By William H. Majoros (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

 

The scripture for this sermon is found in Isaiah 40:21-31 (found here) and Mark 1:29-39 (found here)

Do you like to wait? I don’t. Most of us find waiting frustrating.

By B137 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48998674

Does anyone like to be caught in traffic?


[CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Or waiting in line for an event?

Someone had a bumper sticker that said, “Good things come to those who wait.” The person lost the bumper. Someone stole it. I’m not sure if they wanted the bumper or just to get rid of that bumper sticker. It’s hard to wait. When you were young, did you ever really, really want something, only to have your parents say, “Let’s wait and see? We seem to have an insatiable appetite for things to go faster and faster. I may have talked about this before, but I think it is significant. Computer chips are doubling in speed about every two years.

Thomas Friedman makes the case that the speed of technology is outpacing our ability to adapt to it.

Thomas L. Friedman, Thank You for Being Late, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, New York, © 2016, p.32

In our Old Testament lesson from Isaiah today (Isaiah 40:21-31), the people of Israel have been waiting a long time for God to act. They are not only slaves living in a foreign land, their captures taunt them for still trusting in God. If God was powerful or cared, why had God let them become slaves? Certainly, the god of the Babylonians must be stronger – must be better! Their experience of everything around them suggested that they were right.

Isaiah begins with the people saying they are like dry grass.

By Klaus1833 – Own work, GPL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11192

Or a faded flower.

By Photo (c)2007 Derek Ramsey (Ram-Man) (Self-photographed) [GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Their strength is dried up, their hope is gone. Ever feel like that? You come up hard against an obstacle in life. You give it your all and still come up short.

I know we all want to be like Stefon Diggs – who caught a game winning last dig ball for the Vikings – and be the one who is at the center of the Minnesota miracle. But ever wonder how Marcus Williams felt? He’s the safety that missed Stefon Diggs and let him get into the end zone to win. Do you think he maybe felt a bit like dry grass or a faded flower after that play? Let’s face it, there are times when we are like Marcus Williams and for whatever reason miss – and lose.
Or maybe it’s a failed relationship or a serious illness that zaps your strength and dries up your hope. Have you been so sick you were afraid you were going to die – and then were afraid you wouldn’t? Have you ever felt like dry grass or a faded flower?

I have found that it’s in those moments when I am laid low – when it is clear that I don’t have the strength to do it myself – when I am aware that I need something outside of myself – that faith becomes more than a theory – more than words.

God tells the prophet Isaiah to speak precisely to those feelings. Isaiah offers an alternate image. He tells the people that those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength.  They will raise up on wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not be faint.

By William H. Majoros (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Loretta Claiborne was the middle of seven children in a poor, single-parent family. Born partially blind and intellectually challenged, she was unable to walk or talk until age 4. Eventually, though, she began to run. And before she knew it, she had crossed the finish line of 26 marathons, twice placing among the top 100 women in the Boston Marathon.

She won medals in dozens of its events, and also holds the current women’s record in her age group for the 5000 meters at 17 minutes. In addition, she had a fourth-degree black belt, was inducted into the Women in Sports Hall of Fame, has spoken before Congress, has two honorary doctorates, and has appeared twice on Oprah.

Although she passed away in April of 2007 her legacy lives on.

She has a website dedicated to her life. Faith was important to Claiborne. God came first in her life and she credited him for her strength.

Her motto is there, big and bold on her website: God is my strength / Special Olympics is my joy. Quoted in an interview she said, she didn’t go to God only when sad or in need, but also when she was happy.

On her website she says:

“I figured if my story could change a person’s mind about another person, or especially a child’s mind about another child, then it was the right thing to do.” She recalls a time when children taunted her for being different and how the taunting turned her into an angry young woman who was expelled from high school and fired from a job.

Although she loved to run and used her speed and strength to protect herself in fights against cruel classmates, she credits the Special Olympics with helping her realize that her tremendous athletic talent could be used to do good.

“If it weren’t for sports, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I was very angry before and sports was the arena that turned that around for me,” Claiborne says. “I got support from family, community and God — he is the strength of all and can make anything possible.”

Loretta Claiborne discovered in a very tangible way how waiting on the Lord, renews strength and restores hope. She learned how to run and find renewed strength – 26 marathons. I am not sure I could run even one.

In today’s gospel (Mark 1:29-39) we see another example of this. Jesus lifts up – raises up – Simon Peter’s mother-in-law who was down with a fever. The verb for “lift up” or “raise up” here is the same one used in the Greek Old Testament for mounting up on eagle’s wings. It is a word that takes on a powerful meaning in Mark’s gospel. Mark uses it many times to talk about healing. Ultimately, Mark will use it to describe Jesus’ resurrection. The verb “to raise up” suggests new strength being given to those that are laid low by illness, unclean spirits, or even death.

 

It is Jesus’ answer to those who find life knocking them down, zapping their strength, and draining their hope. Jesus goes a step further than offering an alternate image for life – Jesus brings the new reality. He stores strength, hope and wholeness. He is worth waiting for.

