Sermon: February 7, 2021
Sermon: Epiphany 5 Year B
1 Corinthians 9.16-23
Mark 1. 29-39
In the midst of all the swirling images and actions of our texts for today, I find myself drawn to two statements that seem to be swimming against the current, that seem to be moving down an upward escalator. In Isaiah 40, we hear of a God who sits above the circle of the earth, who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, who creates and names the hosts of heaven, a God who is great in strength, who is everlasting, who does not grow weary or faint. But in the midst of all this, we hear, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God.”
And in the gospel text from Mark, we hear of Jesus, healing Simon’s mother-in-law, healing all who were sick and demon-possessed. Last week we heard of how Jesus taught with an authority that had never been experienced before. We heard the first confession of who this Jesus is, “You are the Holy One of God,” spoken by an unclean spirit, shortly before Jesus cast it out.
At Jesus’ baptism, we hear of how the heavens were torn open and a voice came saying, You are my son, the beloved, with you I am pleased.” But today, in the midst of all this, we hear, “When they found him, they said to him, ‘Everyone is searching for you.’”
In Isaiah, in the midst of God’s power, there are those who feel as though their ways are hidden from God, that God has disregarded them. It is as if they are asking, “Where is God in our lives, in our realities?”
In Mark, in the swirl of activity revolving around this Jesus who has broken on to the scene, who heals, who casts out demons, who teaches with authority, Jesus suddenly appears to be absent, and is being sought after. It is if those who are searching are asking, “Where can we find Jesus?”
In Isaiah, we have those who are looking for some sign of God’s presence. In Mark, we have those who are searching, seeking something bigger, something life-giving that they know is out there.
It is no wonder that those who first heard the message in Isaiah would have been wondering where God was. The people of Judah, those living in and around Jerusalem, had been defeated by the Babylonians. The city of Jerusalem had been destroyed. The temple, the very place where the Israelites believed God lived, was destroyed, brought to the ground.
And, to make matters worse, the people were forced into exile, removed from their homes, their history, and, so it seemed, removed from God. They were no longer their own masters, but were at the mercy of foreign princes and rulers. It is no wonder there was a feeling that their way was hidden from God, and that God disregarded their rights in the face of terrible oppression.
But then comes the word, spoken by Isaiah to these people: “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth, He does not grow faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless.”
“The Lord brings princes to naught, and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.”
In the midst of a life lived at the mercy of those who seemed to be all-powerful, comes the word of a God who will bring down those in power, who instead of siding with the princes and rulers of the earth, is on the side of those who are oppressed, those who are beaten down, those who are poor.
In the midst of wondering whether God is present or if one can continue, comes the word of a God who renews strength, a God who gives those who wait for the Lord the strength to run and not be weary, to fly on the eagles’ wings.
It is no wonder that the disciples were coming after Jesus, seeking him, searching for him. It is no wonder that all the people of Galilee were seeking him, searching for him. After all, it isn’t everyday that one encounters someone who heals all diseases, who casts out demons, who teaches with an authority that comes from God. We read of how the whole city was gathered at the door of the house where he was staying.
It is as if Jesus was a magnet, attracting all to him, unable to pull themselves away from him, knowing that this Jesus was someone who brought life and healing.
But Jesus could not stop. The message that Jesus was bringing was a message for the entire world. Jesus’ journey was just beginning. It would only stop in Jerusalem. It would only stop with Jesus being nailed to a cross.
I have often heard the prayer spoken, “come into my heart, Lord Jesus.” This is a good prayer. But, if Jesus comes into our hearts, he doesn’t reside in there by himself. If we ask Jesus to come into our hearts, we better make sure there is a lot of room. Because Jesus is going to bring a whole lot of others with him.
You see, Jesus, doesn’t remain in one place, Jesus is on the move, going to other places, other people, healing and teaching. And like us, these other people are following Jesus as well, following in the path that Jesus blazes. We are all following Jesus. We know who he is, and we want to be with him. But sometimes it feels as though we have lost sight of him.
We are following, and then Jesus rounds a corner, and we can’t see him up ahead of us, leading the way. But then he stops and the whole world catches up with him at the foot of the cross. There Jesus stops. Yes, Jesus is killed. But Jesus is not stopped by death. Jesus is raised from death. The powers of sin and death are defeated for Jesus, for us, and the road goes on forever, for all of us!
“My way is hidden from the Lord, my right is disregarded by God.” Maybe our ways are hidden from God, if we are the ones who oppress, who lord over others. Isaiah says that the Lord brings princes to naught; the Lord makes the rulers of the earth as nothing. But we trust in a God who renews strength, who gives power to the faint, who gives us the strength to go on, through all our lives.
“Everyone is searching for you.” The whole world is searching, searching for a God who heals, who casts out demons, who teaches us the ways of God, who defeats death, who gives life. At times it seems as though this Jesus is out of view.
But then, we gather for the Lord’s Supper, we look around and see others who are looking, who trust in this Jesus. And Jesus stops, to be with us, to listen to us as we pray. In his body and blood we are given a taste and a look at all God has in store for us. And Jesus gives us each other, to journey with, to be Jesus’ presence to each other.