“Freed and Renewed From Bending Over”08.21.2016 Sermon

[A sermon on the Jesus’ healing on the Sabbath in Luke 13]

Luke 13:10-17 • August 21, 2016

Brothers and sisters in Christ grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Image result for elca churchwide assemblyI just returned a few days ago from the 2016 Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. I wasn’t attending as a voting member though. I was attending as a musician. I was invited to be part of the worship team that led a couple thousand people in worship during each day of the assembly. For followers of the risen savior Jesus, our life of faith is centered in worship. Even during a legislative business meeting of our church, worship was central to the assembly’s work.

Worship is always central to the work of the church – whether it’s the national expression of the church at a Churchwide Assembly that only meets every three years or the local expression of the church in congregations like Good Shepherd that meet every week.

Worship is at the heart of what we do together as part of the body of Christ.Image result for elca churchwide assembly

The theme of this year’s Churchwide Assembly was “Freed & Renewed in Christ: 500 Years of God’s Grace in Action.” In so many ways, I think today’s gospel reading speaks directly to the Churchwide Assembly theme of being freed and renewed in Christ.

And I do not believe the woman in today’s gospel text is the only one who is bent over and in need of the freedom and renewal that only Jesus can offer. The leader of the synagogue, all of Jesus’ opponents who are shamed and even the rejoicing crowds are all bent over and in need of freedom and renewal from Jesus. But this isn’t just about us looking at these poor, poor people in this quaint little bible story from Saint Luke. This story is about you and me too.

Image result for healing of the bent over womanYou are bent over.

I am bent over.

Every living human being walking on planet earth today is bent over. Bent over with something or by someone that only the savior of the world Jesus the Christ can set us free from. Setting us free from the evil that bends us over and holds us in bondage. Renewing us in ways that are impossible for us to receive without Jesus.

Luther Seminary New Testament Professor Dr. Matthew Skinner believes that there are two different views that run throughout the New Testament and are present in Christian tradition across denominational and historical boundaries.

“To put it rather simply,” Dr. Skinner writes, “one of these views commends patient endurance as people wait in expectation of what God will bring to fruition in the future. The other view expresses a restless desire to see God’s intentions for human society spring into existence now. Both views agree that something new has happened through Jesus, and that God has set the world onto a new course, but both views also know all too well that life continues to be filled with misery, oppression, pain, and loss.” Dr. Skinner sums up his thought by stating that “The first view says that faith in God makes people content to endure the current miseries. The second view says that faith in God makes it crucial that we can’t wait.”

All of us can attest to times that required a bit more waiting and patience than we felt was necessary. And equally so, I think most all of us can attest to times when we simply couldn’t wait any longer. When something had to be done. Waiting longer was not an option.

Image result for jesus healing on the sabbath iconIn our gospel reading today – which by the way, is a story that is only found in the gospel of Saint Luke – in one sense Jesus is breaking the Sabbath in the present moment. Disregarding all of the rules that one is supposed to follow for proper Sabbath observation. In Jesus’ opinion, this woman’s suffering has gone on long enough and she simply cannot wait another day for healing to take place. Her future begins now. Even though, as the woman stands up straight for the first time in nearly two decades, I’m guessing she sees that she has been raised up into world that is still quite broken and filled with people who are bent over.

In another sense, Jesus is not breaking, but fulfilling the commandment of Sabbath. Fulfilling the commandment of the Sabbath in ways that the religious leaders of Jesus’ day couldn’t understand because they were trying to hold on as tightly as they could to the rules and regulations of the past. Rules and regulations that Jesus, the savior of the world, came to fulfill. Imagine the relief that the woman in our gospel reading must have felt after 18 long agonizing years of being crippled by an evil spirit.

Please.

Please take note that this woman doesn’t ask Jesus to heal her.

Please remember that.

Image result for jesus chooses usThe healing that Jesus offers this woman and the way it takes place is so significant to our understanding of how we as Lutheran Christians believe to be in relationship with God. The woman doesn’t act or beg or even reach out to Jesus for anything. Jesus acts first – freeing and renewing the woman in Christ. Jesus simply noticed that she needed rest. Sabbath that couldn’t wait any longer. In spite of the rules of religious tradition that thought it could wait another day.

What needs rest in your life? True Sabbath. What cripples you and I so much so that we are not able to stand up straight and gaze into Jesus’ eyes?

The woman was bent over with an evil spirit. Without even asking, Jesus freed her and renewed her.

The leaders of the synagogue were bent over by rules and regulations about what the Sabbath even sax and how it was to be observed. Rules and regulations that caused them to focus on the past instead of looking toward the future. A future with Jesus standing before them to bring freedom and renewal into the world. A future with Jesus that continues to bring freedom and renewal into the world today.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, when God is up to something, prepare to be made new – whether from a debilitating disease or social stigmas about persons that are different from you and I or even holy pieties that keep you and I from being fully present to one another as brothers and sisters in the same body of Christ.

