Message based on Luke 13:10-17, Hebrews 12:25, Phil 2:12-13 and Mark 7:8,13; “C” – P13

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Today’s readings challenge us to think about what church should be, what church is, and what the church could be. When I am talking about the "church," I am not talking about some theoretical community or building in a land FAR-FAR-AWAY. I am talking about THIS church. I am talking about you and I, Christian sisters and brothers who gather regularly to ask the Lord’s blessings upon our lives and our endeavors. I am talking about Christian brothers and sisters touched and changed by the holy presence of God in our lives.

 

 

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In today’s Gospel lesson we heard about two people who were “bent out of shape.” One was a woman who was physically bent out of shape by a crippling spirit. The other — a ruler was spiritually bent out of shape by anger, fear, bitterness, legalism, and a desire for control. We know that the woman was healed; we do not know the fate of the ruler but we can hope that eventually he found healing and reconciliation in his life.

 

Let’s take a look at what happened in today’s reading… It is the story of a woman that lived with chronic crippling back pain for 18 years. She could not even stand up straight.

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If we look in the Greek text of today’s Gospel reading, we discover that Luke used a word that means “sickness caused by weakness” (word – asthenia) as opposed to word that means “sickness caused by disease” (these words would be malkia or nosos). {Information from Friberg Lexicon module of BibleWorks Version 6}

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Something convinced that poor woman that she could not stand up straight. Today we know that there are such things as psychosomatic illnesses – those are real diseases that are caused by mental and emotional problems – and they can be healed by addressing spiritual roots of the disease.

 

Can you imagine her life? She could not see what was above her; she could only see what was below her… She could not see the sky and clouds, all she could see was her own two feet and dust. And she lived like that for 18 long years. {to give an example: 18 years ago was in 1992, 18 years ago 21st century seemed to be a distant future instead of reality of life that we live in today}.

 

 

I wonder how many of us gathered here today in this sanctuary are chained, hand-cuffed, shackled by a heavy burden, imprisoned and trapped, and otherwise chronically bound and immobilized by something that happened eons ago… by something that we had no control over … by something that we choose to hold on to for our dear life  BECAUSE in our minds that something became the definition of who we are. In our minds that something became the definition of who we are today and we have a hard time seeing past that.

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Is there something that you’ve been struggling with in your life? Do you find yourself saying something like: “I would like to do something but {1} I do not know where to start… {2} or …. but what about what I already have – I have responsibilities, {3} or … I do not have the skills or personality…” How many of us are going through life allowing our past to limit who we are today and define who we are going to be in the future thus preventing God from using us and our talents. And if you think it is too late for you, think about the lessons you are teaching your children and grandchildren by doing that…

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If we want to escape from self-imposed prisons in our lives, we must learn to put ourselves in a place where we allow God to get to us and where we are willing to work with God. The woman from today’s Gospel was ready and prepared to let go of her limitations when Jesus said: “Woman you are set free from your infirmity”; she let go, and she let God to set her free.

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And what about the ruler? Lest we feel morally superior to him, let me gently and compassionately remind all of us that at one time or another we all said something like, “it is NOT how we do things around here?” or “We’ve never done it that way?” I know that I’ve said those words at least once or twice in my life. Whenever we say these words, there is a chance and a possibility that we are spiritual descendants of that “bent out of shape” man. By saying these words we may be working against God and if we do that, may God have mercy on our souls.

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Allow me to illustrate: has anyone told you something about God that challenged your faith and made you angry with that person? I believe that all of us know what I am talking about. That is what happened to the ruler… He saw a miracle but instead of saying “Praise Be to God!” he said “It is not how we do things around here?” I’ve been there {} and I’ve done that.  If that ever happened to you, then you know how that man felt on that day…

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Jesus observed, "8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men … 13 …you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that" (Mark 7:8,13).

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In today’s reading from Hebrews Paul taught, "See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks" (Heb12:25). In Philippians 2:12-13 Paul taught, " 12 …work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose."

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If we want to breach the limitations of our lives, we must learn to put ourselves in a place where we allow God to get to us and where we are willing to work with God.

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There are many reasons why we gather in church on Sunday mornings. There are many valid explanations of what a church is. There are many reasons why we gather for worship as a community. We gather as a church because God calls us to fellowship together. We enjoy each other’s company. We are here because we like to sing familiar hymns and explore the wisdom of the songs we may not have heard before. We are here to catch up on news and to see our friends and neighbors. We are here because we feel obligated to be in church. Some of us are here because we feel that someone is pressuring or influencing us to be here.

 

But there is another, more important, reason. We are gathered here this morning because somewhere deep inside our soul there is a thirst for God. We are here because all of us are "bent out of shape" in one form or another and because we long for the healing, for the love, for the acceptance, and for the peace that comes from being in God’s presence. We are here because we know that there are "wrongs" in the world and that we cannot fix these "wrongs" on our own. We are here because deep down we know that we cannot provide for ourselves on our own and that we are under God’s mercy. We are here because deep down we know that our only real choice is to turn to God and to each other for what we need and long for. We are here because we can help each other to put ourselves in a place where God can get to us, where we can allow God to breach our walls and limitations, where we can help each other to allow God to be God of all aspects of our lives.

   

“Shackled by a heavy burden, ‘neath a load of guilt and shame, then the hand of Jesus touched me, and now I’m no longer the same.” We are here to help each other to be “no longer the same.”

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Are you still the same? Have you allowed Jesus to touch you? Have you ever looked straight into His eyes? Have you ever invited Jesus to become your personal Lord and Savior? If NOT — Will you allow Jesus to touch you today? Will you put your burdens at His feet? Will you let His healing presence into your life?  Your life will never be the same…

 

{Open the Altar}

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