Who Ya Gonna Call?

A sermon preached by Pastor Ken Carrothers on February 8, 2015

•Isaiah 40:21-31; Mark 1:29-39•

I don’t know how closely you have been following the news, but after years and really decades of rumors, conjecture and teasers, it appears as though we will finally be graced with a third Ghostbusters film in the summer of 2016.  Truth be told, I thought the first movie was fine, but I never actually watched the second. And the third film appears to be a reboot as it has been reported that it will be an all-female Ghostbuster crew.

For those that can remember I ask you to recall the theme song with me…

If there’s somethin’ strange in your neighborhood

Who ya gonna call (ghostbusters)

If it’s somethin’ weird an it won’t look good

Who ya gonna call (ghostbusters)[i]

Who ya gonna call?

What a great question. A pivotal question. A question of trust and belief. And today it is actually the main question, because it is the question Isaiah broaches with the people who were living in exile.

The people had been taken from their homelands. They had been blown by the winds of political upheaval. They knew the real pain and suffering that kings and princes could bring. “Who ya gonna call” is a question they wrestled with all the time.

Of course the challenge of our time isn’t all that different. Consider the power of human leaders. Do they lead in positive or negative ways? Or do they seem to lead with a little of each at the same time? Our lives can seem dictated by leaders, so much so that we can be led to believe that we simply need a powerful human leader, who is on our side to combat the challenges and dangers and the threats of our time. Meet the negatives with positive might. That’s what we wish for… what we hope for…

Yet Isaiah points out the futility of putting our main hope and reliance on human leaders and human powers… He suggests it is not the best nor longest lasting alternative.   In fact he goes to great strides to point out the dichotomy between humans – leaders or not – and God.

Who ya gonna call? God, the creator or human leaders, the created?

God sits above the circle of the earth… God stretches out the heavens like a curtain… God creates heaven to be a tent to live in… and we, those who hang out on earth… we are like grasshoppers Isaiah tells us. God is infinite and we are finite.

Human leaders are scarcely planted and have scarcely taken root before God blows a wind and they wither. There is no one to compare to God Isaiah says.

So who ya gonna call?

Isaiah makes a strong case for us to call on God. Call upon the Creator of the earth… call upon the one who does not faint or grow weary… call upon the one whose understanding is unsearchable…God gives power to the faint… strengthens the powerless…

“For those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”[ii]

Who ya gonna call?

That is where today’s Gospel fits in. I wonder if Peter’s mother-in-law experienced the truth and resource of Isaiah’s words when she encountered Jesus. She waited on the Lord and then turned to wait on others. But before we go there let’s recap last week’s Gospel reading as it absolutely connected to this week.

Last week Jesus entered the synagogue to teach and while there he exorcised an unclean spirit from a man. The people exclaimed in excitement that he was teaching with a new authority. And then “as soon as they left the synagogue” our reading from today says, they enter the house of Peter and Andrew.

We read that Peter’s mother in law – and if I have to keep referring to her as that this is going to get old, so let’s call her Gertrude – was in bed with a fever. The disciples having just seen Jesus teach with authority and cast out an unclean spirit tell Jesus about Gertrude’s health. Jesus went at once to Gertrude’s bedside, took her by the hand and she mounted up on eagle’s wings… she ran and was not weary… she walked and was not faint.

OK… it doesn’t actually say that. It says Jesus lifted her up, the fever left her and she began to serve them. Whenever I read through this text I am always caught off-guard by that last part… she began to serve them. I get all kinds of fired up and want to shout, “Gertrude, sit down. You have been sick. They need to serve you. Let the boys find their own snacks. And Peter what the heck are you doing? Did you just bring Jesus to your home, because you were tired of making your own lunch? What is the deal?”

But then I calm down and remember her serving isn’t about Peter needing someone to host his friends. Rather when Jesus takes Gertrude’s hand, it is an offer not only of healing and wholeness, but of restoration to life and her serving becomes gratitude for the gift she has been given. In her commentary on this text, Professor Sarah Henrich shares:

Illness bore a heavy social cost: not only would a person be unable to earn a living or contribute to the well-being of a household, but their ability to take their proper role in the community, to be honored as a valuable member of a household, town, or village, would be taken from them. Peter’s mother-in-law is an excellent case in point. It was her calling and her honor to show hospitality to guests in her home. Cut off from that role by an illness cut her off from doing that which integrated her into her world. Who was she when no longer able to engage in her calling? Jesus restored her to her social world and brought her back to a life of value by freeing her from that fever. It is very important to see that healing is about restoration to community and restoration of a calling, a role as well as restoration to life. For life without community and calling is bleak indeed”[iii]

So who ya gonna call?

And what are you going to do when the one who comes is Jesus? What are ya gonna do when he touches you and takes away your weariness and gives you a renewed purpose?

Maybe we turn from the things that limit us to the opportunities to serve. Maybe we become leaders. But not expecting our leadership to become some kind of dynasty, but rather that we serve where and when we can, and then we go to the next place or the next time or the next opportunity. For that’s what Jesus did.

The reading says, “while it was still dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.” After his service in Capernaum, Jesus calls upon God. For Jesus knows Isaiah’s words well, “those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”[iv]

And with all that renewed energy Jesus is off and going again. It was pointed out to me this week by a friend that Jesus is a lot like Mary Poppins. “Mary Poppins, if you’ll recall, goes to a place where she is needed, but once the people learn what they need to learn from her, she opens her magic umbrella and leaves, going on to the family who needs her next. Jesus doesn’t use his magic umbrella in this scene, but he does say that moving on was what he came to do.”[v] Because there is no end to the opportunities, no end to the places where Jesus was needed… and the same is true for us.

So, who ya gonna call? Who ya gonna wait for?

We wait for the Lord in whatever way we wait. With patience, with urgency, with gratitude, with frustration. We wait for the Lord. But what we learn from Gertrude and from Jesus is that the waiting doesn’t end simply in healing… It is on-going as we join in the work of God’s kingdom. For the Lord is the everlasting God. And with renewed strength we will move on and out into the world – back to work, school, neighborhoods, groups and friends – restored to community… restored to calling… restored to life.

Who ya gonna call? Amen.

[i] Lyrics to the whole song found at http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/g/ghostbusters/ghostbusters_theme_song.html on February 5, 2015.

[ii] Isaiah 40:31. nrsv

[iii] Found at http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1200 on February 5, 2015.

[iv] Isaiah 40:31, nrsv

[v] Thank you Marci Glass for sharing this point in your sermon found at http://marciglass.com/2012/02/06/what-are-we-waiting-for/ on February 3, 2015.

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