Sunday, February 8, 2015

Wait for the Lord

The Rev. Robert P. Travis th
5​th Sunday of Epiphany Sermon – 7:45 (exclude parenthetical sections), 9 and 11:15am Service, Church of the Ascension, Knoxville TN
Scripture Text: Isaiah 40:21­31, Psalm 147:1­12,21c, 1 Corinthians 9:16­23, Mark 1:29­-39 

Sermon Text:
I imagine for some of us,
Maybe as many as half of us,
Hearing the beginning of our Gospel reading today Caused some eye rolling,
As we hear the account of a woman who was sick Peter’s mother­-in­-law,
And when she was healed,
what did she do?
She did what women have for so long been compelled to do.
She got up and began to serve her male guests.

That may make us laugh, or grimace, But the message of our scripture today Is found, in part, in that very moment.
Serving each other,
Whether you’re a woman or a man,
Is a significant part of what God puts us here to do. But the part that makes us groan about that joke,
Is that many of the women among us,
And not a few of the men,
Often feel overburdened by the service
We feel obligated to provide.
If we’re honest with ourselves, for some of us,

who find ourselves serving all the time, we don’t let others serve us.
Notice what Jesus did not do,
after Peter’s Mother­-in­-Law was healed. and she began serving them,
he did not stop her,
or say she shouldn’t serve him.

That overburdened feeling we sometimes have also directly has to do,
With the amount that we rest with God,
and let him renew us.

Many of us, myself included,
Have noticed times when we are seeking God’s help Is only when we’re in crisis.
Sometimes we’re in crisis,
because we haven’t taken the time apart
to wait and be renewed,
and we’ve gotten so caught up in the demands
of the world around us, that we don’t even rest.
And sometimes our crises get so far along
That we are literally forced to rest,
like when we’re sick.
Like Peter’s mother­in­law,
Lying in bed with a fever,

and waiting to be restored, when Jesus lifted her up.
(Take for example those people,
who are so harried by all their communications, that they send and read texts while they’re driving. As the commercial says in warning,
“it can wait.”
But so often we get so caught up in things
that we think it can’t wait, or we can’t wait,
and then we end up in a crisis, or a crash.)

Jesus, in our Gospel reading,
shows us another example.
Things are going great for him at this point
In Mark’s account, he leaves the synagogue With people amazed
And enjoys some fellowship with his disciples in Simon and Andrew’s house.
In the evening a crowd gathers bringing to him those who need his healing work,
and he works faithfully to cure many of them. So things are going well,
the whole town is crowding around him
to see him and listen to him.
Jesus is experiencing success,
and we can imagine the temptation

to keep on helping people and fulfilling all their requests.
And what does he do?
He goes out by himself, finds a deserted place where he can be alone and he seeks his Father,
He prays.
One might say he went on a spiritual retreat.
It doesn’t take much for us to imagine
that Jesus feels strengthened and renewed
by this time apart.

So when his disciples come looking for him,
And they find him, they’re anxious to get him back to all those people who need him.
But he has gained clarity of vision about the next steps of his mission,
And he tells them his next step
is to go on to the neighboring towns
so that he can proclaim the message there also. The renewal and strengthening that Jesus receives In his time of prayer, still results in his
Serving other people, but without compulsion, Instead with an understanding of his mission
and the next steps of fulfilling his purpose.
Jesus shows us the understanding of the attitude, “it can wait.”

“they can wait”
So I can wait on the Lord.

All of this was prophesied by Isaiah
Hundreds of years before this story,
(There we see in the first part of the passage
That it is this great God
Who manages all of creation,
Even though we are as small as grasshoppers,
He calls us by name.
“Because he is great in strength,
Not one is missing.”
The prophecy challenges us, “O Jacob, O Israel” In other words, “O my people.”
Why are we inclined to think he doesn’t care,
That our ways are hidden from the Lord,
And that the things we do are disregarded by God? That is not the case.
Have we not heard?)
Even though we don’t understand God,
He does not grow faint,
But gives power to the faint,
Strengthens us when we are weak and powerless. And we hear in that beautiful and beloved verse, “those who wait for the LORD
shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles.”

Can you see that is exactly what Jesus did, After healing all those people,
He waited for the LORD,
and had his strength renewed.

(Then we heard of Paul’s example
In that difficult passage, for those of us who serve That Paul sought to be “all things to all people,
So that by all means he might save some.”
But the only way Paul was able to do that,
Was by waiting for the Lord,
That verse gets downplayed by all who would serve, because we know it is impossible
to be all things to all people.
That compulsion is a sure recipe for burnout.
But the truth is what Paul did is only
possible with God’s strength.
None of us are called to be all things to all people, But all of us are called to rely on the Lord
For the strength to serve others.)

Even Jesus needed to make and take time apart, Even though there were more that wanted him,
More people who needed him, his time and presence. The demands of the world can wear you out,

But you don’t have to let it.
You can still be faithful, and take time for renewal

In fact, we might need to take time for renewal
In order to be faithful to our various callings.
As you know,
I was given time to seek the Lord last fall.
And I am still coming to terms with how Necessary that renewal was for my service to God.

But I learned a great deal from those lay people, I met on my retreats at St. Benedict’s monastery. One might think that more clergy than lay
Take these kinds of retreats,

But I found each time that of the 21 participants, Only a few were clergy.
The rest were faithful lay people in various professions, and from varied churches

seeking a regular time of waiting on the Lord,
and being with him in silent prayer.
Many of these people take such a retreat every year, And some take shorter retreats more often.

Sure some were in times of personal crisis, But most were coming from a good place. One was even just married.
What these people taught me.
Was how important it is for all followers of Jesus to take time apart to be alone with God,
in good times as well as bad.

It is in seeking God, in rest and retreat,
That we find the strength God provides,
So that we can serve one another in Jesus name, So that we can be lifted up by Jesus
And through him made faithful
to our varied callings,
Whether that is as a student, a professional,
A husband, a wife, a parent
Or even a mother­-in­-law.