Is God too great to care? (Year B, 8 February 2015)

Readings
Isaiah 40.21–31
Mark 1.29–39

Isaiah the prophet gives us a grand, a great, a wonderful, image of God today; a God

who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to live in;…

God is a God of greatness and power. God needs no sleep, God is the Holy One, the Sovereign One. God disposes of the fearsome, powerful leaders of the nations:

Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows upon them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble.

Well may God say:

To whom then will you compare me, or who is my equal?… The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.

God is infinitely above us, God is infinitely beyond us. We just can never know what makes God ‘tick’. We are only created beings. We have a beginning, and we have an end.

Butt when Isaiah says that God looks on us like grasshoppers, does that mean God is so great, so powerful, that we are nothing in God’s sight?

Is it like the cosmologists who tell us how many billions of galaxies there are, how totally mind-bogglingly strange and huge the universe is, that even if there is a god or a creative force of some kind then we just don’t matter to it at all? That we’re mere nothings, less than specks of cosmic dust?

This is an argument that has been used by people who don’t believe in God. If there is a God, they say, he is so great that he is totally indifferent to us. Very simply put—too simply put, really—it says that God has so much to do, why would he bother with the likes of us?

You know, that sounds like what some of the people said in Isaiah’s day:

My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God…

I can imagine Isaiah’s audience responding to him. Isaiah, you say the heavens are God’s tent! You say that God sits above the circle of the earth, and we look like grasshoppers to God. Well, we crush grasshoppers without a thought. God doesn’t care about us!

And aren’t there times when we’ve all wondered if that’s true? Someone we love dies, we lose a job, the doctor says that we have a serious illness. Does God really care? Doesn’t he have ‘too much to do’ to bother with us?

Psalm 147 also praises God’s greatness. God

determines the number of the stars;
he gives to all of them their names.
Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
his understanding is beyond measure.

When the psalmist said that, he was amazed by God keeping count of a few thousands of stars. He had no possible idea how many gazillions of stars there are in how many trillions of galaxies.

How much more amazed should we be, we believers in God in the 21st century?

Is God too great to care about tiny beings like us who spend a brief amount of time on a rocky planet, orbiting an ordinary star in an ordinary galaxy?

Well, both Isaiah and the psalmist say an emphatic No to that. In fact, part of God’s greatness is that God does care. According to Isaiah, God

gives power to the faint,
and strengthens the powerless.

Psalm 147 goes further. God

He heals the brokenhearted,
and binds up their wounds.…
the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,
in those who hope in his steadfast love.

There are times in life when we are powerless. I felt powerless a few years ago when I was suffering from a moderately severe depressive illness.

God heals the brokenhearted, and God has brought healing into my life. How did God make that happen? God gave me a loving family and a supportive congregation. I’m looking at that congregation right now. I saw a skilled therapist. Working with her was like having psychological surgery with no anaesthetic to dull the pain. And I am still taking antidepressant medication.

All this sounds like an ordinary story. I had an understanding community, caring family, wise therapist and the right pills. Why bring God into it?

I bring God into it because God is there. As the psychologist Carl Jung said—though he wasn’t the first—

Bidden or unbidden; God is there.

God is not too great to care. God is right there in all the ordinary things of life.

And I also bring God into it because I was very conscious that God was there with me every step through the journey.

The great God who sits upon the circle of the whole universe brought healing into my life, not through magic but by working through seemingly-ordinary things.

A lot of my healing required time spent quietly. Time in prayer. I suspect that I was often praying even when I wasn’t formally ‘at prayer’.

We all need this kind of time; Jesus needed it. Mark tells us this: after a very busy and taxing day,

In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.

Not only do we need regular times of reflection and prayer, but they were necessary for the Lord Jesus too.

Isaiah and the psalmist knew that part of God’s greatness is that God does care. We know something more. God has become human in Jesus; not only did Jesus care for others—like Simon Peter’s mother-in-law—but he needed the care of his Father in heaven. As we heard last week, Jesus is not a superhero.

That God cares for the brokenhearted is basic to biblical faith. That God identifies so completely with those who need his care is something that has been revealed to us in Christ.

God is great, so immeasurably great that the universe is not too big a job for God. God is great,  so immeasurably great that we are called God’s children.

So, when you go from here today, go in confidence; the God of the universe goes with you. Trust your Father God.

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2 Comments

Filed under church year, RCL, sermon

2 responses to “Is God too great to care? (Year B, 8 February 2015)

  1. Anonymous

    Thanks Paul. Isaiah 40:31 is my favourite verse and it was lovely to read your thoughts – as usual!
    Heather

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