Simon Peter’s mother-in-law’s response is interesting. Immediately after she is healed, she gets up and serves. It is hard for us today not to hear this as promoting traditional gender roles. So, it is important to slow down and understand what the verb for serve here means. The Greek word for serve is diakoneo, the same verb Jesus uses to describe the essence of his ministry. A little later in Mark’s gospel Jesus will say that he has come “to serve” rather than “be served.” It is the same understanding that Jesus says should be at the heart of all of his disciples.

Sarah Heinrich, a Lutheran New Testament scholar, says it well when she says:

“Simon Peter’s mother-in-law is far from being an exemplar of a pathetic, un-liberated woman for whom serving men is her whole life. Rather she is the first character in Mark’s gospel who exemplifies true discipleship. … …it will be women who are described as having served Jesus … as well. This is not a verb used of Jesus’ male disciples who famously do not quite “get it” within the gospel itself.”

Jesus raises us up – heals us – restores us so that we can participate in what God is doing in the world. So be of good courage. We all find ourselves feeling like dry grass or faded flowers from time to time. In those times, remember, those who wait upon the Lord will find renewed strength and restored hope. In Jesus we find one who gives new strength to those who are laid low by illness, unclean spirits, or even death. That promise is made and given new for you again today.

Amen.

“Loretta Claiborne was the middle of seven children in a poor, single-parent family. Born partially blind and intellectually challenged, she was unable to walk or talk until age 4.” (http://www.lorettaclaiborne.com/about/) 

http://www.lorettaclaiborne.com/gallery

“Eventually, though, she began to run. And before she knew it, she had crossed the finish line of 26 marathons, twice placing among the top 100 women in the Boston Marathon. She won medals in dozens of its events, and also holds the current women’s record in her age group for the 5000 meters at 17 minutes. In addition, she had a fourth-degree black belt, was inducted into the Women in Sports Hall of Fame, has spoken before Congress, has two honorary doctorates, and has appeared twice on Oprah.” (http://www.lorettaclaiborne.com/about/) 

http://www.lorettaclaiborne.com/gallery

Although she passed away in April of 2007 her legacy lives on. She has a website dedicated to her life. (http://www.lorettaclaiborne.com/)

Faith was important to Claiborne. God came first in her life and she credited him for her strength. Her motto is there, big and bold on her website: God is my strength / Special Olympics is my joy. Quoted in an interview she said, she didn’t go to God only when sad or in need, but also when she was happy.

http://www.lorettaclaiborne.com/

On her website she says:

“‘I figured if my story could change a person’s mind about another person, or especially a child’s mind about another child, then it was the right thing to do.’ She recalls a time when children taunted her for being different and how the taunting turned her into an angry young woman who was expelled from high school and fired from a job. Although she loved to run and used her speed and strength to protect herself in fights against cruel classmates, she credits the Special Olympics with helping her realize that her tremendous athletic talent could be used to do good. ‘If it weren’t for sports, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I was very angry before and sports was the arena that turned that around for me,” Claiborne says. “I got support from family, community and God — he is the strength of all and can make anything possible.'” (http://www.lorettaclaiborne.com/about/) 

Loretta Claiborne discovered in a very tangible way how waiting on the Lord, renews strength and restores hope. She learned how to run and find renewed strength – 26 marathons. I am not sure I could run even one.

In today’s gospel (Mark 1:29-39) we see another example of this. Jesus lifts up – raises up – Simon Peter’s mother-in-law who was down with a fever. The verb for “lift up” or “raise up” here is the same one used in the Greek Old Testament for mounting up on eagle’s wings. It is a word that takes on a powerful meaning in Mark’s gospel. Mark uses it many times to talk about healing. Ultimately, Mark will use it to describe Jesus’ resurrection. The verb “to raise up” suggests new strength being given to those that are laid low by illness, unclean spirits, or even death.

It is Jesus’ answer to those who find life knocking them down, zapping their strength, and draining their hope. Jesus goes a step further than offering an alternate image for life – Jesus brings the new reality. He stores strength, hope and wholeness. He is worth waiting for.

Simon Peter’s mother-in-law’s response is interesting. Immediately after she is healed, she gets up and serves. It is hard for us today not to hear this as promoting traditional gender roles. So, it is important to slow down and understand what the verb for serve here means. The Greek word for serve is diakoneo, the same verb Jesus uses to describe the essence of his ministry. A little later in Mark’s gospel Jesus will say that he has come “to serve” rather than “be served.” It is the same understanding that Jesus says should be at the heart of all of his disciples.

Sarah Heinrich, a Lutheran New Testament scholar, says it well when she says:

“Simon Peter’s mother-in-law is far from being an exemplar of a pathetic, un-liberated woman for whom serving men is her whole life. Rather she is the first character in Mark’s gospel who exemplifies true discipleship. … …it will be women who are described as having served Jesus … as well. This is not a verb used of Jesus’ male disciples who famously do not quite “get it” within the gospel itself.”

Jesus raises us up – heals us – restores us so that we can participate in what God is doing in the world. So be of good courage. We all find ourselves feeling like dry grass or faded flowers from time to time. In those times, remember, those who wait upon the Lord will find renewed strength and restored hope. In Jesus we find one who gives new strength to those who are laid low by illness, unclean spirits, or even death. That promise is made and given new for you again today.

Amen.