Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B

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Title Sermon Date Liturgical Scripture
Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year B March 18, 2012 Sermon, Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year B Numbers 21:4-9, Ephesians 2:1-10, John 3:14-21
Third Sunday in Lent, Year B March 11, 2012 Third Sunday in Lent, Year B Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 19; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; John 2:13-22
Second Sunday in Lent, Year B March 4, 2012 Second Sunday in Lent, Year B Mark 8:31-38
Sermon, First Sunday in Lent, Year B February 26, 2012 First Sunday in Lent, Year B Genesis 9:8-17, I Peter 3:18-22, Mark 1: 9-15
Ash Wednesday Service, Feb 22, 2012 February 22, 2012 Ash Wednesday Joel 2:1-2, 12-17
Last Sunday After Epiphany, Year B February 19, 2012 Last Sunday after Epiphany 2 Kings 2:1-12, Psalm 50:1-6, 2 Corinthians 4:3-6, Mark 9:2-9
Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B February 12, 2012 Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Mark 1: 40-45
Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B February 5, 2012 Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, Year B Isaiah 40:21-31, Mark 1:29-39
Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B January 29, 2012 Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B I Corinthians 8:1-13; Mark 1:21-28
Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B January 22, 2012 Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B Mark 1:14-20
Second Sunday After The Epiphany, Year B January 15, 2012 Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B 1 Samuel 3:1-20; Psalm 139: 1-5, 12-17; John 1:43-51
First Sunday After The Epiphany, Year B January 8, 2012 First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B Mark 1:4-11
Sermon on Joy, Epiphany, 2012 January 6, 2012 Epiphany Matthew 2:1-12
Christmas Day, Dec. 25, 2011 December 25, 2011 Christmas Day, 2012 Isaiah 9:2-7; Luke 2:1-20
Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 2011 December 24, 2011 The Eve of the Nativity of our Lord Luke 2:1-20


Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B

Sermon Date:February 12, 2012

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Mark 1: 40-45

Liturgy Calendar: Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B

“So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air.”

Mr. BoisjoyRoger Boisjoly, age 73, died early this year, his death unnoted other than an obituary in the local newspaper.

And yet, this man  is a great example of a contemporary of ours who did not run aimlessly in his life.  His life came to have a specific purpose because of a tragic event.     

Mr. Boisjoly worked for Morton Thiokol, a firm that made rocket boosters.  In  July of 1985, a task force  within the company formed at his suggestion to study the effect of cold on rocket boosters.

In a memo to the firm, warning that the boosters could fail in cold weather, Mr. Boisjoly stated the following:  “The result could be a catastrophe of highest order:  loss of human life.”

Six months later, on January 28, 1986, NASA launched the space shuttle Challenger over the objections and the pleading of the engineers that the launch be postponed due to the unprecedented cold weather that day. 

Seventy-three seconds into the launch, the Challenger exploded, and all seven crew members aboard, including school teacher Christa McAuliffe, died.

Three weeks after the disaster, Mr. Boisjoly had this to say in a confidential conversation with Daniel Zwerdling of NPR:

“I fought like hell to stop that launch.  I’m so torn up inside, I can hardly talk about it, even now. “

And then Mr. Boisjoly had a decision to make.  Should he remain quiet, or expose the fact that Morton Thiokol and NASA had the information that could have kept the Challenger disaster from happening? 

Mr. Boisjoly turned over internal corporate documents to the presidential commission that investigated the disaster, and his memo was a bombshell.

Mr. Boisjoly  was right to expose the truth about what had happened as a lead up to the Challenger disaster, but he suffered for his actions.  His company barred him from doing any more space work, and his fellow employees tore him down for what he had done, accusing him of trying to destroy the company. 

He suffered from headaches, double vision, and depression.  He lost weight and couldn’t sleep. He became hard to live with.  But even though he suffered physically, he “did not run aimlessly,” as Paul puts it. 

Boisjoly continued to speak out for three decades.  He  travelled to engineering schools all over the world, and spoke about ethical decision making and the importance of sticking to the data. 

He told his wife that this was what he was meant to do, to have an impact on the lives of young people.  He was still responding to emails and letters from engineering students right up until his death last month. 

 “So I do not run aimlessly, or box as if beating the air.”  Boisjoly had a purpose. He touched the lives of many young engineers.    

