Sermon – 02-07-21 – Epiphany 5 – Cycle B
Scriptures: Isaiah 40:21-31; Psalm 147:1-11, 20c; 1 Corinthians 9:16-23; Mark 1:29-39
Sermon Title: “Can We Reserve a Ride on Eagle’s Wings?”
The first question is “Do I want to ride on eagle’s wings?” We may be talking about someone else, but definitely not myself. How about you? Even when you were younger, would you have been that adventuresome? We can relax. If we read carefully, we are not promised a ride on an eagle’s wings. Instead, we shall have wings like eagles. Maybe I could handle that. But could I steer with my wings? Would I rather stay down with my troubles, my tiredness? Why would I want to do that when I could experience the exhilaration of flying above and beyond?
Yes, of course, God through Isaiah is talking about our souls, our spirit, our happiness, our well-being, our ability to survive the challenges in our lives, be they physical or mental or spiritual.
Lest we allow the wings to distract us, did we notice how this passage starts? Instead of eagles, we are called grasshoppers. God sits above the circle that is earth, as we heard Dan read, and looks down on us, tiny as we are, looking like grasshoppers. Oh dear, instead of being eagles we could be eaten by eagles!
We heard how God is boasting about his capabilities and his power to create and destroy. Sounds like God in the book of Job. God created the whole earth and everything in it but he brought down Job to teach Job a lesson. Once Job learned his humility lesson, God restored Job’s life – his health, his possessions, other children, his reputation.
Here in Isaiah, our well-being is on the line. God lets us grow weary and faint-hearted. God lets us become discouraged and then here come the wings! We need to latch onto those wings and take off, sooner than later. God usually does not wait long for our action. If those wings attach themselves to us we shall not shake them loose. We shall let go of whatever we are doing and accept the exhilarating feeling of rising above our worries, our weaknesses, and our discouragements.
Jesus brought wings to Peter’s mother-in-law in our Gospel lesson from Mark 1. Jesus was told that Simon Peter’s mother-in-law was ill with a fever. Jesus went to her. He took hold of her hand and helped her up. The fever left her. But here are the wings. Immediately, she served them.
As this passage goes on, Jesus brings wings to many, many people. They flock to him. Jesus tells his disciples that this is why he came to earth. So they travel from town to town. Eventually, Jesus and the disciples are swamped with illnesses and demons. They finally avoid towns but the people come to them. Are you puzzled about all of these demons? From where do they come? Do we have so many demons today?
What is a demon, anyway? In ancient cultures, demons were thought to be the cause of illness, epilepsy, and other diseases. I think of demons as cohorts of Satans, his offshoots, “little Satans.” Luke 10:17 and 18 speak about demons and Satan. When the seventy-two followers return from their mission trip, they are excited and say, “Lord, even the demons obeyed when we spoke in your name!” Jesus tells them, “I saw Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning.” Our understanding is that Satan was causing trouble in the heavenly kingdom and God pushed him out.” Also, in John 14:13 and 14, we are told that we can ask for anything in Jesus’ name and he will give it to us.”
Our Psalm 147:6 says, “The Lord lifts up the lowly, but casts the wicked to the ground.” We know that Jesus casts Saul to the ground when Saul thinks he is serving God. If you are not familiar with Saul, we meet Saul in the book of Acts. He think he is doing the right thing in persecuting the new followers of this Jesus. He thinks he is keeping the religion pure. You may remember that on his way to persecute more Christians, Jesus speaks from the heavens and before Saul knows what is happening, he is blinded and falls to the ground. Saul moves from being haughty to being lowly.
Saul is renamed Paul who, together with Peter, become the successful evangelists of the 1st Century A.D. In our Epistle passage today from 1 Corinthians 9:16-23, Paul is telling us that he becomes all things to all people. That is part of his missionary success. He becomes weak for the weak, he appeals to the people under the law and the people outside the law, always maintaining his obedience to God’s law. He wins many people for Christ. Personally, he is imprisoned. Many of the epistles or letters in the Bible were written in prison. They are a bit challenging to understand.
If you think you are the only person who is challenged to understand the writings of Paul, be relieved. Paul’s writings take much thought and discussion and research into the customs of the times in which Paul lives. But know ye this – Saul did not lose his zealousness when he was converted. That is what we should grab – the zealousness, like the wings. We shall grab the wings zealously!
God is giving wings to us so that we can be free of illness, free of demons, free of worry, free of guilt. Oh, how did we arrive at “guilt?” Guilt is one of our demons. God wants us to be free after we ask God’s forgiveness, after we try to make things right with a person or persons but only if it will not make the situation worse for that person. Then we are to let go. We shall grab our wings and fly. Leave any haughtiness on the ground. Any selfishness, any stinginess, and judgments of other people shall stay on the ground. We shall fly free!
I offer the gift of a poem about leaving the drudgery on the ground. It is called, “To You!” It is written by Ann Weems in the book Reaching for Rainbows.