Worship for Sunday, February 7, 2021

Isaiah 40:21-31

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?  
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?  
It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;  
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, 
and spreads them like a tent to live in;  
who brings princes to naught, and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.  

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.  

To whom then will you compare me,
or who is my equal? says the Holy One.  
Lift up your eyes on high and see:
Who created these?  
He who brings out their host and numbers them, 
calling them all by name;  
because he is great in strength, 
mighty in power, not one is missing.  

Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel,  
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
and my right is disregarded by my God”?  
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.  
He does not faint or grow weary; 
his understanding is unsearchable.  
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.  

The Word of the Lord.

Psalm 147:1-11, 20c

 Hallelujah! How good it is to sing praises to our God!
How pleasant it is to honor God with praise!
The Lord rebuilds Jerusalem,
  and gathers the exiles of Israel.
 The Lord heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
The Lord counts the number of the stars
  and calls them all by their names.
 Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
there is no limit to God’s wisdom.
The Lord lifts up the lowly,
  but casts the wicked to the ground.
 Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;
make music upon the harp to our God,
who covers the heavens with clouds
  and prepares rain for the earth, making grass to grow upon the mountains.
 God provides food for the cattle
and for the young ravens when they cry.
God is not impressed by the might of a horse,
  and has no pleasure in the speed of a runner,
 but finds pleasure in those who fear the Lord,
in those who await God’s steadfast love.  Hallelujah!  Amen.

1 Corinthians 9:16-23

Saint Paul writes – If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission. What then is my reward? Just this: that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel.

For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.

The Word of the Lord.

I love this cross in the evening sky . . .

The Holy Gospel according to Saint Mark 1:29-39

As soon as [Jesus and the disciples] left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And Jesus cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and Jesus would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

In the morning, while it was still very dark, Jesus got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” Jesus answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

The Gospel of our Lord.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Last year was so incredibly hard.  Seriously – painfully hard.  And this year – the year we were all looking forward to with so much hope – is proving to be awfully difficult too.  Hope is on the horizon – but some days the horizon feels so very – very far away.  Quite frankly – some days hope feels just plain elusive. 

It is hard to stay hopeful when we are feeling so lonely.  Even those of us who don’t live alone are starting to feel the loneliness.  Our hearts long for our family and friends.  We miss our sisters and brothers in Christ and our classmates and even our casual acquaintances. 

Phone calls and Zoom gatherings and Google Meets just can’t take the place of a good old-fashioned face to face chat.  Or a long lingering conversation over supper with friends.  Remember coffee hour at church?  Or hugs. (Weren’t hugs awesome?)

We are so tired of masks and social distancing.  We long for connection and it is really hard to do that from 6 feet away!

Not to mention how wearing a mask or not wearing a mask has become so divisive in our society.  Almost every time I go to the grocery store – I see someone who is not wearing a mask.  This makes me so very sad some days and honestly on my bad days it makes me angry.  (I am such a very – very human – human being!)

The past 12 months have been nothing but change after change after change!  And change is hard for most of us.  (Honestly – most of us struggle to do more than change a light bulb.)  It seems like almost every aspect of our lives has changed in some way over the past 12 months.

So – it isn’t all that surprising that many of us are feeling exhausted these days.  We are exhausted by the changes and the challenges and the cancellations. 

And most of all we are exhausted by the fear and the grief.  Covid-19 is just plain scary.  This disease has claimed 450 thousand precious human lives in our country and well over 2 million 200 thousand precious human lives world-wide.  It is hard to comprehend so much loss – so much grief – so much pain.  We are exhausted by the sorrow.  This year has brought so much pain and grief and suffering and loss.

Enough is enough is enough already. 

We are exhausted.  We feel so lonely.  We are sad.  Our hearts ache.  Some days it just feels like too much.  We long for hope. 

And hope is exactly what we receive in our first reading from the Prophet Isaiah for this week.  The Prophet Isaiah boldly declares to us – “Have you not known?  Have you not heard?  Has it not been told to you from the very beginning” of your life – that the very same mighty – awesome – glorious – amazing God who rules over the heavens – loves you and cares for you?  The God who created everything in the universe from nothing – knows you and loves you!

Think about that!  Imagine that.  Ponder that for a moment. . . Let that really and truly wash over you and sink in – way in.

The God who made the Earth on which we all live – knows you!  God really and truly knows you.  God knows you and calls you by name (Isaiah 40:28).  You are not a number or a statistic to God the Father.  You are wonderfully and gloriously – you – to God.  He knows you for who you are!

Jesus tells us in the Gospel of Luke (12:7) that God knows us so well that he knows the number of hairs we each have on our heads!  Now I like to think that I know – love – and treasure Jason and our sons – but I have absolutely – positively no idea how many hairs they have on their heads.  I don’t even know how many hats they own (and I knit most of them . . .)  But their heavenly Father knows.  God knows how many hairs we all have on our heads.  In fact – God knows all of us better than we know ourselves – because none of us know that about ourselves!

And God doesn’t just know us.  He loves us and promises to care for us.

God is faithful.  God is with us – even when life is really – really hard. 

Hear again the words of the Prophet Isaiah – “The Lord is the everlasting God – the Creator of the ends of the earth.  God does not grow weary.  God gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. . . those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like an eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

The God who created the heavens and the earth is with us.  Our God is faithful.  God promises to strengthen us and care for us and watch over us.  God promises us that we are never alone.   Even now when we are feeling exhausted and weary and afraid God is with us.  But even more than that – God promises to strengthen us when we are weary.  God promises to give us what we need to get through these challenging times.  God promises to renew our strength. God is always faithful and you are always in God’s perfect loving care.  He will strengthen you and renew your strength.  He will watch over you and love you with a perfect love for all eternity.  Truly this is Good News – AMEN.

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