand the stories of Jesus’ healings?
  • Organize a blood drive or a collection of eyeglasses for those in need.  Intentionally reach out to include the wider community.

Closing Prayer

Open our eyes, Lord God, to see your amazing kingdom at work near us, and open our hands and hearts to join Jesus in spreading your healing love to all the world.  Amen