5th Sunday after the Epiphany

Isaiah 40: 21 - 31
Psalm 147: 1 - 11, 20c
1 Corinthians 9: 1 - 16
Mark 1: 29 - 39

Have you not heard?

We are guilty of being annoyed by a few overused and underthought phrases in the world of bumper sticker theology:

God is good - all the time.
Let go and let God.
My boss is a Jewish carpenter.

Pardon us, but, "ugh." But this weeks passages call us back to a place of humility and of reverence and of awe. Have you not heard? We do serve an awesome God. That God Was, Is and Will Be seems mighty and overwhelming. In a recent challenge to paraphrase all of Ecclesiastes in one sentence, we landed on, "Good things happen and bad things happen and God goes on and on." So it goes throughout our readings for this week. In the midst of so many variables, there is one constant - God.

The passage from Isaiah is from the second of three major sections of Isaiah written by different authors in different points in the history of the Jewish people. This second part was written in response to the Israelites return to Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile. After losing the land, they have been allowed to return to rebuild their temple and to live out their days in their anscestral homestead. Take time to read all of Isaiah 40 this week. It is a beautiful work. It is full of hope and praise and vision -- and recognition -- recognition of how bad things can be and how good things can be. The selected text for this week is sort of an incredulous recounting of God's amazing work in creation. It is possible that those returning to the land, the grandchildren and great grandchildren of the last Israelites to live in the land, didn't fully recognize God's power and might. The prophet is calling them back to their history, reminding them of their covenant and inspiring them to be faithful.

The psalmist also praises a mighty God. We are struck by the assertion that God takes pleasure in those who fear and those with hope. We hate to think of "fearing" God, and yet, is it safe to say that we cannot fully know God, and that leaves us with a certain uncertainty...not exactly fear like quaking and trembling...but at least an awareness that we cannot fully grasp the breadth of God's power and being.

In his letter to the church and Corinth, Paul exudes enthusiasm for his work. And he shares a secret to his success. Paul is seeing all sorts of audiences. He is sharing a message about which he is passionate. And he knows that in order to be heard and understood, he needs to be aware of those to whom he speaks. He places himself in the circumstances of his hearers, knowing that they are much more likely to receive this understanding about the gospel. And another thing that Paul recognizes - he is obligate to share this good news. God Is.

In the text from Mark, we see Jesus in his early ministry. He is traveling from home to home and community to community, healing and praying and touching and loving the people that he meets. And he also takes time to pull away from their demands to sit in the presence of God. This is a theme that we see throughout the gospels - Jesus taking himself away from the action at key times to be in the presence of God. It's discipline and its also sustenance. The work that needs to be done surrounds Jesus. He is immersed in his teaching and healing and doing. There is much to do for this one Man--it is unfathomable.

It's easy to be swept up in the things we can know. Sometimes we need to be lifted up and carried instead by all that we cannot know. Have you not heard?

What is it about God that creates the greatest awe in you?
How are you mindful of God's presence in your daily life?
Can you name times during the day when you lose sight of God? How do those times differ from those in which you are mindful of God's presence?

O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the works Thy hands have made.
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee:
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

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