Some of my favorite Super Bowl memories are centered around the church. I remember a former bishop giving me a pep talk from the pulpit that the Denver Broncos would do well right before the Broncos lost 43-8. I remember someone sneaking in a prayer request for the NY Giants that surprised the assistant minister reading the prayers out loud. I remember swapping finger food recipes during coffee hour and arguing which puppy would be the MVP of the Puppy Bowl. When we think of the Super Bowl, church isn’t usually on our minds. We, instead, daydream about nachos, TV commercials, and silver plated trophies. Even though the Super Bowl doesn’t start until this evening, we might be focused on this big event that’s about to come. Today’s text from Isaiah 40:21-31, when read with football on the brain, might make us wonder if God is an Eagle’s fan because the faithful “shall mount up with wings like eagles.” I don’t know if God roots for the Eagles but I do know, like many of us, this text is focused on the next big thing that’s coming. But it isn’t focused on a human event rooted in the spectacle of competition. Isaiah is instead looking forward to the day when everything changes.
To hear the hope in this passage, we need to remember who Isaiah is talking to. Isaiah is surrounded by a community wondering if they should return to Jerusalem. For 70 years, the people have lived in Babylon (in modern day Iraq) after the Babylonian Empire destroyed their nation. Babylon was recently destroyed and their new emperor, Cyrus the Persian, wants to send the Israelites back home. But is Jerusalem still home? The people hearing these words grew up, started families, buried their loved ones, and created new homes in Babylon. They land of Israel is a place they only know about from stories told by their grandparents. They wonder if God, who appeared to be defeated by the armies of Babylon, is even paying attention to them anymore. Isaiah responded by inviting the community to remember who God is and what God has done for them. God is inviting them to return a homeland they do not know but one that gave their ancestors life. God isn’t asking them to go back to what they have experienced. God is, instead, inviting them into a new adventure to create a new home in the place God promises to be. God is giving them a new life.
Verse 31 is beautiful but our translation doesn’t capture what Isaiah is saying here. The faithful will not do their best impression of the Lord of Rings and mount eagles that will fly them into the sky. The faithful will, instead, be like a “molting eagle who exchanges old wings for new.” (Charles Aaron Jr, Working Preacher.com). What God invites us to do is to look forward to our transformation into who God is calling us to be.
Each week, I write a reflection on one of our scripture readings for the week. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship Bulletin for the 5th Sunday After Epiphany, 2/04/2018.