Revised Common Lectionary: Isaiah 40:21-31; Psalm 147:1-11, 20c; Mark 1:29-39; 1 Corinthians 9:16-23

The prophet Isaiah, speaking to a people in exile about the promise of return, reminds the people that their God is the Creator of the earth, the same God who has been with them since the beginning of time, and God will never abandon them. The refrain, “Have you not known? Have you not heard?” is repeated in this passage rhetorically to remind the people that this is what their Scriptures have told them, what the songs they sing are all about, what the stories they tell their children all mean: God is the Creator, and that those who wait upon God, who don’t give up, will be renewed and restored by God: “They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (vs 31).

Psalm 147 echoes this call found in Isaiah to remember that God is always with us. It is God who carries us in our darkest hour and difficult trials; it is God who is the Creator of heaven and earth. We must remember, rely, and trust in God to be there when we face challenges and struggles, for God’s steadfast love remains forever for those who have hope in God.

The passage from Mark’s Gospel continues to share the details of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry: Jesus visits Peter’s mother-in-law, and after taking her by the hand, her fever leaves her and she begins to serve him. Then afterwards, many people are brought to him who are sick and who have demons. Jesus gets up the next morning while it is still dark and goes off to a deserted place to pray. And when the disciples find him and tell him, “Everyone is searching for you,” Jesus tells them it is time to go off to other neighboring towns. And that is how Jesus’ message is spread throughout Galilee. Jesus doesn’t stay just in one place, but goes out to the people. Jesus brings healing and hope, but Jesus, fully human and fully divine, also takes time away from others to pray. Even Jesus needed time and space for renewal.

Paul proclaims in 1 Corinthians 9:16-23 that his role is to proclaim the Gospel for the sake of Jesus Christ, not for his own gain. Paul works for God, not for any earthly boss. Paul by his example shows that humility is the way to leading others to Christ, not one’s own personal gain–Paul becomes more Jewish to those who are Jewish, to the weak he becomes weak–he becomes all things to all people, as Christ laid down his life for us, so Paul shows by example how we ought to live and lay down our ego, lay down our very lives, so that others might hear the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In the busy-ness of the world we live in it is easy to just go, go, go. We fill up our lives with day-to-day tasks and duties; we fill up our time with Facebook and internet shopping and other things. At times we feel overwhelmed and our lives feel like they are out of control, and we may wonder where is God? Where is God when our boss tells us we need to pull more hours this week. Where is God when our children are failing a class and we don’t have enough time to work with them on their homework? Where is God when a loved one becomes ill and there are mountains of paperwork to fill out and insurance forms to navigate?

Have you not known? Have you not heard? God is always with you. Sometimes, we need to remember to slow down and find that quiet space to feel God’s presence again. Jesus certainly knew this by leaving in the early morning before the sun was up, and sought God’s presence in prayer.

Paul also lived a busy life, but Paul remembers that his boss ultimately is Jesus. Paul devotes his life to live for others so that they might come to know Christ. Paul declares that he does not do this for his own gain, but for Christ–so there is no earthly reward to be concerned about, but instead Paul lives his life to share the Good News.

In the busy world we live in today, we need to remember both that God is always with us, and sometimes we need to slow down and wait for God’s presence; and we also need to focus our lives on living for Christ rather than living for earthly rewards and success.

Call to Worship:
Leader: Have you not known? Have you not heard?
People: God is the one who created heaven and earth.
Leader: Have you not known? Have you not heard?
People: God has planted seeds deep within that are growing.
Leader: Have you not known? Have you not heard?
People: God does not grow weary or exhausted.
Leader: Have you not known? Have you not heard?
People: God is the one who restores and renews us.
All: Let us worship God who raises us up, like the wings of eagles.

Prayer of Confession:
Holy God, we confess that we allow the busy-ness of the world to consume our lives. We get caught up in circles of drama and personal conflict. At times such things consume all of our time and energy. Forgive us, God, for losing focus of Your call on our lives to love our neighbors as ourselves. Forgive us, Lord, when we forget the great suffering in the world of homelessness and hunger, disease and war, and instead are worried about what others say and do that has no meaning in the greater world. Forgive us, God, for not paying attention to things much more important. Turn our eyes back to You, back to our brothers and sisters in the world in need. Call us into the ways of Christ, the one who laid down his life for us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon (from Isaiah 40:31b and 2 Corinthians 4:16):
We shall run and not be weary, we shall walk and not faint. We do not lose heart; though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. We are renewed and restored, forgiven and loved. Go and live out the Good News. Amen.

Prayer:
Author of Salvation, You have written the new covenant into our hearts, so that we might no longer say “Know the Lord” for we know You are with us. Turn us away from the pace of the world and tune us to the pace of Your life, the rhythm of creation, where rest is part of the cycle, where solitude and quiet have their part and place in our daily lives. Call us into the ways of Your love and grace, and help us to be more loving and grace-filled people in the world we work and live in. In the name of Jesus, who writes the book of life, we pray. Amen.

Music Suggestions:
“On Eagle’s Wings” comes to mind for the obvious scriptural reference, but “What a Friend We Have In Jesus” would be a great hymn choice for this Sunday as well. Songs that remind us of God’s strength, of turning back to God, and of relying and trusting in Jesus are appropriate for this Sunday.

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