August 21st, 2016: "A Thourough Shaking!"

Text: Jeremiah 1:4-10; Psalm 71:1-6;        21st Sunday in Ordinary Time             Sandy Nuernberg

Hebrews 12:18-29; Luke 13:10-17               14th Sunday after Pentecost                Pastor

Title: “A Thorough Shaking!”                       Youth in the Church and World Sunday

First Presbyterian Church                      Sunday, August 21st, 2016                  Pardeeville, WI


Please pray with me, Lord, help us to worship you on the Sabbath with reverence and with awe. As we learn of Jesus’ healings on this day and every day, allow us to consume every bit of spirit that comes to us, like a consuming fire, knowing that through you we are forgiven, healed, and redeemed.   AMEN.


            We find ourselves in another time and yet the same place in worship, today, you and I; we continue to hear of the small voice of God’s Spirit in our lives. Isn’t it kinda fun hearing Jesus’ take on meeting friends and foes? He’s like us! This summer has been full of examples, earthly and heavenly---how Jesus’ life and our lives compare in our up-n-down times of glory and shame, honor and dishonor, yes, grace and disgrace. We might ask ourselves, in this ordinary time, “are our perspectives changing?” If so, how? Why?


Have we ever thought of a life-changing situation, like the unnamed woman in Luke, and its impact upon us? Do we feel the glory and praise God? Do we feel the shame and become disgruntled? Are we honored, disgraced? Think of it: have we ever thought that we would never, ever listen to someone we disagree with, much less pay more attention to them in changing our perspective---upon our life in work, worship, retirement, even politics? Once our enemy might now be our friend, and as a person once hated, now a new shining light as another child of God, as you and I believe we are!


            Our scripture readings these weeks after Pentecost and before Advent (early June-late November) really awaken us to new and different visions; God’s Word to us and the stories we hear thoroughly shake us up into who we are becoming in our faithful walk in  life, towards God’s kingdom to come. Let’s see what we are talking about here; those standing tall moments and those bending downward moments in our spirit-driven lives.


            It seems to me that every chance Jesus has, he is upsetting the apple-cart so-to-speak in uncomfortable ways? His answers as questions, many times, lead us in ways not ventured. He places all new perspectives upon himself—and more importantly, upon us, in his examples to his disciples and to us. You know what? Jesus makes us use our ‘thinking caps!’


In the translation of The Message, we hear from Jesus directly when he is criticized by his objectors, saying, “You frauds!” (“You hypocrites!”, NRSV). Along with his healing on the Sabbath, he is addressing any kind of workmanship on the Sabbath. He really turns things around though, inside out; he upsets them by his revealing what they are doing all along in their everyday practices. Don’t they feed their donkeys everyday?


Yes, this is a story about opening our eyes to God’s heavenly grace via the everyday earthly healing work of Jesus Christ. We really have to be careful here, I think. If we clamor too much in the glory and joy of accomplishment---the woman being healed after eighteen long years of ‘a crippled spirit’ (Luke 13:11, NRSV) changes her. We might (as the crowd watchers of Jesus) get too inter-twined with our own judgments on those critical of Jesus’ works, and not on the actual gift of grace that is received and acknowledged. In other words, we want those who need to, suffer, and those we agree with, we cheer on! It plays into a winners take all and losers suffer—or right vs. wrong if you are ‘on my side.’ A cryptoquote I like is from Arnold Schwarzenegger, “Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths.”


Have we enjoyed the Olympics? All we need do is remember the last two weeks of the Rio2016 Olympics in identifying our favorites—persons or teams! How could we not enjoy the U.S.A.’s gold medal-winners? What strength they must need to compete!


            Let’s look at it like this; Jesus is teaching, Jesus is healing, and watchers-by have a vision of their thoughts and feelings. “What in the world is he doing on the Sabbath (Hebrew, shabbat, meaning rest)?” Then, questions are asked of Jesus of his doing such a thing; he answers by telling them they are no different in their lives. WAALLA!! Their eyes are opened further and the silly critics are shaken. At least the synagogue (congregation) is cheering Jesus on in delight!


             Isn’t there a kind of reality to our text in Luke, just as there was so long ago when this gospel was written by a compassionate physician and the crowds were wanting to know just who this ‘Jesus’ fellow really was? They and we are in wonder of such miraculous healing; he sees everyone! In today’s world we are on a seesaw of life’s conditions and we are up at the top and down in the valley often. In reality we are following Jesus way of life. If we are honest, aren’t we constantly making decisions that are best for us/our loved ones, only to be carried by the glory of God in lifting, building us up. Next, we are involved in the lowliest of times as we are under that cross (Christ’) of humility in being brave to get out of sorrows or mess-ups! What does it all mean for us?


            I think it means that this story is in the best interests of who we are and what we might become as followers of Christ. It helps us in what we might listen to in God’s voice, God’s vision for us, yet mostly in God’s grace given us, and our glory given to God. God, in Christ Jesus, is thoroughly shaking us to the point of, ‘Listen, I am telling you what is important—it’s not the calendar day of healing, but the one suffering that needs attention.’ Jesus is leading us not in what we like in worship on the Sabbath for music and prayers, but more so that we might be ‘reformed and always being reformed’ in our worship towards new life in Christ.


            Jesus’ healing stories are for us to hear and respond. We need a thorough shaking every now and then. To their dismay, he fulfills his promise by not following the most important religious rules. He teaches us to keep what is not shaken and that instead of having enemies who ‘deserve what they get’ we might wish and hope for God’s grace and love to appear into our confused and broken world in which we live. We might want to make a dent into the infirmities-of-the-spirit in our world in thought and in deed.


As we stand tall and are being led by a God of mercy and justice, let us help lighten the burden of our neighbor who is meek and bending lowly and can’t stand straight; let us withhold judgment as to ‘who is worthy’ or not. Let us bestow compassion on those who need it; help build confidence in those we know need it. Don’t you love Jesus? He is showing, telling us how to walk by the Spirit—by the power of God—God’s laws of grace and love. I don’t know about you, but I want to continue to know more about following in Jesus’ footsteps.


                                                                        Thanks be to God.                        AMEN.

  August 2018  
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