The Pas 14th Sunday after Pentecost – BAS Proper 21
Proper 16 – Ordinary/Lectionary 21 – Pentecost + 14
21 August 2016
God of the sabbath, this is the day and this is the hour when women long oppressed stand with dignity, and when your healing escapes our desire for control: may your joy stretch the fabric of our hearts and inspire us to loosen each other’s bonds; through Jesus Christ, the shamer of the powerful and the raiser of the dead. Amen.
I really like the reading from Jeremiah, for today. It speaks to us of our human reticence, our silence in the face of God’s need.
It speaks to us of our uncertainty, our hesitation to believe that when we, ordinary citizens such as we are, stand up for what’s right that we will be heard much less believed.
We see what’s going on, what’s going wrong with the world, all around us. We see where God’s words of love and forgiveness, of steadfastness and constancy can be a balm, a salve, to those who need to hear them, although those in authority are seem to be in a position to ignore them, to brush them aside, like the buzz of a mosquito.
But we all know that a mosquito, with enough persistence will succeed in biting its intended target.
Today we see Jeremiah saying everything we would say should God come to each one of us and tell us “I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (Jer 1:5b)
Jeremiah says, and we would mimic: “Alas, Sovereign Lord, I do not know how to speak I am too young.” / I am too old / I am a woman / I am a minority man / I am a person on the margins of society / I’m not in a positon of authority, and so on. (Jer 1:6)
No matter our current condition, we are able to rhyme off any number of reasons why God may want to look to someone else, anyone else other than each one of us. But what if it’s exactly each one of us whom God truly needs to proclaim God’s message to the poor, the downtrodden, and the marginalized all around us?
Jeremiah is told he will be sent to the nations of the world. He’s not told that he will proclaim his words only to those in authority.
“The Lord said to me ‘DO not say [enter excuse, or itemized list of excuses here].’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the Lord.” (Jer 1:7-8)
God doesn’t tell Jeremiah who it is he’s going to be bringing God’s words to. In the gospel, for today, Jesus brings God’s message of love, forgiveness and healing to a woman who has been crippled for 18 years, unable to stand upright. The problem is he does this ‘outside of regular office hours.’
Jesus heals this woman, in a public way, in front of his detractors who would have had her make an appointment to come back tomorrow when its more convenient for them. After all, she’s been suffering for 18 years, what’s one more day?
And in this we can see Jesus reply that she’s been suffering for 18 years, why wait even one more day? (Lk 13:16)
Jeremiah reflects each one of us in his desire for God to select someone, anyone else to bring God’s words, God’s message, yet we see Jesus doing just that, in today’s gospel. We see Jesus preaching God’s message of love, forgiveness, inclusion for all people.
And we look at this and come to the conclusion of, ‘yeah, but he’s Jesus. He’s the son of God, he’s the Messiah. Of course he’s preaching and proclaiming God’s love for all of humanity.’
At the same time we have to remember that God doesn’t call the equipped, rather God equips the called.
Jesus isn’t just preaching and teaching to the Pharisees and the synagogue leader. Rather, he’s preaching and teaching to all of us, and especially to those, like this woman, who come to him because he proclaims God’s message, because he proclaims God’s love for all of humanity.
I’m reminded as I write, that God’s love, God’s message, God’s words come down to us. Our love is unable to go very far up to God, but God’s love always comes down. And once received, our job is to spread that love, those messages, and words, as far as we can, in all directions.
God tells us, as he tells Jeremiah “You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Don’t be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you” (Jer 1:7b-8a)
The question is what barriers do we put in the way of God’s message, or ourselves as the carriers of that love to all people? “Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, ‘There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.’” (Lk 13:14)
The woman, in today’s gospel, came to participate in the worship life of her community. She didn’t come to be healed by Jesus, today. Jesus came to teach in the synagogue. Her healing at his hands was as spontaneous as his message of love and forgiveness for all of God’s people.
And yet Jesus proclaimed God’s message for all nations. Jeremiah proclaims the words that God gives him to proclaim. When we look elsewhere in the bible, at the commissioning of the disciples, we’re reminded that God will give us the words to proclaim when they need to be proclaimed, and where. And that God will rescue us from whatever situation we find ourselves within.
Today we see corporate terrorism against creation, as well as against those who wish only to preserve the earth for the future generations.
Today we see those who wish to promote their fanatically inspired beliefs over the wellbeing and welfare of anyone else around them, as they continue to commit acts of terrorism not just in their home nations, but around the world.
Today we see ongoing atrocities and wars, we see the remnants of the trafficking of humans, as families mourn the sudden loss of members. We see the discrimination of one against another, just because they look differently than each other.
We see those who are more willing to throw insults and attack each other rather than to sit down in peace and find out what’s happening in each other’s lives over attacking without seeming provocation.
This week, youth from across the Anglican and Lutheran faiths has gathered in Charlottetown, PEI to come together, to worship together, to examine aspects of faith, together. This week, they learn about the concepts of ‘not for sale’ as they look at ‘creation not for sale,’ ‘humanity not for sale,’ and ‘salvation not for sale.’
And in the face of the events that dominate our news headlines, this is important for us to grasp. Important for us to embody, today, and every day.
God tells Jeremiah, as God tells each one of us: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.” (Jer 1:5)
Now, we may not be all prophets, but we are all called, commissioned, loved, and set a part for the work at hand. For too many years we have been complacent as racism grows in the hearts of all people. For too long we have been silent as we see the effects of not caring for our fellow human beings has taken hold of our lives, our society.
Every once in a while I hear why should we care about others, they don’t care about us. I even hear this about provincial and national regulations that are to set standards of equality. That no one cares about what happens in the north. Well, if we don’t live up to our end of the requests for information, for sharing of experiences then people who ae not in the north cannot care about what happens here.
In the beginning of all things, creation, salvation and humanity has not been for sale; ever since “the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.
2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” (Gen 2:1-3)
All that God made is good. The problems come when we forget that, when we forget to look out for each other, and to treat each other as we wish to be treated. And looking at the world around us, we see corporate greed tramping all over creation in search of more and more greed over the care of what we’ve been given.
When we put greed and profits ahead of what God has given us to care for – creation and each other – then we put price tags on everything and everyone.
“Then the Lord reached out … and touched my mouth and said to me, ‘I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant’” (Jer 1:9-10)
In Jesus day, the compassion for each other was replaced by the need to ‘get it done correctly,’ and we see the words of the prophet emerge again, bringing to attention that salvation, humanity, and creation are not for sale, at any price.
“The Lord answered [the synagogue leader], ‘You Hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for 18 long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?’ The people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.” (Lk 13:15-17)
What binds us from doing the will of God? Is it our own fear of being seen? Is it the fear of not being heard? Or worse yet, the fear of being heard?
God tells us, “I have put my words in your mouth.” (Jer 1:9b)
In this world, our words, the words God gives us to proclaim are most needed to be proclaimed, to be heard; even if it’s just by those who need to hear, to experience the words of God’s love and forgiveness for all of humanity. To be reminded that we are all God’s children, and that we are loved, equally.