Sabbath and Healing

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Title Sermon Date Liturgical Scripture
God is not only compassionate and merciful, but also our judge September 26, 2010 Proper 21, Year C Luke 16:19-31
Shrewdness is a Virtue September 19, 2010 Proper 20—Year C Luke 16:1-13
God Longs for Wholeness September 12, 2010 Proper 19—Year C Luke 15:1-10
Choose Life September 5, 2010 Proper 18, Year C, RCL Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Luke 14-25-33
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever August 29, 2010 Proper 17, Year C, RCL Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16, (Psalm 118)
Sabbath and Healing August 22, 2010 Proper 16, Year C, RCL Isaiah 58:9b-14, Psalm 103:1-8; Hebrews 12:18-20; Luke 13:10-17
Jesus Brings Fire August 15, 2010 Proper 15 Luke 12:49-56
Baptism – God Has Promised Us an Inheritance August 8, 2010 Proper 14, Year C, RCL Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16; Luke 12: 32-40 ;Revelation 22:1-5
God, Do You Really Care? August 1, 2010 Proper 13, Year C, RCL Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14, 2:18-23
Christmas Eve Sermon 2009 December 24, 2009 Christmas Luke 2:1-20

 

Sabbath and Healing

Sermon Date:August 22, 2010

Scripture: Isaiah 58:9b-14, Psalm 103:1-8; Hebrews 12:18-20; Luke 13:10-17

Liturgy Calendar: Proper 16, Year C, RCL


 

This past week has been full of hard times for members of our parish.

Life has a way of trampling on us, and trampling on those we love.  Today we are grieving for the tragedies that have beset our church family. 

Experiencing death, tragedies, things in our lives over which we have no control reminds us that God, ultimately is a mystery— as the writer of Hebrews reminds us, something that cannot be touched. 

God is not only like a blazing fire, but a darkness, a gloom, a tempest. 

God’s voice is as powerful as the sound of a trumpet, but we cannot fathom God’s words.

This transcendent God is the one we stand before in awe and with trembling, and I must say, sometimes with frustration. 

A few weeks ago I talked about going to God in prayer in order to become more aware of God’s presence in our lives.

But sometimes prayer just doesn’t seem to work.

God doesn’t seem to hear us, much less to answer us.

God seems to a great secret, lost in a swirling mist that we can never penetrate.

As Christians, when we hit those rough spots in prayer, we know we need to keep praying anyway, opening ourselves to God even if what we get is frustration.   

In fact, God knows that sometimes we will get frustrated and discouraged with prayer, so God gives us an additional way to open ourselves to God’s presence.

God gave us the Sabbath day, so that we can join together like those innumerable angels we just heard about in Hebrews, so that we can find God in community. 

At the very beginning of creation itself, “God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.”

The Sabbath day is the day that God gave to the Israelites, a day that Jesus, a Jew who followed and practiced the laws of Judaism, observed, and the Sabbath is a day that we Christians have also set aside for the Lord.

God asks us to be intentional about coming together in community and to put aside, for this one day of the week, our own interests, our own pressing affairs, and to spend the day together delighting in the Lord. 

As Isaiah so poetically puts it, when we can put aside the things that trample us, worry us, and drive us crazy, and spend time delighting in the Lord, then, Isaiah says, “the Lord will make us ride upon the heights of the earth.”

Imagine the freedom an eagle must feel, caught up in a current of air high above the earth, wings spread wide, gliding silently along a mountain ridge.  Releasing ourselves completely into God’s presence must feel something like that.

And yet, we are so rooted to the earth, crippled by what life has dealt us, bent over and crippled by the things that happen to su.  And after a while we can’t even stand up straight anymore because we are too beaten down. 

Luke tells us of one such woman, a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years.  She was bent over and could not even stand straight.  The only thing she could see was the ground, because she was physically incapable of looking up.

In spite of her infirmity, this woman was doggedly honoring the Sabbath day by going to the synagogue on this particular day that Jesus was there teaching. 

We don’t know what Jesus was teaching that day, but Luke has told us earlier in his gospel that at the very beginning of his ministry, Jesus goes to the synagogue in Nazareth on the Sabbath day and preaches from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. 

Perhaps now, Jesus was also teaching from Isaiah, perhaps the reading from Isaiah that we have just heard today.

In this passage we’ve just heard, Isaiah gives us four specific things that we must do if we want to open ourselves to God’s guidance.  And these four specific things also tell us how God wants us to be together in community. 

The first is to refrain from gossip, blaming one another, accusing one another.

The second is to feed the poor.

The third is to satisfy the needs of the afflicted.

The fourth is to honor the Sabbath. 

In other words, God expects us to respect one another and to care for one another, to put one another first rather than putting ourselves first, because we know that we are all one in God’s love. 

Now Jesus gets to carry out what he is teaching about God’s guidance for us.   He looks out into the crowd and sees a person who is truly afflicted, this bent over woman.

Jesus doesn’t just notice that she is there and then look away.  He sees in the truest deepest sense of the word.  He sees that she has been trampled by life, afflicted, and that she can’t help herself out of the condition she is in. 


The woman, who cannot look up, is probably not even aware that Jesus has seen her until she hears his voice.  He calls her over to him.  And then she hears these words, the words she has given up the hope of ever hearing if she ever expected to hear them at all. 

“Woman, you are set free from your ailment.”

And immediately, she stood up straight and began praising God. 

For Jesus, taking action on another’s behalf is directly connected to the way in which God expects us to observe the Sabbath. 

And Jesus expects us to take action on behalf of one another, even though we are all crippled and stuck and in need of healing ourselves. 

Actually, it’s at this point of our individual stuckness that the power of honoring and observing the Sabbath day together as a community becomes evident. 

After all, even thought we are all crippled by something in our lives, we’ve gathered together anyway.  We’ve made it here to worship God. 

And we come here making our best effort to do what Isaiah tells us we must do on the Sabbath—to lay our own concerns down, for this hour, in order to be more available to God’s healing power in our lives.

And in being intentional about opening ourselves to God, we then find the true power of Christian community, not just for one hour on Sunday, but all day every day.

The true power of Christian community is that we can become the channel of God’s healing power for one another.

I have seen  and felt you all be channels of healing, putting aside your own crippling problems to reach out to one another through the healing power of God—praying for one another, feeding one another, reaching out to one another, even when God seems to be far away, in a darkness and in a gloom.   

God is counting on us—counting on us to gather together in community week by week, to gather in love with one another, to lay down our own burdens, to open ourselves to God’s healing power even when we can’t see or hear God in the swirling mists of tragedy and frustrations that beset us, because even when we can’t see or hear God, we can see and hear one another.

Because through one another, and through the love, healing and blessing that we do our best to offer one another,  an invisible God once again takes flesh, as Jesus himself became flesh and dwelt among us, when he walked among us, and lived and died as one of us. 

So when we join our voices with one another in prayer and in praise, in love, in mercy and compassion for one another, every week, Sunday after Sunday, we hear God’s voice.

At last, in God’s time, our ears will be opened, and we will finally be able to hear Jesus say these words to each and every one of us, and to us as a church, “Woman, man, child, church—you are set free from your ailments.”

Let us pray. 

Come Lord Jesus,

gather us together every week,

come among us and heal each and every one of us,

and in healing us, give us mercy and compassion for one another,

so that we may go out from here together in peace,

to love and serve You and one another,

so that we too, caught up in the wind of your love,

may bear one another up  like eagles,

soaring up together high above the heights of the earth. 

Amen

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