Being Witnessed


Mark 1:29-39
On leaving the synagogue, Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her. He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them. When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons. The whole town was gathered at the door. He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him. Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.” He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.

The Power of Being Witnessed and Lifted Up by David Morrison

In Mark’s account, we see an integration of life in the actions of Jesus: He’s operating in a private home, and then he moves outward to the porch with the crowds, and then he sets out to a deserted place, and finally heads out to the other villages. In the reading today, I can’t help but think of the terrible disruption upon Simon-Peter’s mother-in-law. First, she finds herself bedridden with a fever and then her newly unemployed son-in-law shows up to the tiny house with a group of equally unemployed men. Again, in the spiritual life, we often have to ask the question, “Am I willing to sustain another disruption to my daily life in order for a new creativity to be discovered?” They “immediately” told Jesus about her being sick, and he went to her. He “witnessed” her with an attitude of compassionate acceptance. When we are able to risk being vulnerable to someone who is holding a nonjudgmental presence, they can “witness” us with the eye of compassion, and real healing is possible. Jesus then “grasped” her hand, and “lifted her up.” She got up and “served them.” Theologians say this phrase, “served” is a strange choice for the usual Greek that would have sufficed. It uses a word that would be later associated with being a “deacon,” or a “chosen servant” in the church. Her healing is a greater sign of how Jesus is the awakener of salvation in hearts and the awakened in turn become servants in this world. In the pattern of following Jesus, we usually move through a web of small awakenings through the course of a lifetime. We all lose our bearings in this process and we become distracted by our circumstances and people in our lives who cause us annoyance or even pain. This can develop a sort of obsessive thinking that can be likened to a “fever dream” like the woman probably had in this story. Then we become “witnessed” in compassion and God sends a hand to lift us out of it to engage and be engaged with life itself once again. Howard Thurman wrote: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is more people who have come alive. The hard thing when you get old is to keep your horizons open. The first part of your life everything is in front of you, all your potential and promise. But over the years, you make decisions; you carve yourself into a given shape. Then the challenge is to keep discovering the green growing edge.” What often causes us to awaken? I don’t think it has to be overthought and complicated. Sometimes if we sit still and recollect our week, and ask ourselves honest questions that don’t have to be threatening. For example, we could ask: “What did I enjoy this week?” and “What did I endure this week?” The reflective answer that follows may turn into a conversation with God and the awakening often happens by witnessing the interaction between our enjoyment and enduring.

(adapted from Psalm 147:3)
“I open my broken heart to You, and the vulnerability in me meets the vulnerability in You.” (David Morrison)

For Further Reflection:
“Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou

Under the Witnessing Moon (filtered photo, David Morrison, 2021)

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About David Morrison

I've lived here at the community with Marsha, my wife, since its founding in 2003. I serve in various ways from pastoral care to landscape maintenance; from coffee brewing to bar keeping.

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