A sermon preached by the Rev. Linda S. Harrison
Epiphany 5; Feb 4, 2018
Isaiah 40:21-31: Psalm 147:1-11, 20c; 1 Corinthians 9:16-23; Mark 1:29-39
Have you not known? Have you not heard? God who created the cosmos is mightier than anything we can imagine, greater than anything we can comprehend. God is incomparable and beyond our grasp of understanding … God is everlasting and omnipotent and inexhaustible.
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The God who numbered the stars and causes rain to fall, heals the broken-hearted and binds wounds.
Have you not known? Have you not heard? That mighty and powerful and majestic and incomprehensible God reaches out with a human touch to heal. Our God truly cares about each one of us. God desires restoration and flourishing of all creation, including each of you.
Isaiah’s vision of and the psalmist’s poetry about God are sweeping and magnificent and grander than all history. Mark’s vision of God is tender and intimate. While both visions of God are caring and compassionate, Mark’s description assures us that the caring can indeed be personal. The God of the cosmos does not find human lives insignificant.
Indeed, to make that point abundantly clear, God came among us as one of us.
Isaiah’s sweeping and magnificent poetry about God is also about hope. The questions, “have you not known”, and “have you not heard” invite an exiled people to rediscover who their God is … Isaiah’s words are a directed to an exiled people – a people who believed that all was lost and all was out of control, a people who were sure God had abandoned them and that this was the end of the world. Isaiah’s words reminded them who God was, is, and will be. Isaiah’s poetry invited them, and indeed continues to invite readers and hearers, into revelation. We are invited to see and experience this glorious God and all that God has done, is doing, and will do. From the foundations of the earth and of all time, it is God who creates, who loves, who cares, and who restores.
That is our hope.
Our hope in God is not a blind optimism or a sanguine wish. “I sure hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow.” “I hope my political party wins.” “I hope you get better quickly.” “Oh, I’m sure it’ll all work out in the end.” Hope in God is that even if it rains, or my political party fails to win, or the one we love in fact does not get better, or the outcome isn’t what we wanted, God is still God and God is with us – even in the rain or the illness or the exile. God is still present in every situation.
Isaiah’s and the psalmist’s beautiful imagery and glorious vision of God reveal to us the expansiveness of God, encompassing all of the cosmos. Mark’s story reveals that the God of the cosmos is also the God who cares for each of us on an intimate level. This revelation is our freedom. We are freed to embrace hope.
Our hope in God, all year long, is an Advent hope – an active waiting, an expectant waiting. It is living into the “already” of God’s promises of the dominion of God while at the same time waiting in all confidence for the “not yet” because we can trust the promises of this God who is bigger and mightier than the universe. We act and do in hope-filled trust; and because we are freed to hope through the revelation of God, we just may find ourselves filled with an inexhaustible strength that can only come from God. We are freed to acknowledge that we cannot rely on our own resources. That acknowledgment frees us to rely on our hope in God, which then becomes our strength and our healing. In our freedom to hope, God heals our broken hearts and binds our wounds.
And so, in expectant waiting we go about our daily lives and live into God’s call upon our lives. In the healing that the freedom to hope brings, we are called to be disciples of Christ; we are called to serve others in the same hope and love. We serve in the hope of the one Whose promises and presence are assured. The prophetic witness and the witness of the Christ is that no matter what God is still present in every situation and in the very end, it is God who will have the final word.
The psalmist tells us that God delights in those who put their hope in divine love …
Indeed, at Calvary, God’s final word was Love.
May we live into and model that hope and that love in our daily lives by serving our neighbors as Christ calls us to serve and in the freedom of hope and the healing it brings to all.
Blessed be God forever.