Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Sermon: Even Eagle Scouts Grow Weary

Isaiah 40:21-31, Mark 1:29-39

In a combination of the scripture and scout Sunday – my title is in some ways a play on words. But it is also a reminder of the truth. No matter how awesome we are, all of us as human beings grow tired. Even a scout is tired after backpacking 15 miles in one day with a heavy pack through the Smokey Mountains – I know from experience!

Or watch a marathon runner. They get to the finish line and their legs start to give out, they wobble, they fall down, they collapse in physical exhaustion. 2012 Olympic marathon runner Desiree Davilla says that it takes her a full two weeks off from exercise to start to recover. Then she takes two more weeks very lightly. That’s one month.[1] As great a condition as these peak athletes are in, they hit the wall following this event, and their body has to recover.

The same is true even if we aren’t marathon runners or backpackers. In life, there will be times when we stumble, when we are tired, when we feel burnt-out. When we simply can’t go another step and we have to stop and rest. It doesn’t matter how amazing we are, it can happen. Nobody can go 100% all the time. Eventually we will collapse.

And we haven’t even talked about the other thing that Isaiah talks about, getting old. That happens to us all if we live long enough too. It is part of life. And as we age, our bodies eventually wear out. Our knees need to be replaced, our elbows hurt, our energy is less than it used to be, and we take more naps. Isaiah is reminding us, that no matter who we are: youths will grow weary and tired, young men will stumble. Given enough time – it will happen. That is part of being human.

Isaiah then contrasts us with God. You see, God’s strength is not like ours. God’s strength is everlasting.

God has been around from the beginning crafting and shaping the universe. Isaiah reminds us that every day the sun rises and sets without fail. That seeds are planted, root and grow because the breath of the Lord blows upon them. God’s strength is unending.

Isaiah then goes on to say that when we are confronted with this dichotomy: our weakness and God’s strength it is tempting to say “My way is hidden from the Lord, my God ignores my predicament.” In other words, we may think we shouldn’t grow tired if God is with us, and so if we do grow tired, God must be ignoring us. That is what the Israelites are saying in their troubled times when this was written. But it isn’t true –even if we feel abandoned and worn out, we are not ignored and unimportant. It is simply part of being human that we need rest. God doesn’t work by taking away our human limitations; rather, God works by restoring us through rest, through healing and through wholeness. God reminds us of our humanness, reminds us that we are not like God, and helps us to be at our best again.

So God’s strength is not one that takes away the struggles and the difficulties of life. God doesn’t make it so we can run a marathon without getting tired; instead God uses that strength to bring us healing and wholeness. God uses that month of rest to do miracles within our body, healing the bones, the cells, and restoring our strength.

The hardest part of this for us as humans is that oftentimes this healing and recovery do not happen until after we have already hit bottom. God’s timing is often not our timing. And yet the message of Isaiah to a people who have given up hope is of God’s ability to renew and restore, to bring about refreshment even after they have collapsed.

Just to help us understand that, let’s look at another passage. This is from the gospel of Mark, and it is about Jesus and his healings.

After leaving the synagogue, Jesus, James, and John went home with Simon and Andrew. Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed, sick with a fever, and they told Jesus about her at once. He went to her, took her by the hand, and raised her up. The fever left her, and she served them.

That evening, at sunset, people brought to Jesus those who were sick or demon-possessed. The whole town gathered near the door. He healed many who were sick with all kinds of diseases, and he threw out many demons. But he didn’t let the demons speak, because they recognized him.

Early in the morning, well before sunrise, Jesus rose and went to a deserted place where he could be alone in prayer. Simon and those with him tracked him down. When they found him, they told him, “Everyone’s looking for you!”

He replied, “Let’s head in the other direction, to the nearby villages, so that I can preach there too. That’s why I’ve come.” He traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and throwing out demons.

Listen to this quote from Bruce and Katherine Epperly, “Jesus was a pulsing center of divine power and energy. Like an electrical transformer, the energy of love flowed from Jesus toward persons in need of physical, relational, emotional, and spiritual healing. The power that emanated from his touch and presence was akin to the power of the big birth and the first light of creation, the primal energy that penetrates the darkness and brings forth life from God’s womb of creativity. Grounded in his unity with God, Jesus was the connective “vine” through whom God’s life-giving energy flowed abundantly to everyone he touched.” (SOS)

But he still needed to get away. His human body could only take so much. Even Jesus had to rest, he could only heal so many people, only put in so many hours of work, before he would collapse. Then what restored him was that connection with God, his time of prayer.

We also should be seeking that connection with that renewing and restoring power of God, especially when we are exhausted. Because that connection with that energizing touch of Christ is still available to us –

When we grow weary, tired; when we are in need of healing physically, emotionally or spiritually, we can reach out and be connected through the vine to our very creator -- the one who made the grasshoppers, the redwoods, and the stars in the heavens.

I can certainly give personal examples. There have been many times in life when I have been exhausted. There are days when I need to go home early. Days when visitations at the hospital, or when funerals and grieving families start to weigh heavy on my soul. There are days when I personally am struggling with depression. There was one stretch, one summer here when I did 10 funerals in 8 weeks. I was physically and mentally exhausted. I needed rest. But God didn’t leave me there. Over time with prayer, and with reconnection to the love of Christ, and allowing his love to refill me, and flow through me again, I was restored. It probably took days and weeks, perhaps even months to completely feel restored, but eventually it came. Vacations help! (That’s why I went away last week, I was feeling exhausted). That is part of being human. We run and we do fall down. We do grow tired.

But God does not abandon us. We can find ourselves renewed in strength, so that we can fly like the eagles, run and walk with growing weary (at least for a while).

God gives power to the tired, and revives the exhausted, brings healing to the sick, and hope to the downtrodden. When we hit bottom, when we collapse, that help and power is available to us. And we need to take advantage of it. We can connect to that life-giving energy, that primal power of the divine, and while it will not make us gods, it will revive us and give us renewed strength. Yes, it can take days, weeks, even months.

So when you are tired, it is okay. God hasn’t abandoned you. Rather, it is part of being human. Even Eagle Scouts Grow Weary. But know that God can restore you. And when the day comes when your body ultimately gives in to age and needs its final rest, God will restore you then too. Giving strength to your soul, healing to your spirit, and allowing you to mount up with wings like angels into the heavenly realm.


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