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Isaiah 40:21-31 New Revised Standard Version
21 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
22 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
and spreads them like a tent to live in; 23 who brings princes to naught,
and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.
24 Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,
scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,
when he blows upon them, and they wither,
and the tempest carries them off like stubble.
25 To whom then will you compare me, or who is my equal? says the Holy One.
26 Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these?
He who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them all by name;
because he is great in strength, mighty in power, not one is missing.
27 Why do you say, O Jacob,
and speak, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
and my right is disregarded by my God”?
28 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 faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint,
and strengthens the powerless.
30 Even youths will faint and be weary,
and the young will fall exhausted;
31 but those who wait for 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.
1 Corinthians 9:16-23 New Revised Standard Version
16 If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel! 17 For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission. 18 What then is my reward? Just this: that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel.
19 For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.
Mark 1:29-39 New Revised Standard Version
Jesus Heals Many at Simon’s House
29 As soon as they[a] left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31 He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
32 That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34 And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
A Preaching Tour in Galilee
35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37 When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” 38 He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” 39 And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.
Renewing Our Strength
Isaiah 40:21-31; 1 Corinthians 9:16-23; Mark 1:29-39
The Rev Dr Dianne ES Carpenter
7 February 2021
We frequently see advertisements for drugs that promise new vitality, readiness for that romantic moment or emotional wellbeing. A cheerful, vivacious woman in her mid-life years tells how she has never felt better since she started taking whatever the ad is for. Life was now full of happiness and she doesn’t worry about the ”little things” any more.
Pseudo medical ads are a kind of pharmaceutical Isaiah 40:31, “they that take this product for whatever ails them shall renew their strength!” We are all eagerly hoping for new life and vitality for our persons, our economy, our nation and our church life with the roll out of the Covid 19 vaccine but it seems to be less than available as we search for available appointments and classifications that qualify each of us for the vaccine if we find an appointment!
There is, however, a very strong spiritual prescription that relates to the joy of life in today’s text from Isaiah:
They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength.
Our texts for today and particularly the Gospel of Mark point to two central issues for our lives today:
“Where do we get our strength for living?”
“What are we to do with this strength when we receive it?”
Where do you personally get your energy or vitality for life and living? Do you have times when you seem to run out of energy or simply find yourself exhausted with everything? This pandemic and the loss of so much of what was our familiar routine has led to depression and fear…. Unemployment and home and food insecurity. In the 70s we had an energy crisis that caused long gas lines…. If there were a way to measure our life’s vitality level in the same way we use a gas gauge in our automobiles, where would your gauge indicator be? Would you be on “full”? ½, ¼ of a tank? Or would you be sitting on Empty?
The second major issue in the gospel this morning has to do with meaning and purpose in our living. Why do we want energy? There is a wonderful line in the classic movie The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy says to the straw man: What would you do with a brain if you had one? And one might ask What would you do with more energy if you had some?
These two questions are very much connected and connect us to our spiritual foundations.
Vitality! Do you have it?
The root word for vitality is Vita – life
The word Vitamins comes from the same root and the vitamin industry has become more and more legitimate. There was even a best selling book called The vitamin Bible!
God created life with vitality. God breathed life into Adam – the gift of vitality. You know the story. There are two chapters in the Bible where things go according to God’s divine intent. All that was necessary for living was present in the Garden. With the third chapter of Genesis STRESS and the loss of vitality begins when the serpent’s suggestion that our relationship to God was not one of obedience.
The Biblical drama from beginning to end affirms that when we are living our life in fellowship with the Lord – when we have a sense of intimacy and harmony with God – we have vitality. However, there is a huge gap between life as it was intended to be and life as we experience it. This is called the “human condition.”
In the Garden, intimacy with God and God centered living was humanity’s “natural condition.” Beyond the Garden – from Genesis 3 to 2021- intimacy with God is something that has to be restored. The bad news is that we participate in our separation from God and from the life or vitality God intended us to have.
The good news is that God’s desire is for us to rise up from the lethargy that has stolen our vitality. Jesus said: “I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly.” [John 10:10] Jesus knew life was not the way it was intended to be, so Jesus adds the “more abundantly” to the idea of having life.
We are clearly looking forward to a more hopeful future – at least a return to “normal” – most of us want it to be better than normal so we call our hope a “new normal”. We want children to be less stressed and isolated – because they have been missing socialization…
We want people to be employed in meaningful occupations at liveable wages. We want a society that is vital for everyone and where life has meaning.
The intent of God in creation was not to have us live on perpetual vacation, but the design did include the peace and harmony that come from intimacy with the One who made us. We want the resources to live the life God intended for each of us regardless of our physical description, our gender, our disabilities, or our age.
The simple story of Jesus coming to the home of Simon points to the heart of what it means to be lifted up. Jesus restores the vitality of Simon’s mother-in-law so that she can live a life of fellowship with and service to the Lord.
“Then the fever left her and she began to serve them…” The natural response of being with Christ is the desire to serve… Vitality is service. We receive the gift of life from God and then the gift of New Life to live in fellowship with and service to the Lord.
In the reading from the Gospel of Mark we see what it means to receive strength from Christ and how that strength is used to serve Him. We live in troubled and stressful times. The divisions in our church which have been set aside as the pandemic dismantles the ordinary daily routines and the divisions in our nation have sapped the vitality of our life in relationship to all creation and our maker.
And so there is an urgent message to take to our world. When Jesus is out praying before the sun comes up, His disciples awaken to find Him gone. They go searching for Him to tell Him that everyone is looking for Him. His healing ministry brought the crowds who wanted their vitality restored. But Jesus says they have to stay on the move, “Let us go to the neighboring towns so that I may proclaim the message there also… for that is what I came to do.
The message is urgent! It was then and it is today.
In the Epistle reading Paul says that he is under divine obligation to preach the gospel. He goes so far as to say, “woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel!” (1 Cor 9:16) Paul says he has been entrusted with a commission and that he will do everything possible to reach people with the good news of God’s divine intent for our lives.
You and I are under the same obligation and entrusted with that same good news. Our families and our communities are suffering from more than the pandemic… they are suffering from estrangement from each other and from God.
But “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength…
They shall mount up with wings like eagles.”
We are called to advertise this powerful life giving truth.