Reading Ramblings – February 8, 2015

Reading Ramblings

Date: Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, February 8, 2015

Texts: Isaiah 40:21-31; Psalm 147:1-11; 1 Corinthians 9:16-27; Mark 1:29-39

Context: We continue in the intermediate season (Ordinary Time) after Epiphany and prior to Lent.

Isaiah 40:21-31 – This passage as a whole contrasts the one, true God with possible competitors for this role and title. Idols have already been ruled out and mocked as a possible alternative (vs.19-20). The verses assigned for today emphasize God’s role as the creator and overseer of all creation. As such, those who think that somehow they can fool God or evade his eye, that He will allow their sin to go unnoticed are misleading themselves. But likewise, those who trust in the Lord can expect his power and strength. For this reason the historic Christian liturgy can proclaim that My help is in the name of the Lord, who created heaven and earth!

We might be quick to think that idols are a thing of the past, but as our culture continues to drift towards uber-individualism in which each people feel that their beliefs are (or must be!) something that they fashion for themselves based on their preferences, idols are indeed running amuck. Sometimes they are hard to see, existing in the minds of the people around us. Other times they are physical – we place our trust in our debit/credit cards, in the education of our children, in our standard of living, or scientific alternatives to explain the universe without God – explanations which basically amount to the role of an infinite number of dice. As such these verses continue to challenge us to look at what is and consider whether we are truly worshiping the one, true God or not.

Psalm 147:1-11 – This psalm calls us to praise God for some of the same reasons that God exalts himself appropriately over any thing or anyone that would presume to trespass on his glory. Verse 1 is the formal call to praise God. Praise is due for his watchfulness for his people (vs.2-3), for his master over creation (vs.4), as well as for his commitment to justice (vs.6). Verses 7 is a renewed call to prayer, followed by reasons for responding. Verses 8-9 reflect on how the Lord provides for his creation, while verses 10-11 indicate that God (as God) is not impressed by his creation, but rather responds when his creation honors him in praise.

1 Corinthians 9:16-27 – Technically this reading doesn’t necessarily fit with the Old Testament or the Gospel lesson, but there are some themes that resonate between this and the reading from Isaiah. We are right to praise God because there is no other entity like him or equal to him. The God that created the cosmos is the God who individually calls people into relationship to him, through his Son Jesus the Christ. Likewise, once called, it may be that we find the direction and intention of our life redirected to the praise and glory of this God who created us and saves us. In St. Paul’s case, that meant becoming a proclaimer of God’s saving work in Jesus. Paul often refers to himself as a servant or slave in this regard. It has become his duty and privilege to share the Gospel.

Taking this role seriously, Paul carefully considers his audience. How might this group of people best hear the Gospel? What might help this other group of people to hear the good news of Jesus best? Likewise, Paul encourages us to live our lives for Christ, allowing our lives to be to the glory of God just as much as our words and songs are.

Mark 1:29-39 – The Word of God made flesh now has a new, more imminent impact upon creation. The blessings of God flow through the person of God’s Son. The kingdom of God that Jesus preaches is near starting in verse 15 is at hand. The results are the unravelings of the effects of sin. Sickness is cured. Demons are cast out. Lives are transformed.

It might have been very tempting to Jesus to remain near Capernaum. Here He was welcome. He could teach and preach and have a relatively simple and easy life. Yet Jesus is not content to follow his own wishes, but rather to place himself wholeheartedly in obedience to his heavenly Father. This requires (and allows!) constant communication, so that Jesus might know what He is to do. Rather than enjoying the fruits of his successful ministry thus far, Jesus is therefore intent on preaching and teaching elsewhere, so that others might hear and see and know that the power of God is at hand.

Where Jesus goes, the incarnate power and presence of the kingdom of God goes. Results are not dependent on the location, but on the presence of Jesus that draws people to receive good news, healing, and freedom. All of these things are praiseworthy. All are the obvious outpourings of a loving God into his creation that has chosen sin and rebellion rather than the obedience demonstrated by Jesus, and suffers the consequences accordingly.

The response to this outpouring of goodness is that word spreads quickly. In our hurting and broken world, people respond quickly to hope for healing and recovery of all sorts. Sometimes this allows sinful and exploitative men and women the opportunity to deepen the hurting of God’s people. Sometimes the miraculous power of the in-breaking kingdom of God is made available in ways we can’t understand or predict. But each day, whether filled with the miraculous (as we variably choose to define!) or not, we should give thanks to the God who created us and strengthens us in each moment.

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