Those of you who were here last week heard me go on about how demon possession was an antiquated idea. Whether you agreed with me or not I came down pretty strong that explaining illnesses by attributing them to demonic possession was a concept from a culture that didn’t understand all we know now. I basically said the bible was wrong. Was that brave or foolhardy? I don’t really know.
But as I was preparing this week’s service I saw that the gospel reading was Mark 1:29-39 which is a story about Jesus healing the sick and in particular casting out demons from people.
So, who says God doesn’t have a sense of humour?
Last week I exhausted everything I had to say about healing so this week I chose the passage from Isaiah 40 and rather than overthinking it or chasing the mirage of being wise and insightful I have decided to let the words speak for themselves.
So, this week the message is very simple and short. The first part is a poem. The second part is today’s bible reading. And the message today is just that. These passages really do not need me to elaborate any further. And as a wise man once said, “when you have nothing to say, say nothing”.
The poem I have chosen is my favourite poem called Ozymandias by the English poet Percy Shelley who lived from 1792 to 1822. He died when he drowned in a boating accident off Sardinia at the age of 29 and packed a wonderful life of creation into his short life. Incidentally, Shelley’s wife was Mary Shelley who wrote the novel Frankenstein – it was originally a book not a Hollywood invention.
As so to the poem Ozymandias which Shelley wrote in 1818.
I met a traveller from an antique land,Shelley’s Poetry and Prose (1977)
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert…. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
The second part of the message comes from the end of Isaiah 40.
28 … He never gets weary or tired;Isaiah 40: 28b-31
his wisdom cannot be measured.
29 the lord gives strength
to those who are weary.
30 even young people get tired,
then stumble and fall.
31 but those who trust the lord
will find new strength.
They will be strong like eagles
soaring upward on wings;
they will walk and run
without getting tired.
And so this morning I am just going to leave you with this reading from Isaiah and with Shelley’s poem.
Both are profound. Both hold eternal truths. One speaks of futility and desolation, the other of abundant and purposeful life. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions as to which one you want to follow.