Abraham LincolnToday is the birthday of Abraham Lincoln, who is also a great example of Paul’s statement.  “So I do not run aimlessly, or box as if beating the air.”  Lincoln’s sense of purpose evolved over many years.

In 1827, Lincoln wrote these words in his first published piece.

“The American form of government is the best form of government for intelligent people.  It ought to be kept sound, and preserved forever, that general education should be fostered and carried all over the country; that the Constitution should be saved, the Union perpetuated and the laws revered, respected and enforced.”  

Almost forty years, later, Lincoln was elected president in a country that Lincoln described as a “house divided against itself.” Before he was elected, Lincoln pointed out at the Republican Convention that the government could not continue half slave and half free, that, in order to survive,  “the nation will have to be all one thing, or all the other.”    

In 1862, in his second annual address to Congress, Lincoln laid out the race he meant to run .He made the ethical decision that must be made—the slaves must be freed. 

Lincoln told Congress, “We, even we here, hold the power and bear the responsibility.  In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free—honorable alike in what we give and what we preserve…the way is plain, peaceful, generous—a way which if followed the world will forever applaud and God must forever bless.”  Lincoln’s decision was the ethically correct decision if the nation was to survive and then exist as our national anthem states, as “the land of the free.” 

And then in 1863, he succinctly summed up his purpose in life, his direction, in the words of the Gettysburg address—

“ that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” 

In his final public address, three days before his assassination, Lincoln left us with these directions. 

“Let us all join in doing the acts necessary to restoring the practical relations between these States and the Union.”

Lincoln’s example has continued to touch us in the centuries since his death.

President Lyndon Johnson said a century later of Lincoln,

“Lincoln’s words have become the common covenant of our public life. Let us now get on with his work.” 

“So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air.” 

Long before Roger Boisjoly and Abraham Lincoln faced their difficult situations about how to touch others by making  ethical choices that brought pain and even death into their lives,Jesus faced many ethical dilemmas, and the first of these occurs today in the story of the leper, who comes  to Jesus for healing. 

Christ Healing the LeperLepers in Jesus’ time were ritually unclean.  The book of Leviticus in the Old Testament has this to say about lepers.  “The person who has the leprous disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head be disheveled; and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, “Unclean, unclean, unclean.”  He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease; he is unclean.  He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.”  A leper is as good as dead to his community.

To touch someone with leprosy was to become defiled.  In the Old Testament reading today, Elisha does not even go out to meet Namaan, who has leprosy.  Instead, he sends out a servant who tells Namaan what to do to get rid of the disease. 

The fact that Jesus touched the leper and in doing so became ritually unclean  is the first of many acts which caused the religious authorities to take note, and which eventually led to his arrest and crucifixion.  

So why did Jesus feel compelled to touch the leper?  He could have spoken the man’s healing into being with just a word.  After all, Jesus has divine power.

Jesus touches the leper with a purpose.  His touch is an act of divine hospitality, more than just taking care of business.    In touching the leper, Jesus reminds us that when we seek his purpose for our lives, God will touch us as well.  God touches even the messiest details  of our lives,  so that we too can find our purpose and direction.  The leper, once he had been healed, had a new purpose in life. 

The scripture tells us that he went out and began to proclaim the word freely.  Instead of wandering about as an aimless, lonesome leper, he spread the good news everywhere.  

This story reminds us that our call as Christians is also to spread the good news everywhere, to proclaim the gospel!

And in order to do this, God gives us the opportunity to touch others, even if doing so leads to discomfort  and danger for ourselves.  Note how  Boisjoly’s decision to speak out led to his own discomfort, but he touched a whole generation of engineers who learned from what he has had the bravery to go out and teach.  We all know that President Lincoln was assassinated because of his decision to lead the country through war so that it could  begin the process of healing and remain a united nation in which the hospitality of freedom could now  be offered to all. 

Paul, having made the decision to go out touch and bring healing to  the world by spreading the gospel, endures hardships –he lists them earlier in his letter to the Corinthians—he is hungry and thirsty, poorly clothed, he is  beaten, homeless, weary. 

For his acts of resurrecting people, touching people, restoring them to health and to community, Jesus dies a horrible death before God touches him and raises him into eternal life. 

What is your purpose in this life?  Who is God asking you to touch?    How do you plan to go out and proclaim the good news freely and to spread the word?  What race is God calling you to run?

“Run in such a way that you may win it.” 


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