The sermon for week February 08, 2015
How Could You Not Know?Sermon “How Could You Not Know?” February 8, 2015
Isaiah 40:21-31 & Mark 1:21-29-20
There are two images in this Isaiah text that I want to draw to your attention, that of the eagle (verse 31) and that of the grasshopper (verse 22). Which one image peaks your imagination more? For me it is the eagle and for others also. Think of the familiar song, “Rise up on Eagles Wings,” a reference to this text, Isaiah 40:31. TO my knowledge no one has written the song, “Rise up on Grasshopper wings.”
The Eagle. When I graduated from high school, the year was 1979. Here in Ohio Eagles were very rare. There were only 4 nesting pairs. The use of DDT in pesticides led to thin shells in the eagles and their population plummeted. By 1976 they were declared an endangered species. One of those nesting pairs had nested just north of the Davis Besse nuclear power plant. I remember taking a road trip in college to see that nest with the hopes of sighting the eagle. What a joy it has been to see the Eagle make a comeback. Now there are 190 known nesting pairs in Ohio. Now along the Maumee and other rivers. A walk last summer in side cut park 3 eagles. Always a thrill to see in flight, flash of the white tail or white head of the adult bird.
A friend of mine, whose family owned a farm and on that farm was a large pond, one of those ponds created when an overpass along the adjacent interstate was being built. He enjoyed kayaking on the pond. Towards dusk one evening, as he sat on the water in his kayak, he saw this eagle fly in and proceed to make a pass around the pond looking for a meal. As it did so, a crow, whose nest was on a tree at one corner of the pond flew out and proceeded to pester the eagle to get it to fly on. Flew above and dove from above and picked at the back of the eagle, flew back up eagle persisted, the crow returned and did it again, the eagle persisted. The crow came a third time. What happened next left my friend in absolute amazement. This time when the crow dove at the eagle, right before the crow reached the eagle, the eagle flipped over and with its back to the earth and its talons facing the sky, it grabbed the crow with its talons and then flipped back over and threw the crow straight towards the water. My friend said that crow fell about 20 feet before it recovered and when it did it made a beeline for home. The gift of flight and the ability to do aerial acrobatics like that is just amazing to me. It gives new meaning to the Isaiah’s words, “they shall mount up with wings like eagles.”
Isaiah gets our imaginations going with the eagles, but then the prophet offers us something even greater than that if we have eyes to see.
This brings me to the lowly grasshopper. Grasshoppers fascinated me as a kid. On certain hot summer days, I vividly remember walking through dry fields of grass, grass with grasshoppers darting this way and that. And the feel of their feet when one inadvertently landed on my skin. The memory of that feeling from 40+ years ago is as vivid today as if it just happened yesterday.
Where Isaiah lifts up the eagle, in contrast he speaks of the grasshopper as being small and inconsequential, not amounting to much. Even though the grasshopper is special in its own way, with its amazing jumping ability, its 5 eyes, 3 of which are simple but the two larger ones very complex. But when compared to the eagle, the grasshopper seems inconsequential.
If you had to pick where are you in this story. I want to soar like the eagle but on most days I feel much more like the small grasshopper.
But therein lies our hope, the hope of the grasshopper. We are so focused on the soaring like the eagle that we miss the real point that Isaiah is making. This point lies in verse 31. Verse 31 is a triplet. A line or phrase that is repeated three times but with a slight change each time. In Hebrew poetry, when a triplet is used the emphasis grows from the first to the last. In other words, the last line is more important than the middle line, and the middle line is more important than the first line. So why did Isaiah begin with us mounting up with wings like eagles, then running and not growing weary, and finally walking and not fainting. Isaiah knows that it is only rare days when we get to soar like eagles, but every day we find ourselves walking what can be a very tiring path. The hope that the prophet is offering us is for our daily grind. This God of ours, this God who was there before there was a Big Bang, who set the galaxies in motion. It is this same God who sets the electrons in motion around the nuclei of the Oxygen atom, the very oxygen that we breathe in with every breath we take. this God who is so big still cares enough about us, about you, to come close to us to lift us up when we cannot soar, when cannot run, and comes close to keep us from fainting when our day gets long and we think we cannot go any farther or take any more. It is in those moments that our God comes close and lifts us up.
Have you not heard?