5th Sunday after Epiphany

February 6, 2000
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Isaiah 40:21-31
Reading 2: 
Psalm 147:1-11, 20c
Reading 3: 
1 Corinthians 9:16-23
Reading 4: 
Mark 1:29-39

While in captivity in Babylon, Israel was overwhelmed with powerlessness. In light of the power of the surrounding empires with their armies and strong economies, and given the shear vastness and complexity of the cosmos, how can God be God? Can one God control our destiny? The writer takes issue with this sense of powerlessness because it forgets what God has done in the past and who God is. "Why do you say, 'My way is hid from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God?'" vs 27

Calling them to task, the writer asks, Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? vs 22. Remember! says the writer. Remember it is God who is over the earth and its people and rulers. It is God who is above all. In the course of the poem, the writer clears away all the obstacles to trust in God for the future. Faith has to do with the future. The whole argument comes to a point in verses 27-31, where the writer holds God out as the only real God, the one above all else. The issue of the text is God's power.

It must be remembered that the form of the text is poetry. The language used to describe God is poetic language and is therefore metaphorical and suggestive. Images point to the nature of God, but do not limit the definition of the divine.

One word that has been used to describe such divine power is "sovereign." It is often defined as absolute power, controlling power, power over. However, this text is not confined to such a definition of sovereignty. From the perspective of Process Theology, power can be power with. It is renewing power, strengthening power, power that builds up and increases rather than diminishes the other. God's authority empowers the creatures. It is the kind of power that causes those who wait for the Lord to "mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint."

As it was in the Mark text for last Sunday, Jesus' ability to cast out demons is an issue, as well as his ability to heal. Jesus carries this power from the synagogue into a home. In verse 32 it is night, a time of greater vulnerability to demons and the power of darkness. It is then that the sick and demon possessed were brought to him. The point being that Jesus has authority over this realm of darkness and demon power.

As in the Isaiah text above, power is an issue with Jesus. He is able to access a power that astonishes those who witness it. It is a power that others don't have. It is the same kind of power that causes one to "mount up with wings like eagles." It is creative power; it flows from the Creator to the creature, to those who wait for the Lord.

The Good News is that this power is available to all. Those who follow Jesus can have access to this same power. Jesus uses the term "Kingdom of God" to define this realm of power. It can also be referred to as the reign of God. It is anywhere the power of God is recognised and worshipped.

Process Theology has a different understanding of power, so a helpful approach to the text from this perspective would be to talk about persuasive power as defining God's sovereignty. Many of the poetic images from the Isaiah text could be used. Most people feel small in relation to government, society and the world. It is easy to understand the sense of powerlessness expressed in the Isaiah text, verse 27. A sermon would draw out that powerlessness, and address that sense using the structure of the argument of the poem of Isaiah. The images pile up, one upon the other, making a strong case for the sovereignty of God. The sermon could define God's sovereignty as persuasive power. God's power is for us and not against us. Faith and encouragement are the goal of the argument.

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