I've had two weeks off preaching at the main services, but this week it's back to the job with a vengeance as both my ministerial colleagues are elsewhere. Over the past fortnight I've been busy busy – and in the run-up to Lent things don't look a lot calmer, so I wondered if there'd be any space for the readings to speak to me this morning..and what did I find but one of my favourite bits of Isaiah...those wonderful eagles' wings.
I've never seen an eagle in flight, but I'll never forget reading someone else's account of watching one from above, while standing on a high cliff top. The eagle rose effortlessly, not seeming to move its wings at all, riding the thermals that bore it aloft.I'm told that without at least some level of wind or air current they can barely fly at all – certainly, they're not designed to flap and flutter. So in waiting on the Lord, we are carried ourselves...lifted in a way that our own frantic flapping can never achieve (speaking entirely personally here, I'm sure...nobody else runs around chasing their own tail quite as manically as I do, surely?). Instead of wearying ourselves and those around us, Isaiah's words encourage us to look at the evidence of God's care in creation and know that our own struggles are noted by the one who counts each star and checks that they are all in the proper place. That's not down to us...Isn't that wonderful? Creation can get along just fine without our running ourselves into the ground to take care of it!
In the Gospel, we have Jesus engaged in frantic activity...Look at all those “ands” in verses 33/34..it's like a child coming in from an exciting day out“and then we did this...and then...and then...” It's exhausting. And then it all stops. That busyness ceases just as surely as life in the UK ground to a halt in yesterdays snow storms. It stopped not because Jesus was dis-abled, but because he was enabling his own ministry.
Jesus gets up early to pray...
It is his turn to wait upon his Father and renew his own strength.
I'm struck too by the fact that Peter's m-i-l actually lives out the Isaiah passage in reverse. She regains her strength and rises from her bed to wait upon Jesus...I'm wondering if that's what our healing should be all about – we are healed and strengthened to serve. That's what happens to Paul as well...Healed by his encounter, he dedicates himself to serving God through preaching the gospel. As the hymn puts it
“Strengthen for service, Lord, the hands That holy things have taken”
And what could be more healing than an encounter with the Living God in the bread and wine of Eucharist?We wait upon the Lord as we gather for worship.We meet him and our strength is renewed.
That's where the eagles wings are carrying me this morning. What about you?