Sunday, February 08, 2015

Grasshoppers, Gravity, and a Really Great Story

Listen here!

Isaiah 40:21-31 (NRSV)
Mark 1:29-39  (NRSV)

Welcome to the fifth Sunday of Epiphany, the second to last Sunday before Lent. In the tradition of epiphany, we have read yet another story from Mark about the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles.

It’s a whopper of a text. Chock full of demon possession and deadly diseases and even a Christ who goes AWOL. The Old Testament text from Isaiah is a little easier to swallow except that the God who once called us the cream of the crop, humanity: the pinnacle of creation (in Genesis 1) is now reminding us that it is God who takes down the rulers of the earth and we, God’s creation, are like little grasshoppers in comparison. :)

Literature is the best. So many ways of communicating how we feel or how we feel God feels, or whatever.

I wonder if it was this passage from Isaiah that inspired Mary Oliver to pen “The Summer Day.”

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Hard to make much of your life when you’re lying in bed dying from a fever though. This, of course, was the predicament of Simon Peter’s mother-in-law in the Mark passage.

Aside from the dying part, this is a great story. We learn that Simon Peter has a family - he’s one of the few disciples who was married. And he brings his new friends and new messiah to his house, to stay with his family. As such, it is in Simon Peter’s home that Jesus performs his first healing miracle. It’s the second miracle and the first healing the disciples witness after having left everything - jobs, girls, family, their favorite spot to watch the sun set - to follow Jesus on this crazy vagabond adventure.