When Jesus Calls - Sermon on Luke 13:10-17

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Jesus does his work on whatever day it needs to be done, and on who it needs to be done to. Let us not be guided by legalism. God's work is God's work. 

This sermon is quite a bit different from how it was written, therefore, please listen to the sermon rather than read it.  The sermon notes which are included for convenience.  

Sermon delivered at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Berkeley. 

August 21 - 14th Sunday after Pentecost

"Kindling".  Text is from Luke 13:10-17

Click here for sermon audio 

 



May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you, Lord, my rock and my redeemer.  Amen.Good morning to you my sisters and brothers, saints and sinners, disciples of Christ and children of God.

Good morning to you my sisters and brothers, saints and sinners, disciples of Christ and children of God.

I love to start my Sunday off right with a story of Jesus miracle making.

Here we have a woman, who was broken, bent over, for a full long eighteen years, who just happened to come into the synagogue while Jesus was there. Jesus, who was called to this woman, bade her to come to him. He spoke some words, telling her she was healed and he touched her. Immediately upon being touched, she stood up and raised her hands in the only way she could have possibly done at that moment. Freed from this bondage of illness, a life she'd become accustomed to and undoubtedly accepted as was her lot in life, never able to do more than look ahead of herself, she was now filled with such gratitude that she could do nothing except raise her hands to heaven and give all glory to the good God above.

We also find here a classic foil to Jesus, in the guise of the leader of the synagogue, who could actually be anyone, a rabbi, a Pharisee, some citizen concerned for the well-being of his community. It makes no difference. While it's perfectly acceptable for Jesus to be teaching at the Synagogue on the Sabbath, performing miraculous feats is a definitive no-no and must be discouraged, a statement he persists on repeating to the gathered people, for all who may hear him. 

He only wanted what was best for his people in the only way he knew how.  Now one might think that eighteen years is an awful long time for someone to be in some condition and that to wait one day longer in order to have that condition to be removed from one's self might be a little bit reasonable, particularly if it means not violating the commandment to honor the Sabbath and keep it holy. 

But Jesus turns the whole thing around on him and calls him a hypocrite! In front of God, the synagogue and the entire crowd. What an onslaught of humiliation that must have been for him, to be called out like that in front of all the people, and in such a way.  And further, Jesus compares the unbinding of the woman from her long term illness to the untying of a beast of burden in order to receive water. 

Pastor Bass-Deschenes sermonizing.jpg

And the crowd was amazed. 

I think it becomes pretty clear that the leader of the synagogue, for all his good intent, is missing something crucial. In his criticism of Jesus act, he is in fact not aware that Jesus is doing more than casual healing. He's freeing this woman from 18 years of bondage. 

And when we take a look at who Luke's listeners were, we can go deeper into the connotations of what this may have meant. Because for many of them, the woman's condition was not so much a random illness but the result of some evil, either because of some act that she herself may have done or something that was imposed upon her. The illness was tied to sin and Satan's power over this woman was strong, and long-term. With the laying on of hands that Jesus performed, he released her from this bondage and freed her from the captivity that the devil had over her. Is it any wonder that she arose and gave glory to God? Her sins were gone and she was freed! 

This scene calls to mind some words that take place later on in Luke, when Jesus foretells a future event in which the Son of Man comes in a cloud with power and glory, and for the listeners to stand up and raise their heads because their redemption, or release from captivity is coming near.  And who is the one who would decide to take away that special meaning for that woman? Be it on the Sabbath or any other day, be it in the temple or the synagogue on the street, she was released from her bonds and she was filled with gratitude unwavering and raised her hands to God. 

How we in the church can be the deciders of what must and must not be. I have been in congregations where the slightest disruption will set the pastor off and set the people a-running to clear out the chaff, as if a wailing child in the middle of a sermon would stop the work of God's hands in the liturgy. What could be more beautiful music to God than the sound of one of the little ones wailing during worship service.  Thankfully we've learned to work with the odd noise or distraction rather than have it disrupt us here. 

I wonder, however, about other things. I am not sure how it would do us honor if I did not mention that Christians can take a very limited and out-of-context interpretation count of six biblical passages in order to deny sexual minorities a place at the table here during worship, and it continues to happen even today. It was barely forty years ago that Lutheran churches wouldn't think of having a woman in the pulpit because of a single reading of 1st Corinthians and less so from a few other passages, as if Paul, who, to be perfectly honest was somewhat pick-and-choose when it came to the law--when he wrote that was addressing the nature of the ministry of word and sacrament. 

But when Jesus calls, Jesus calls. To take a page out of my own history, I ran when Jesus called me the first time because of my own self-perception, I did not think of myself suitable to be minister, never mind the fact that those years of wilderness in which I lived offered me a unique insight into the nature of the sacred and the profane. But I could also not imagine myself being some kind of pioneer, spitting in the face of the established hierarchy of the church at the time. God bless our forerunners in the Metropolitan Community Church who offered all people a place at the table, both in feasting and administering of God's holy presence. Who do we think we are when we tell people they cannot partake of the offering that God has laid out for us based on the nature of our making. And let me tell you, my sisters and brothers, there is no doubt in my mind that the characteristic of one's physical attraction, is laid out very early on in one's life, quite possibly before one's birth, and whether that be a happenstance of genetics or hormones, it nevertheless is not a choice or "changeable" by any definition of the word. 

God made us in God's image, man and woman God makes us, which means that God's image is not limited to gender. And if God's image is not limited to male or female how can we say that one person is not permitted to preside at God's table based on her birth? These are settled matters in our congregation but are we the outlier? For even our denomination still has a long way to go to ensure that all people who are called by God have an opportunity to serve God as we are called. I consider myself privileged to have lived at a certain time when a congregation such as LCC would have called me, because I don't know what other opportunities would be out there for me in the world. 

But is there any of God's work we ourselves may be stifling? I cannot answer this question, because I cannot see through the eyes of all the people who walk within our doors. My heart breaks when I have to tell someone they've been banned from our property, indeed, by their own behavior, because I don't know where Jesus would stand in such instances. He rescued a demoniac named Legion from a man who within in his possessions by this demon had eschewed clothing and attacked the people of the area which he lived. He touched the untouchable and they were made whole, following him and relishing in his glory. How can we then hide behind obscure biblical passages and our longtime prejudices in order to avoid the call to be a healing balm for our fellow human beings in the community and the world at large. 

We heard this morning from Isaiah 58:13 and 14: 

"If you refrain from trampling the sabbath,

  from pursuing your own interests on my holy day;

 if you call the sabbath a delight

  and the holy day of the LORD honorable;

 if you honor it, not going your own ways,

  serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs;

 14then you shall take delight in the LORD,

  and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth" 

This morning, let us take delight in the Sabbath. Let us pursue God's interests, and not our owns. Let us remember the greatest commandment, that we love God with all our heart and soul and strength and mind and our neighbors as ourselves, finding his will in all of our affairs and his good news in everything we do.

Amen.


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This page contains a single entry by Cary Bass-Deschenes published on August 21, 2016 2:21 PM.

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