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The Mother-in-Law: Mark 1:29-39

Obnoxious, annoying, over-bearing and interfering, today we hear about the healing of one of the most vilified and marginalized characters in any family: the mother-in-law. Trite mother-in-law stereotypes such as these still proliferate our television sit-coms and Hollywood movies. These nameless characters like Simon’s mother-in-law are known only by their relationship to the family. They are women whose status is often relegated to the outskirts of the new family nucleus formed by their children’s marriage. Simon’s mother-in-law’s own healing story is rudely sandwiched between the exorcism of a man with a demonic spirit and the healing of a leper. This gives us some clue as to antiquities esteem of mothers-in-law, let alone one with a mysterious fever.

I wonder about this fever that so besets Simon’s mother-in-law. Perhaps, she is shivering from a lack of identity, fatigued from being misunderstood and suffering the aches and pains of a loss of purpose in her life.

Simon could have ignored his mother-in-law’s intrusion into his home. He could have chosen to enable her fever by simply ignoring her or perhaps shamed her with a quick “just snap out of it, woman”. He could have shot his wife the “evil eye” and sulked down to his man cave leaving her to figure it out. However, Simon responds differently. Simon invites Jesus into his home.

Upon entering the house, Simon tells Jesus about his mother-in-law “at once”. It makes sense. Afterall, this is a man who immediately dropped his fishing nets to follow Jesus. This is a man who just witnessed Jesus exorcise a demonic spirit from a complete stranger in the Temple. This is a man who is realizing… if Jesus can offer him a new identity and purpose… perhaps Jesus can heal his mother-in-law too. Simon invites Jesus into his home to heal his family.

That’s what Jesus does. Jesus heals. He gently lifts Simon’s mother-in-law and her fever leaves. She rejoins her family and begins to serve. Simon lovingly bears witness to her pain by inviting Jesus into the situation. Jesus heals by offering her new identity and purpose serving with him and her son-in-law in the Jesus Movement.

How often do we invite Jesus into our homes? Do we prefer to keep Jesus safely contained in our houses of worship only to expose and rebuke other people’s demons? How willing are we like Simon to acknowledge the fevers that infect our own households? When we or others in our home are bedridden with a deep sadness that just won’t lift, do we invite Jesus into those situations? Or do we prefer to ignore the pain, enable it or shame it away with a “just snap out of it”? How often do we invite Jesus into our family relationships strained by the feverish political discord that has gripped our nation? Do we invite Jesus into those relationships or do we prefer to shoot the “evil eye” and silently sulk about overheated differences? How often do we invite Jesus into our own homes to heal?

The healing power of Jesus is located in our willingness to bear witness to pain and invite Christ into our homes to heal. However mysteriously and profoundly, Jesus Christ heals by offering us all a new identity in him… and purposeful living in service to God and one another.

· Therefore, when we gather to pray as a family, and honestly share the highs and lows of our day, we invite Jesus into our homes.

· When we read the Bible to our children and share our stories of God’s love with them, we invite Jesus into our homes.

· When we reach out to those in our family with whom we may vehemently disagree politically and just listen, we invite Jesus into our homes.

· When we take the time call, email, text or Facetime isolated grandparents and grandchildren; aunts and uncles, and yes, even, our in-laws, we invite Jesus into our homes. For no one stands outside Jesus healing power, not even mothers-in-law.

So, I wonder…how might you invite Jesus into your home? What painful situation or strained relationship might Jesus mysteriously enter to lift and heal? Like Simon, perhaps we can begin to realize…if Jesus can offer us new identity and purpose… perhaps, he can heal our families too? Afterall, isn’t that what Jesus does? Yes. Jesus heals and restores us all to new identity and purpose in him. Jesus invites us all. Amen.

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