Thus says the Lord:
Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob,
and raise shouts for the chief of the nations;
proclaim, give praise, and say,
“Save, O Lord, your people,
the remnant of Israel.”
See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north,
and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth,
among them the blind and the lame,
those with child and those in labor, together;
a great company, they shall return here.
With weeping they shall come,
and with consolations I will lead them back,
I will let them walk by brooks of water,
in a straight path in which they shall not stumble;
for I have become a father to Israel,
and Ephraim is my firstborn.
The Word of the Lord.
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
then were we like those who dream.
Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy.
Then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are glad indeed.
Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like the watercourses of the Negeb.
Those who sowed with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed,
will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.
The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office; but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he has no need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for those of the people; this he did once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high priests those who are subject to weakness, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.
The Word of the Lord.
The Holy Gospel according to Saint Mark 10:46-52
As [Jesus] and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
The Gospel of our Lord.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Wow – life has been intense lately – hasn’t it? Life just keeps bringing it these days – doesn’t it? The tough stuff just keeps coming and coming and coming . . . And then coming some more!
It would be so nice to catch a break – to get a lull – to have a moment to come up for air – wouldn’t it? It would be such a relief to be able to catch our collective breath. To have a pause before getting hit again.
These past months (closing in on 2 years now) have been hard on all of us. This pandemic is taking a toll. It is leaving permanent marks on our lives and our hearts and our very souls.
We are different. We have been changed.
I keep thinking of those “before and after” photo montages the news folks always seem to put together of our US presidents as they are about to leave office.
First up are the “before” pictures. In those pictures we see the happy – exultant – youthful – beaming man our great nation has just elected to lead us for the next 4 years. Those “before” pictures radiate vigor and optimism and vitality and joy.
Next up are the “after” pictures. And what do these “after” pictures reveal? Well – our fearless leader is a mere shadow of his former self. His hair is thinner and much – much whiter. There are dark circles under his eyes that even make-up can’t hide – and deep – deep frown lines have embedded themselves around the corners of his mouth.
Once upon a time – this man looked ready to take on the world – now he looks ready to take a nap!
I walked by my very own “before” picture this week. Cheryl has it posted in the hall outside the church offices. It is a “before the pandemic photo.” And I just stood there with a cup of coffee in 1 hand and a jumbo container of Pinesol in the other and sighed a big sigh. I had brown hair once . . . and then I went back to sipping my room temperature coffee. . .
Living through a pandemic has been many things. And I think it is safe to say that it has been challenging for most of us.
And – of course – all of the other things that have always made our lives complicated and challenging have kept right on happening too. It’s not like the pandemic started and we were just able to focus on coping with Covid-19. Nope – that didn’t happen. Covid-19 just added to the stress and complexity of our already very human lives.
The illnesses – the accidents – the arguments – the disappointments – the assignments – the bills – the diseases – the deaths – and all the rest just kept right on coming and coming and coming.
And all while we are trying to handle surges and waves and variants and change after change.
Life tends to be pretty complicated as it is and when you add in a global pandemic – well – it can all begin to feel downright overwhelming!
You know things are getting bumpy when an 8 year old sits you down for a heart to heart and he starts off by reminiscing about “the good old days.” I wasn’t sure that Will was old enough to have “good old days” yet?!? But – that is exactly what happened at our house this week when the littlest McFarland had suffered one Covid-19 disappointment too many.
Will needed to unburden himself. So we talked about “the good old days” – back when he was still 6 years old and none of us had even heard of Covid-19. Back when masks and vaccines and quarantines and pandemics and waiting weren’t part of our daily lives and lingo.
It broke my heart to hear someone so young longing for better – easier – less complicated times.
All of this hurt – all of this sorrow – all of this very human humanness can get just plain exhausting. It can wear us down. It can feel overwhelming.
It can make us feel lost and all alone in the world.
And yet – as Christians and people of faith – we know we are not alone in this world. Not even now in the midst of these especially difficult days.
Our God is with us! Our God is always with us!
The powerful words of the prophet Jeremiah remind us today (and every day) that our God will never leave us or forsake us or forget us. God is our loving – faithful father forever and always – even when (especially when) life is difficult. We are not in this life alone!
Yes – life in this very human world is filled with difficulties and diseases and pain and pandemics. Yes – life can be incredibly difficult sometimes – but God promises us that he is with us. That he will watch over us and deliver us.
Our God promises us hope. Hope for a brighter future. Hope for better days ahead.
God promises us that the stresses – difficulties – sorrows and pain we face in this time – in these more difficult days – do have the last word with God.
Our God promises us hope for the future.
Our Psalm for today boldly declares this hope to us (and for us).
Our God shall fill our mouths with laughter and our tongues with joy! And our weeping and our tears will be no more!
Let those words wash over you . . . laughter – joy – delight – gladness!
Your God is with you now. And God promises he will be with you for all eternity – leading you into the bright and glorious future that he has planned for you.
Truly this is Good News. AMEN.