... Ecclesiastes 2:26 ...
Cast your bread upon the waters,
for you will find it after many days.

Epiphany 5 – Year B, Message Feb 05th, 2012

Seeing God Again for the First Time

Text: Mark 1:29-39

Epiphany – the season of God’s self disclosure in the world is a time for people to reflect upon God, God’s goodness and greatness and to see God anew for the first time. We are invited to behold God to be amazed by God’s creation and then by extension God as the Supreme Being omnipotent omniscient and omnipresent.

In a recent email a friend sent to me there was an attachment directing me to go to a recent view of the earth from space. This incredible 4096 X 4096 resolution of the earth as seen from out there is stunning, breath-taking. It absolutely changes one’s view of our home! Ever since those first views from space captured our imagination some 60 years ago we have been awed by the details not just of earth but of our perceptions of our place in the scheme of the universe.

For most people the natural perspective is to see things in relationship to self. The people around us, the home, the objects in the community, the events of history: all are encountered as to their proximity to self and how they affect or impact on us. Our sense of visualization is all too oft confined to line-of-sight. From where we stand our senses bring us a tiny fraction of what is going on. Yet as we process the input we measure it as the whole dimension of our world. True, that as we move the horizon extends; as we peer down the microscope or telescope the world shrinks or expands proportionately; as we focus we center on specifics. But despite this we fail to unite all inputs into a single all encompassing view. It is really hard to grasp a vision of the whole. Sometimes we need a view from beyond to put us in perspective.

For one seeing that high resolution image of earth floating in a sea of blackness with specks of lights in the far distance brought forth a flash of realizations: the magnitude of the earth the beauty of the elements, the relative sizes of the various countries the minute sizes of cities compared to the whole and perhaps above all the insignificance of humans. We are not even visible in the picture. Despite this, seeing the earth there was a sense of “home”, a sense of comfort that all is as it should be, and how great is the One who conceived and brought into existence such a significant universe.

It was possibly from just such a realization that the author of the passage from Isaiah and the author of Psalm 147 wrote their messages – messages of praise and hope. Amid all that we are and that we endure – creation is good, the world is unfolding as it should and that despite any hardships and feelings of isolation we might experience – God is here; God is in control; and that God’s word and presence brings hope strength and peace.

The author of Isaiah 40, often called Second Isaiah, shows God in all God’s splendour and power as the creator and giver of life. Israel in exile in Babylon sees itself as having been abandoned by God. Self absorbed and existing in a communal despair the people lay the blame for their lot on God’s faithlessness. They have failed to see the big picture or for that matter the history of their nation leading up to the exile. Isaiah counters this with an attack on their sense of self centeredness shaking the people to see again the works of God’s hands. God created the heavens and earth governs the celestial bodies and battles evil on a scale beyond human comprehension. Nevertheless God also intrudes on the microscopic sphere of human history. Thus, just as God keeps tabs on the cosmos, God also pays attention to the elements of human needs. And that is a cause for celebration hope and strength.

The psalmist in an enthusiastic song of praise exhorts the listeners to Praise the Lord. God who puts the stars in the heavens is also the same God who saves those who are incapable of saving themselves. We are invited to look beyond our own senses of accomplishment our own sense of superiority and see what it is that God has done. And not just what God has done, but what God continues to do in the lives of individuals. So often humanity has seen life and indeed to some extent its history in the continuum of power and weakness: The pursuit of the former and avoidance of the latter. Those who are successful have power, those who are failures experience weakness. Such is the epitaph of humanity.

Not so says the psalmist. Human power is an illusion for there is only one real power and that Power is God. Only when humanity and individuals can surmount their self imposed sense of needing power can they let go and admit their need and dependence on God. Then and only then will there emerge hope: Then and only then will we again see God for the first time.

Mark’s Gospel seems to be all about this very seeing God anew. From the first healing miracle mentioned in last week’s reading to this healing miracle we are called to see God anew. Neither of the healings are exactly about healing but rather a deeper understanding of God’s presence. Last week we heard how the exorcism of the unclean spirit was an illustration pointing out the authority of Jesus’ preaching, this week we heard of the healing of Simon Peter’s mother-in-law as being the focus of truly hearing Jesus’ proclamation concerning the presence of the Kingdom of God.

In three scenarios, today’s reading takes us through the healing of Simon Peter’s mother-in-law and the healing of many in the community to the search for Jesus who has gone out to pray; and Jesus’ suggestion that they need to go to other towns to proclaim the message.

The story behind the stories so to speak is the inability of the people to see and understand Jesus either for who he is or for what he offers. Unlike Simon Peter’s mother-in-law who is healed and immediately wants to serve; the others including the disciples want further healings. They see Jesus as a healer and one who can cater to their immediate needs and concerns. Mark tells us that Jesus on the other hand sees that what is needed is really the message of the Kingdom of God being spread and appreciated. Explicit in Mark’s short healing miracle is that Simon’s mother-in-law had understood and responded, but neither the multitudes nor the disciples had seen what was important. In fact most of Mark’s gospel is a series of contrasts between a few who are in contact with Jesus and see God anew, and the many including the disciples who seem to be blinded by their own ignorance and arrogance as to God’s presence. The listener is invited to side with the few and see God anew and again for the first time!

May we through the workings of the Holy Spirit see God again for the first time as we journey through this Epiphany season.