"From Grasshoppers to Eagles" - Epiphany 5B
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Delivered By
Pr. David Fleener
Delivered On
February 4, 2018 at 10:45 AM
Central Passage
Isaiah 40:21-31

Pr. David Fleener

Sermon: February 4, 2018 – Epiphany 5B

Isaiah 40:21-31; Mark 1:29-39


From Grasshoppers to Eagles


            Betty Walker was one of the most energetic women I ever met. And she had quite a neat streak, as her family can well tell you. This included getting up on a ladder to wash the windows of her home, which she ended reluctantly after a certain granddaughter-in-law of hers told her to stop it! And yet, for all her energy, which continued into her tenth decade, she would become so angry at herself for not being able to do all that she used to do. (She and her sister-in-law Martha were a lot alike in that regard!) Once, she turned to Charles and said, “You know, sometimes I feel like an old lady.” Charles, showing masterful tact, responded, “Well, you ARE an old lady!”


            Betty wasn’t the only one, though, who felt old sometimes. We all do. When I was eighteen years old and recovering from a bout of mono, I (perhaps foolishly) thought, “This must be what it’s like to feel like you’re ninety.” All of us have times we just feel exhausted and need a break from life.


            And God knows that. In our reading from Isaiah, God is addressing a group of Israelites preparing to return to Palestine from Babylon. And even in the midst of this great joy, there is a sense of exhaustion. It’s been nearly fifty years since the people were deported to Babylon. Fifty years they’ve had to wait for their restoration. It must have seemed like an eternity. Even so, God reminds the people that in God’s timeline, the rulers of the earth are barely here before they are gone. “Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows upon them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble.” God not only knows the limitedness of the earth’s ruler, he knows the limitedness of all the earth’s inhabitants. There are a couple vivid metaphors in the Isaiah reading. Verse 22 shows the cosmic, wholly-other God apart from his creation. “It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers.”


            Not a very flattering image, is it? It sounds like we seem little more than insects to God. We’re here, and then we’re gone. We don’t last. And yet, that isn’t the whole story. Even if we seem like grasshoppers in our powers and abilities, God still shows a profound care and concern for his people. The prophet repeats what must have been a common question among the exhausted, frustrated, despairing exiles. “Why do you say…O Israel, ‘The LORD does not know where I am, nor does he care about me.’?” Not only do they (as we) feel old and exhausted, they also feel forgotten. When we feel exhausted, we often feel like no one is around to help us. That God, if he exists, can’t possibly be concerned with mere grasshoppers like us.


            And yet, the prophet remarks that though people grow weary, God does not. Despite the temptation to think so, God has not abandoned his people. We get the second metaphor here, which gives us that powerful good news that we long to hear. “He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted, but 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.”


            It is on God and God’s Word that we depend for our sustenance. As Jesus quotes Deuteronomy, “A human being shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” The Word of God, in Scripture, Sacrament, Nature, and other places in creation is given to us to feast upon, to enjoy, to draw strength from. We may not be mounting up with wings like eagles now, but in God’s time, we will. There is that waiting bit, of course, that none of us likes to hear! But God calls on us to attend to him and listen to his Word, so that we can receive the spiritual nourishment that we so desperately need.


            Even Jesus, God enfleshed, needed that spiritual nourishment. He needed to be alone with his Father from time to time. Look at the progression of our reading in Mark. Jesus begins by healing Peter’s mother-in-law on the Sabbath – this occurs right after his appearance in the Capernaum synagogue. That evening, after the Sabbath is over, Jesus is flooded with the sick and possessed. Mark tells us “the whole city was gathered around the door.” It must have been overwhelming, yet Jesus attended those who were brought to him.


            At some point in the night, Jesus slipped away. Exhausted, he needed to be alone with his Father. He needs time to pray, to just be with the One he was begotten of. Just as we sometimes just need time to be with those we love, so Jesus needs time with his Father. He needs to be renewed and refreshed in the love of God.


            So do we. And it is always available to us. God’s love is here, in the Word, to revive your spirit. God’s love, is here, in Communion, to strengthen your soul. Like Betty, we may feel old and exhausted sometimes (or maybe most of the time!). But God gives us the strength we need to continue to live our lives – both in this world and in the one the come. It’s always here. We only need open our ears to listen our eyes to see, our mouths to taste and see that the Lord is good.


            Let us pray.


            Lord Jesus, you know our exhaustion. You know that we wait to be renewed on the wings of eagles. Strengthen us today, both in the Word we hear and in the Sacrament we receive, to live a life of gratitude which points to you grace. Amen.


© 2018, David M. Fleener. Permission granted to copy and adapt original material herein for non-commercial purposes with appropriate credit given.