In a commentary on our gospel reading today, Elizabeth Palmer shares that in “Reading this healing story, our tendency is to side with Jesus and the woman and the crowds, and against Jesus’ opponents, even to be glad about their shame. But perhaps,” Palmer offers “instead of rejoicing in one person’s exaltation over the other, we could simply aim for kindness and healing in this complex, broken world, where everyone needs Image result for hands reaching outsimultaneously to be exalted and humbled. Perhaps grace could replace judgment in our assessment of those who appear to be our opponents. Rather than aiming to be lifted up while our enemies are stooped down, perhaps we could focus on seeing what God reveals to us no matter where our gaze is aimed, no matter how tall we stand. When we notice the person next to us stooped down, we might take on some of her burden without judging her worthiness. Perhaps that’s where the real healing begins.”

During my time in New Orleans at Churchwide Assembly, over and over again, I heard voices raised in praise for God’s presence in our lives through Jesus and witnessed healing taking place as our church gathered in assembly freed and renewed in Christ.

Image result for good shepherd bismarckI can’t help but hope and pray that the same thing can and is happening right now at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. May you and I live into the freedom that only Christ Jesus gives. And may we never stop offering God our thanks and praise for the gift of being renewed in Christ in all that we say and in all that we do. Amen.


“For Thine is…” 07.31.2016 Sermon

Hebrews 4:14-16 • July 31, 2016

Brothers and sisters in Christ grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Several times during the year, we have an opportunity in our worship life together to step away from the rhythm of the Revised Common Lectionary cycle of scripture readings and enter into a worship series that focuses our attention on a specific theme for a few weeks. These series might be about stewardship or our shared global mission work or faith education around a topic that helps us dig deeper into what it means to be a Lutheran Christian in the world today.

This is the last week of a worship series that has centered us on the Lord’s Prayer this summer. I’m grateful for the numerous pieces of feedback that you have shared with me throughout this series – positive and negative. I sincerely hope and pray that the past several weeks have been a time of growth for you and me in our relationship with one another as brothers and sisters in Christ and with our God.

“For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.” are the words that we share at the conclusion of this most significant prayer that’s been the focus of our summer worship series.

A prayer that many assume all Christians know by memory and use daily in their faith life.
Like so many of the other parts of this prayer that we have walked through over the past 6 weeks, I wonder if you and I actually live out our life of faith in ways that reflect the Lord’s Prayer or this concluding section of it.

As I’ve thought about this, I’m reminded of one of the great President Abraham Lincoln stories that I’ve heard. Lincoln was arguing with one of his political opponents.

“How many legs does a cow have?” Lincoln asked his adversary.
“Four, of course,” came the disgusted reply.
“That’s right,” agreed Lincoln. “Now suppose you call the cow’s tail a leg; how many legs would the cow have?”
“Why, five, of course,” was the confident reply.
“Now, that’s where you’re wrong,” said Lincoln. “Calling a cow’s tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.”

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory. For thine. Meaning for God. Not for Pastor Craig or for the church or for a specific race or nation or time in history is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory. For thine. For God is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever and ever. For God.

This section of The Lord’s Prayer is called the Doxology. Doxology is one of those strange churchy words that I’m guessing you don’t use much in your everyday speech. Simply stated, doxology reflects an expression of praise to God. Again, not about us. About God.

Pastor Tom Harris states that, “This doxology with which we conclude the Lord’s Prayer answers three questions: Who has the authority? Who has the ability? Who deserves the credit?”

Think about that. What’s the leg and what’s the tail? in the Lord’s Prayer? Or may even who’s the leg and who’s the tail?

Who has the authority?

Who has the ability?

Who deserves the credit?

And furthermore, it’s important to note that answers to these kind of questions with regard to the Lord’s Prayer goes a lot further than thinking that the only “right way” to say this prayer is to say sins or trespasses or debts.

Frankly, brothers and sisters in Christ, I don’t believe that actually matters. That’s not the purpose of the prayer. I just don’t think God really cares which word we use as long as we are answering the questions about who has the authority, who has the ability, and who deserves the credit appropriately.

Martin Luther teaches us very directly about this part of the Lord’s Prayer in the Small Catechism by stating “That I should be certain that such petitions are acceptable to and heard by our Father in heaven, for God himself commanded us to pray like this and promised to hear us.”

In other words – the doxology or concluding words of the Lord’s Prayer are words of confidence. Words of confidence that we believe God is with us always, that we believe God hears us and that we believe that God does answer our prayer. And sometimes it takes the littlest of God’s children to remind us of that.

Take a look at this video clip that was texted to me during our summer worship series from one of Good Shepherd’s families.

PLAY VIDEO

The great 20th century theologian Karl Barth once wrote, “Prayer is not an undertaking left to chance, a trip into the blue. It must end as it has begun, with conviction.” I think that our 3-year old sister in Christ in that video clip is praying with conviction. Or better yet, with confidence and boldness.

In our New Testament reading from Hebrews today, we heard, “Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (vs. 16)

The doxology of the Lord’s Prayer is not the culmination of our greatness or a call to action that guilts us into doing things in order for God to love us and finally pay attention to us. The doxology of the Lord’s Prayer is the culmination of the greatness of our God, the God of all creation. The culmination of the greatness of God that invites us to approach the throne of God’s grace with conviction. With confidence. With boldness.

Go, brothers and sisters in Christ, as you pray the Lord’s Prayer, pray it boldly. Pray it confidently. Pray it with conviction. And may you be reminded every single time that you pray the Lord’s Prayer that the God of all creation is with you always – in all times and all places and all situations – for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Thanks be to God. Amen.


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