Sunday, February 4, 2024 – Epiphany 5

Speaker: Drew Brislin
Category: Weekly Sermons

Isaiah 40:21-31; Psalm 147:1-12, 21c; 

1 Corinthians 9:16-23; Mark 1:29-39

The Rev. Drew Brislin

Good morning and welcome everyone on this Scout Sunday. It is so wonderful to see so many of you this morning. A couple of weeks ago I received an email from the National Eagle Scout Association wishing me a Happy Eagle Anniversary as it reminded me that my Board of Review date was January 25, 1988, and that also ‘Once and Eagle, Always an Eagle.’ I immediately texted a screen shot to one of my best friends who shares this anniversary with me and asked, “Can you believe it has been 36 years?” When we can get together, we inevitably reminisce as we recall stories and memories from our time in scouting. One memory in particular resonated with me this morning. Like many of you, I attended Camp Tukabatchee every summer. It was an opportunity to camp, canoe, swim and do other activities and earn merit badges in the process. I remember how excited I was that first year to go off to camp with my friends. I had enjoyed camping and being in the woods up to this point, however, I had only been on weekend trips up till now going to places like Horseshoe Bend and Odum Trail. I remember getting excited and going with my parents to stock up on supplies and clothes. I daydreamed about how incredible the experience was going to be. This was going to be the best week of my whole entire life, the first twelve of them anyways. We met up at Church Street United Methodist Church in Selma who sponsored my troop, Troop 26 one June Saturday morning loaded up the buses and off we went. I was ready for the time of my life. Once the adrenaline ran out and I realized just how long I was going to be away from home, I could sense my emotions changing. It was the first time I had ever spent any length of time away from home and away from my parents and my brothers. I got homesick and I was miserable. I called my parents and they continued to encourage me to try and stick it out. I had already survived a couple of days and it was only a week. After talking to my parents one particular day and when I was particularly down, I began to slog my way back up the trail to my tent when I began to hear some noise emanating from our troop’s campsite. It was coming from Mr. Calloway’s tent. Lamar Callaway was one of our assistant scout masters who had previously served as a scout master. He had retired and remained involved with the troop after his time as scout master and always volunteered to take us to camp. As I continued to get closer and closer to the campsite the noises became clearer until finally our tents were in view and I could see Mr. Calloway sitting in front of his tent with a little radio, antenna extended, and that’s when I figured out was the noise was. It was the Atlanta Braves game on the radio. This was in the mid 1980’s. Joe Torre was manager and players like Dale Murphy, Chris Chamblis, Bruce Benedict, and Bob Horner roamed the diamond at old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. These were the Braves of my youth. Mr. Calloway could tell that I was ill at ease. He invited me to pull up a stool and we just sat there and listened to the game and talked about the team. As other scouts meandered their way back to the campsite and saw us, they joined in sitting out front of Mr. Callaway’s tent and we continued to listed to the game and talk about our favorite players and how the season was going.

In our Gospel reading this morning we hear the story of Jesus’ second miracle. Jesus leaves the synagogue enters Simon’s house and finds Simon’s mother-in-law sick with a fever. Jesus takes her by the hand lifts her up and she is cured and immediately begins to serve them. Not in a patriarchal kind of way but rather more in service to the church. The Greek word used for her actions is diakonisa which comes from diakonai which is where we draw the title deacon from in our church. She has often been referred to as the first deacon in the church. As the sabbath draws to an end that evening crowds began to gather as those who were sick and in need of healing heard about the good work that Jesus was doing. People seeking to be made whole again. Jesus loves us and wants us to be whole. Healing is not always physical. It can also be relational, and we are given tools for reconciliation so that we can heal those wounds as well. But what do we do with our gifts when we are healed? Simons’ mother-in-law is a model for us as she moves from gratitude to service. This was one of my greatest lessons from scouting. This culture of service is ingrained in scouts early on their scouting careers as service hours are required to move from rank to rank. A scout seeking the rank of Eagle must plan and execute a service project that requires the coordination of fellow scouts. The Scout Oath begins ‘On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times…’ The Scout Law states that a scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. All ways that we are in relational service to one another. The Girl Scout Promise reads ‘On my honor, I will try to serve God and my country, to help people at all times, and to live by the Girl Scout Law. While both the Scout Oath and the Girl Scout Promise include pledges to serve, I think you will notice that first and foremost comes a centering on God, however he is engaged in one’s particular life. Jesus does a lot of helping by curing but I think maybe what he really wants from us is to focus on is our relationship with him and with each other first and foremost. Our service to each other is not just about our doing but what that doing produces. Our service is about the transformation of relationships both internally and externally. The bonds and relationships that are forged in this good work will not only result in better conditions for those who are served but also for those who serve. Our scripture this morning tells us that after Jesus had healed many, he left early in the morning so that he could move on to neighboring towns and continue proclaiming his message. Not only would we need physical healing but also relational healing to be made whole. Jesus knew this which is why his preaching was just as, if not more important than the healing.

That first summer at Camp Tukabatchee I was not physically sick, but I was homesick. There was something lacking, and I wanted to be made whole. In finding that new sense of relationship with Mr. Calloway in our affinity for the Braves, I seemed to find a sense of peace. As my fellow scouts joined us, I began to forge new relationships that would feed me throughout my scouting career and beyond. I could have just as easily broken off those relationships had I not been willing to accept the healing those new relationships gifted me. I am all the better for my involvement in the community of scouting and what it taught me. I have many wonderful memories and maybe more importantly, I am the person I am today thanks in large part to my involvement in Scouting. Thank you all for what you do and most importantly for who you are and for sharing your light with one another and all those whom you serve.