Lectionary passages for Feb. 8, 2015. Isa. 40:21-31, Ps 147:1-11, 20, 1 Cor. 9:16-23, Mark 1:29-39
I have a sentimental connection with Isaiah 40:21-31. Verse 31 was my Dad's favorite verse. "...those who wait for the Lord will renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles..."
My Dad had a hard childhood and hurtful pieces of it stayed with him, leaking into all of life and requiring a constant, tiring struggle. I wonder if he loved this passage so much because of the hope it gives for grasshoppers to be lifted up like eagles.
Isaiah's imagery is awesome. The lowly grasshopper in verse 22 represents humanity. In some ways each of us is scarcely here on earth and in our short time we are but a tiny part of a massive pestilent horde. We wonder if we matter. We consume endlessly, and die too soon. Even our great rulers and minds and generals are as nothing, subject to the same diseases, desires, and dysfunctions as the lowliest grass-munchers among us. We are the unholy millions.
In contrast, God is the Holy One. The Creator. And the startling revelation is that God cares. In God, even the short lived grasshopper can dream of being lifted on eagles wings, above the turmoil, loved and strong in the Lord.
What an amazing hope. From grasshopper to eagle. From powerless wayward child to unfainting and valued adult. This is worth the struggle.
On a different note, the Corinthians passage continues on from what we read last week, and there is another "nugget" to consider as people of faith try to discern their way through potentially divisive issues. Here is Paul's famous "I have become all things to all people" statement. I've always struggled to understand this. It is an impossible statement, and not something to aspire to in any case-it sounds too waffley. But I think I've misunderstood. I don't think that Paul changes his basic tune according to the hearer.
Leaders in Paul's time were expected to 'blow their own horns', to tell people why they should be followed. Paul does something very different. He is not serving for any sort of personal gain or to fulfill the expectations of others, but for the sake of the good news. He becomes a servant to all and seeks to understand what matters to others. This is the nugget. In the discussion and discernment through any issue, each of us must seek to gain some understanding of those who disagree with us. We may not come to any decision that suits everyone, but whatever is done will be done with care and respect. When a true effort is made to understand the other, there will be enough empathy to temper disagreements and avoid the unalterable digging in of positions or the final burning of bridges.