In pm's words
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August 22, 2016, 8:00 AM

the one where we can bend the rules...


Sermon from August 21, 2016

Sermon Text: Luke 13: 10-17

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, this past week I attended my usual sermon study group with friends and colleagues. We were thankful that the texts this week aren’t nearly as ‘uncomfortable’ as last week’s were. Yet, in our discussion we were struck with the amount of joy that the Lord calls for that we at times – as children of God – seem to lose sight of because we get in the way.

Have y’all experienced that before? To be witness to what seems to be utter joy and revelation? To literally see God at work in some way either here within your community of faith or outside that group? Where something wonderful and good happened; someone was lifted up, someone was given honor, someone was healed in a multitude of ways. Yet, in the midst of that time of celebration there was that one person – that one man or woman – who would say, “Well, you know…. That’s not how we really should do that…”

I remember a time where I hoped to bring all ages into the life of ministry and worship. Every community of faith that I’ve been a part of has wanted to be more inclusive of those who are still learning and growing. Finally, at one point I and others were given the opportunity to put that into realized practice.

Young children wanted to help with worship. We talked about the importance, honor, and thankfulness in which we approach these wonderful roles within worship – lighting candles, helping with communion, reading scripture, praying aloud, and more. These kids got it – they wanted to be a part of that. They wanted to be able to share and show those around them how thankful they were to be part of a community of faith and family of God to participate in the life of worship. To worship in unbridled joy and thankfulness.

They got it.

Those days of worship came. Young kids helping light the altar candles. Children reading scripture to the congregation. Younger members participating and helping in the holy sacraments of communion and baptism. It was awesome to see God alive and at work in these young members.

Then to see them be able to tell their friends – not in a prideful way, but in compassion and joy – I get to help out in worship! I get to help pastor and the other adults. I’m a part of this too! I really am!

But, then there’s always that one, the one who says, “Well… they aren’t old enough. They could burn the place down. You’ve seen how that kid usually acts right? We’ve never done it that way before….”

In our gospel this morning, we hear a wonderful story of Jesus healing someone that people literally would’ve looked over. On that day he looked out among the crowd and then looked slightly down to see a woman afflicted with a bent spine. Seeing her affliction, feeling compassion and telling her to stand up, he laid hands upon her and she was able to stand straight for the first time in 18 long years. There was much rejoicing. I like to think that she burst out in praise much in the same way in the words we heard in our psalm. Full of thankfulness and joy in praise for what God had done.

And yet, there was that one guy – the one who said – That’s not right! This is the Sabbath! We don’t do work on this day! This is wrong!

We all know that person. We’ve experienced that one in the life of the church. We’ve experienced that one in our families. We’ve experienced that one in the many parts of the community that we belong to and love.

Perhaps we’ve even been that person. The one who looks at the goodness of what has happened and has to throw a wet blanket on it all. Like the starks of Winterfell reminding us always that, “Winter is coming…” in the midst of the joys of summer.

What I think we take from this – especially after Jesus spoke last week about division – is that in the work that he does, the word that he proclaims, the life that he gifts to those who are looked over is that it is going to ruffle feathers. Rules are going to be bent. The light of the gospel and the Word will be cast upon those to see where our own double-standards lie.

In all of that – Jesus errs on the side of grace, welcome, and healing. That Jesus – our Lord – looks out upon creation and sees those in need, helps and heals in spite of the rules that say one ‘shouldn’t do this or that.’ That ‘work’ shouldn’t be done because of the day we happen to be on, “come back tomorrow and I’ll help you then.

Is not honoring the Sabbath being able to live out what is proclaimed by God? There is ‘work’ that we do each day whether we realize it or not. Honoring the Sabbath and keeping it holy doesn’t mean to sit alone in a room, away from those around us, and doing nothing lest we accidentally do something on this day that could be construed as ‘work.’

And we can chuckle a bit about that, but we who identify as Lutherans aren’t immune to it at all. We proudly proclaim that there is nothing we can do in order to receive God’s love. No amount of work, good dead, kind thought, or anything else will bring us closer to God. We continually fall short; sin continues to get in the way because we aren’t perfect. Yet, the wonder and beauty and freedom of our faith is that we proclaim God who is already with us. We can’t do anything to get to God because God is already here. We know that no good work brings us closer to God, so we don’t have to do good works!

However, in the thankfulness of what God has done – coming close to us, freeing us from the bondage of sin, gifting us salvation in the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of our Lord – we get to do wonderful things in service to those in need. We get to praise God and serve in compassion. It is our response to what already has taken place. We get to do good works, not in order to receive salvation, but we do them because we already have.

Yet, there’s always that one Lutheran – and I’ve met a few in my life – who stubbornly hold to that manifesto of ‘no works.’

Yet, they and the leader of the synagogue from our Gospel this morning both lose sight over God’s work.

Jesus heals and calls us into the work that serves those in need – not as a mandate, but as an act of thankfulness and graciousness to what God has already done.

In our reading from Isaiah we hear what sounds like a bunch of if-then statements. The ‘if’ being – do all these things – which are all GOOD THINGS – and our thought is that the ‘then’ response is ‘I’ll be with you as your God and you will be with me as my people.’ Yet, what we forget is that during this specific period in which this part of Isaiah was written – the exile was over. The Israelites had already been brought back into their land, they are already close to God.

God has called them – God as called us. To be close, to be in service to those in need, to live out in thankfulness for what God has already done.

We have been redeemed. We have been brought back from exile. We have been saved. God’s love is already with you. Yes, even you – in spite of what you’ve done or thought. God is with you.

In that knowledge – knowing that you are a child of God – we are called to live out that faith and this new life in thankfulness and praise.

Knowing full well that in living in that life we may ruffle feathers. Why? Because we’re called to help those in need and we are called into that service in ways that people wouldn’t expect, desire, or contrast with what the world and society proclaims. Like Jesus we see the one who stand up straight and we see the ones who are bent over. We see the ones who are in need and we go to them. We proclaim. We serve. We help. We praise in joy and thanksgiving in all kinds of healing.

Healing in our life. Healing in the life of others around us.

See those around you. Help the ones who others look over. Live in thankfulness for what God has already done in you and for you.

Amen.

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