11 Pentecost Proper 16 Yr C August 25 2019

Audio  11 Pentecost Proper 16 Yr C August 25 2019
Isaiah 58:9b-14, Psalm 103:1-8, Hebrews 12:18-29, Luke 13:10-17

When I watch television these days I have the mute button on the remote close at hand, for the commercials. They drive me crazy. If I were one to believe anything I see and hear on television, these are the things that I think are important to Americans, in no particular order: we have to buy the right pharmaceuticals to sleep better, to feel better, or to have better sex; we have to buy a sexy car or a big truck; we have to buy the right product to have financial security; we have to drink but do so responsibly; we have to wear the right clothes; we have to buy the right toys, etc. etc. etc. Even the feel good ads want me to buy something. On some level, consumerism, the transactional relationship, has become the dominant world religion, and we freely hand ourselves over to it. And, when we begin to believe in the religion of consumerism, the religion of transaction, it is quite easy to come to believe that each one of us is the most important person in our particular universe, and fulfilling our needs is the most important endeavor we can be about.

So how is it we find ourselves in this place today? Why is it that you get up on Sunday morning and come to church? You've got other places to be, the lake place, or just drinking coffee in your own kitchen, soon and very soon it will be football. Why is it that so many of you put in hours planning our 175th Anniversary celebration, so many of you attend vestry meetings as leaders in this church, you cut the grass, you clean the yard and the kitchen, you make sure this space is ready for us to gather, you read scripture, you serve at this altar. You spend your overnights in the GIFTS shelter, you make meals, you give rides. Here we are, honoring the Sabbath; here we are, worshipping God. Here we are, listening to stories of faith in Jesus, we are not at home, watching TV drinking our coffee. Here we are, eating and drinking the bread and the wine, being made into the body of Christ, why do we do it? Why do we come here?

I think it is because we are the same as the woman in our gospel today. This woman whom Jesus set free. This woman who was bound up, or enslaved, for all of her adult life. This woman whom Jesus released. This good news we hear today is true. You and I know it is true because it describes our lives, each one of us is set free, each one of us is released from the bonds that hold us at a distance from each other, we are released from the bonds that keep us believing that ultimately our needs, real or perceived, are the most important needs in the room. You see, unlike what we experience in so many places in our lives, God's relationship with us is not transactional, God's relationship with us is loving, giving, emptying.

We find ourselves here today not because we have to be here, or we are obligated to be here, but because we are free. We are free from the bonds of selfishness, from the bonds of self-absorption, and egotism. We are free from the religion of our culture that preaches our worthiness is in a transaction - you must buy, you must have, you must consume, you must be the most important or good looking person in the room.

And Keeping Sabbath matters, your being here matters. We bring all our brokenness, we bring all our hurt, and we are healed. And in the healing and being made whole again, being put back together, we are freed. We are freed to show compassion. And in reaching out, showing compassion, we participate in bringing God’s healing, freedom, joy and peace to those in need, and that is a rejuvenating path to experiencing those things more fully in our own lives. We are free to be transformed into the persons we are created to be. So what’s really important here? God's dream is healing and reconciliation, God's dream is love and compassion. Keeping the Sabbath is about keeping God’s dream the main thing. It is about the nearness of the kingdom.

The woman in our story today was released from the bondage of her ailment. We too are released from bondage, but you and I both know that we tend to choose to stay in bondage. We tend to believe the religion of our culture that says to us either “you are like God” and deserve to have anything and anyone you want, or “you are worthless” and deserve only what happens to you, both of which are lies.

The truth is so very different from any of that. The truth is that we are God’s beloved creation, and that God loves us whether or not we love God, and that God came to be part of creation, to live, love, suffer and die, so that we may be reconciled, or joined together with God, and with one another so that we may be free. The truth is that the story is not about any one of us, but the story is about God’s relationship with us, and our relationship with God and our neighbor.

That’s the main thing, and what flows from that main thing, what flows from God’s amazing and abundant love for us is the freedom to love others, regardless of approval or disapproval, regardless of whether or not they deserve our love, regardless of whether or not they brought life’s circumstances upon themselves or if they are a victim of circumstances. What flows from God’s amazing and abundant love for us is mercy and compassion.

So this week as we reflect on the gospel, it might do us some good to linger where Jesus lingers, to begin in a moment of Sabbath, to start from a quiet place within, and remember the main thing. The main thing, that it isn’t about me today, it isn’t about any one of us, it is about what happens outside the walls of this church. It is about meeting others with God’s compassion, God’s mercy, and reminding ourselves of the dignity, the freedom, the blessing that is God’s desire for each of us as God’s child.



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