Rev’d Jonathan Gale
- Isaiah 40: 21-311
- Corinthians 9: 16-23
- Mark 1: 29-39
I’m glad there’s a baptism on today because at its heart baptism is a powerful symbol for our learning to bury our own and utterly inadequate self-sufficiency and learning to live in the resurrection life of Christ – in other words learning to make use of (in the best sense of that word) the power of Jesus.
We all get weary in life and for all sorts of reasons: it might be
- Undetectable levels of infection in the complexity of our biochemistry
- The impact of our mental state on our bodies
- Poor nutrition
- Lack of sleep
- Overwork – any number of factors
But there is a weariness that is associated with spiritual warfare. Now when one mentions spiritual warfare many people think of comic-book illustrations of alien-like demons, or something akin to that. What I am speaking about is the subtle opposition that everyone who seeks to please God will experience, whatever its source. The important thing is it’s real and if we don’t learn to live out our baptism we are going to grow weary indeed.
Of course many people chicken out altogether and simply give up because the going is tough. This is more common than you’d think. It’s in the same camp as those who say, “Don’t change anything until I’m dead.” Self-centredness is no stranger to the human condition.
Jesus knew that his source of strength lay not in a call upon his divinity but in his relationship with the Father. Hence in our Gospel reading we read that when the whole city was gathered around the door and Jesus had spent days preaching, healing and delivering of demons, 35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.
The disciples begin to wonder where he was. 36And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37When they found him, they said to him, ‘Everyone is searching for you.’
Jesus doesn’t explain himself. He is renewed in the power of God gleaned in prayer and he looks to the task in hand. 38He answered, ‘Let us go on to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.’
Prayer provides us with the strength to be useful and active in life because it enables us to draw on the power of God – literally on the resurrection power of Christ – symbolised by the rising up out of the water in baptism.
Isaiah gets a bit impatient with the people of Judah. 21 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?
C’mon people! Shake up your memory a bit. You’ve been told this from the beginning.
Clearly they have been growing a bit weary. More specifically they think God has lost sight of them. 27 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’?
They feel the burden of being God’s people and they are feeling weakened.
And the prophet responds with these beautiful and profound words,
28 Have you not known? says Isaiah to those who feel weakened and abandoned by God. 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.
29 He gives power to the faint,
and strengthens the powerless.
30 Even youths will faint and be weary,
and the young will fall exhausted;
31 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.
Prayer is, more than anything a waiting upon God. When we have
- wrestled with why we are not managing to twist God’s arm to our will, when we have
- wondered why God is apparently deaf to our pleas, when we are
- beginning to falter from weariness, and we think we have
- reached the end of our tethers; then we
- wait on God,
- acknowledging our wilful efforts to do our thing in our strength, and
- Let Him be Lord, the One who sets us on His path, in His strength.
God’s patience is more often than not about his waiting for the right time that will see the best for us in our weariness. And this happens not instantly but in God’s time as we learn to let our own ways go under the water in burial and take on the resurrection life of Jesus
This gives me no ground for boasting, as Paul says in the epistle, for I now operated in God’s strength, not my own.
It is in prayer that the cross makes sense, not merely as a means of getting into heaven, but as a way of life – a life that learns to put to death the instinctual and self-centred; and it is in prayer that we draw near to the God who loves nothing more than to pour His power into our lives that they may please him and bring life and joy to us.