Bishop's Lectionary Reflection - Epiphany 5
February 7, 2021
The 40th chapter of Isaiah is that part known as “Deutero-Isaiah” (chapters 40-55) and dates back to the time of the Israelites’ Babylonian exile. It is an exhortation to remember, during a time of great duress and despair, the inexhaustible strength and power of the Lord God. It is a promise of renewed strength for those who sense that they are failing. It is a reminder that God created all and is ruler over all. Women and men, in relation to God, perceive their own smallness and humility and entrust themselves to the never-failing care of God. This is the care of God who created each and every star, named each one, accounts for each one and makes sure that not one goes missing. This is the same God who seeks and upholds us when we think that our way is hidden from God and that we have gone missing. God never faints or grows weary and His understanding is infinite. Unlimited possibilities exist for those who follow God. “…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.”
As the pandemic lengthens and lingers, we perhaps sense ourselves becoming weary and faint. We too can use a timely reminder that our way is not hidden from God and that He takes us into account. The stars are infinitely precious to God – so precious that each one is named. How much more precious are we! Even though our understanding of strength has limits, God’s strength is limitless and is available to us as we entrust ourselves into His care. We too shall walk and not faint! In light of this revelation, what prayer of thanksgiving and praise comes to your lips?
Psalm 147:1-12, 21c
This Psalm is an excellent pairing with the text from Isaiah that we just saw. It proclaims the sovereignty of the Lord and mandates praises to be sung. Here is a list of the things for which we are praising and thanking God:
~ He gathers exiles into safety.
~ He heals the brokenhearted and binds their wounds.
~ He counts the number of the stars and calls them by name (us too!)
~ He oversees the creation of all the earth.
- He covers the heavens with clouds and makes life-giving rain.
- He causes green grass to cover the mountains and green plants to grow for the sustenance of humankind
- He makes food for flocks and herds, and even for the ravens.
- Even though he created horse and man, he is not impressed or overwhelmed by their strength.
~ God takes pleasure in those who revere him and await his favor.
Who are you in relation to this God who made you? Can you ever diminish your value in God’s sight when He knows the name of every star He created? Do you want to please Him? How can you practice the discipline of regarding Him with awe and awaiting his favor?
1 Corinthians 9:16-23
In this well-known text from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, Paul outlines the kind of self-emptying love that Christians should express in their evangelistic efforts. Paul proclaims that he has become all things to all people. He is not being a chameleon, but he is expressing that if evangelism is to be successful, we must learn how to come up alongside people as if we were one of them and walk with them for a while before we invite them to walk with us. Paul understands that he is free to be his own person, but that he becomes like others in order to save them. He understands that he will never change another person’s heart from a position of superiority. He must empty himself and move to a position of equality. Have you ever been successful in changing someone’s mind by reminding them that you are superior to them? Are we not more successful in partnerships when we join equally with people? Becoming one with the person with whom we disagree does not mean that we change our convictions, but that we step out in love and act on their behalf. Can you ask God for help with how to partner with someone with whom you have an intense disagreement?
We continue the story of Mark that we have been following for a few weeks. In this reading, Jesus moves from the synagogue to the home. Both are places of community. In both places, Jesus declares his healing power. With him, he takes Simon, Andrew, James and John – the first four He compelled to follow Him. They go to the house of Simon’s mother-in-law where she lies ill with a fever. In that day, people understood fever to be a manifestation of the presence of evil. Jesus has just cast out evil spirits in the synagogue and now He is confronted with it in the home. With a simple touch, Jesus banishes the fever, lifts the woman up and enables her to return to her work. This raising of Simon’s mother-in-law is a foretelling of the resurrecting work that Jesus is pursuing; and now this woman, perhaps understood as the first deacon, is able to join Him. News gets around fast, and we are told that the whole city gathers in order to be healed. Jesus’s work includes curing, healing and casting out demons. But this work does take a toll, and even Jesus must renew himself. He models this renewal by departing from the presence of the people and even from His disciples. He retreats into the dark to pray. His departure here prompts his disciples to seek him, to hunt for him and to tell him that the whole town is looking for him. Jesus responds by moving again and inviting them to move with Him as He embraces the work He came to do – proclaiming the Good News!
Jesus is a supreme model of doing the work God has given Him to do. God has given each of us work also. Are we about the business of doing that work? Just as Jesus invited/compelled Simon’s mother-in-law into a state of health, so He invites us. His invitation enables us to rise and do the work appointed to us. How does Jesus invite you? Jesus models renewal again by movement – this time into darkness and solitude. This movement prompts those who seek Him to hunt. How does Jesus move in and away from you, inviting and compelling you to follow, search and hunt? Jesus is called to proclaim Good News. What are you called to do?
Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.