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Restored and Restoring

(Psalm 147, Isaiah 40:21-31, 1 Corinthians 9:16-23, Mark 1:29-39)

The scripture passages read today share good news with us.  Here is the good news that each shares.

 

Isaiah 40:21-31

The Isaiah passage reports that, “[The Lord] gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless.   Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (40:28b-31).

 

Psalm 147

Psalm 147 proclaims that our God is gracious.  He gathers the outcasts.  He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.  He lifts up the downtrodden.

1 Corinthians 9:16-23

When we hear Paul’s words in his first letter to the Corinthians, where he describes the rights and duties of an apostle, we remember that at one time he didn’t even know Jesus Christ.  Before he met Jesus on the road to Damascus, he was a persecutor and murderer of Christians.  Once he had met Jesus, however, he realized how wrong he had been to persecute or murder anyone.  He was freed from categorizing and oppressing people.  Paul’s encounter with Jesus enabled him to see that there are no true distinctions between people.  It enabled him to understand that the truest thing about us is that we are more alike than different.

 

Mark 1:29-39

The passage from the Gospel According to Mark tells two good news stories.  The first is the amazing story of Jesus’ healing of Simon’s mother-in-law.  While she was sick in bed with a fever, Jesus came to her, took her by the hand, and lifted her up.  The fever left her.  The second is the story of Jesus going off by himself to pray.  In the time he had alone with God in prayer, Jesus found renewed direction and energy for his mission.

 

All these scripture passages share good news with us.  The good news is that our God is a God who restores us.  He heals us of what ails us.  He gathers the outcasts; he heals the brokenhearted; he lifts up the downtrodden; he gives power to the faint; he strengthens the powerless; he frees the sinner; he heals the sick; and he renews the weary.  Our God is a God who restores us. 

 

Yes, the scripture passages read today share good news with us.  Yet, I want to draw your attention to a quote by John Henry Jowett, who lived from 1864-1923 and was a prominent preacher and pastor.  Jowett said, “God does not comfort us to make us comfortable, but to make us comforters.”  We could just as accurately say, “God does not restore us to make us restored, but to make us restorers.”  You see, God has a two-pronged approach to his restoration project.  He restores us for our sake, but he also restores us for his sake.  God restores us not only so that we are restored, but also so that we may serve him and help to restore others and the world.  I bet you knew that was coming, didn’t you?  Nothing’s free, right?

 

Well, that’s not exactly true.  God’s grace is free.  Once restored, we don’t have to serve him.  Nope – we can go on our merry way if we want to.  What usually happens, though, is that once we are restored, we are so full of thanks and praise that we want to serve God.  Serving God is a joy, not an obligation.  It is a way of life, not a job to fill.  Paul describes his condition as one who has been restored in this way:  “For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them [to Christ]. . . .  I do it . . . for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings (1 Cor. 9:19, 23).  It is a joy, not an obligation; a way of life, not a job to fill.

 

God restores us so that we can join his universal restoration project as we serve him and his creation.  Let’s review the ways this happened in the scripture passages today.

 

Jesus restored Simon’s mother-in-law and she got up from her bed to serve her guests.  She served God by giving her guests – who were Jesus and his disciples – a place to rest, food to eat, and water and wine to drink.  She served God by serving his disciples.

 

Jesus restored Paul and Paul served God by becoming an apostle, one who is sent out to transmit the message of the good news of God’s kingdom revealed in Jesus Christ.  Basically, Paul was an evangelist, one who proclaims good news.  Paul did not engage in violence from that point on.

 

God restored Jesus so that he could continue in his mission and fulfill God’s will.  While Jesus was off by himself praying, Simon and the other disciples hunted for him and found him.  They told him that everyone was searching for him and that he better get back to them.  But Jesus didn’t go back to them.  Instead, he went on to the neighboring towns so that he could proclaim his message in those places, because, he said, “that is what I came out to do” (Mk 1:38).  Even though his disciples pressured him to give the people what they wanted, Jesus did what he believed God would have him do.

 

As we can see, Simon’s mother-in-law, Paul, and Jesus were restored and then went on to serve and thus restore others and the world.  The scripture passages today really do give us good news.  When we’re broken, God restores us.  When we’re restored, God calls us into the service of his restoration project.  Both of those statements are good news.  Amen.

 

Sermon preached by the Rev. Amy Johnson, Canton Community Baptist Church, Canton, CT, Sunday, February 4, 2024, the Fifth Sunday After Epiphany.

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