Sunday, August 21, 2016
Oh, how I love Jesus!
A sermon preached at St. George's Chapel, Harbeson
(the Rev'd Dr.) Elizabeth Kaeton
Well, anyone who knows me will tell you that I am a self-avowed, unrepentant, deeply committed, practicing “Jesus freak”.
I do loves me some Jesus.
You might have guessed that from all the hymns we’re singing today. Just humor me and sing that song we sang when came into church, will you? Join in when you can, but especially on the chorus
There is a name I love to hear / I love to sing its worth
It sounds like music in mine ear / The sweetest name on earth.
Oh, how I love Jesus. Oh, how I love Jesus.
Oh, how I love Jesus, because he first loved me.
You know, I love Jesus especially in moments like this morning’s gospel lesson from Luke, when he’s getting down with the people and breaking rules, getting uppity with the religious leaders of his day.
So, let me put this particular piece of scripture in context for you. The last location-fix we got on Jesus was back at the end of Chapter 10 when he was visiting with Mary and Martha. We know that they lived in Bethany.
So, it may be safe to assume that he was in that general location – just outside of Jerusalem, in Judea, in the Kingdom of Herod, not far from where he was born in Bethlehem but a little more than 70 miles south of his home in Nazareth in the province of Galilee in ancient Palestine.
Nazareth, by the way, is not far from the Syrian border where we are watching the horrors of war unfold – especially on the shocked, bloodied faces of little children like five year old Omran Daqneesh.
Jesus has been busy, preaching and teaching and healing. Scripture says he’s taught the disciples how to pray the prayer we know as “The Lord’s Prayer” – the “Our Father”.
Jesus has also taught them using many parables, like the Good Samaritan, and he cast out demons in a man that was mute.
Probably because he was not far from Jerusalem, there seemed to be an abundance of Pharisees who always seemed to be lurking about, watching every step he took, listening to every little thing he taught, checking out every person he healed. Jesus says to his disciples,
“Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, that is, their hypocrisy.” (Luke 12:1b).
“The yeast of the Pharisees is their hypocrisy.”
That Jesus! He can really turn a phrase, can’t he?
I’m thinking somebody wrote that sucker down ten minutes after it left his lips and embroidered it on a purificator or corporal in the sacristy somewhere.
“The yeast of the Pharisees is their hypocrisy.” The man doesn’t mince words, right? And, it’s still true today, isn’t it? We can all think of examples of religious leaders who, unfortunately, allow hypocrisy to be the yeast and the leaven in their lives.
In this morning’s gospel lesson, we get to see exactly what Jesus means. In the 13th Chapter of Luke’s gospel, beginning at verse 10, we find Jesus where we’d expect him to be on the Sabbath – he’s teaching in “one of the synagogues”. Suddenly and without any fanfare, a woman appeared before Jesus. Perhaps it’s just what she always did on the Sabbath. She had a “spirit” says scripture, which had crippled her for eighteen years. “She was bent over and quite unable to stand up straight.”
Now, mind you, the woman did not bring attention to herself. She probably didn’t have to. I’m sure she was quite a sight. Scripture does not say that she cried out, though she must have been in some pain if not at least some discomfort. Indeed, she didn’t ask for anything.
It was Jesus, in fact, who called her to come over and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” And, scripture tells us, “When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God.”
Now, remember what Jesus said about the Pharisees? Remember that thing about “The yeast of the Pharisees is their hypocrisy”? Right. Cue the Pharisee who, scripture says, was ‘indignant because Jesus had cured on the Sabbath.”
Weeeellllllll….. I mean! The nerve, right? Healing. In the synagogue. On the Sabbath.
Remember that hypocrisy thing? So, the Pharisee doesn’t get indignant at Jesus who did the healing. Well, not publicly. No, he’s quite indignant at the woman and says to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the Sabbath.”
But Jesus called him out for what he was. “You hypocrites,” he said, reminding them that even the ox and the donkey are allowed to be unbound on the Sabbath. Ought not the woman, a daughter of Abraham and Sarah, be set free from bondage – even on the Sabbath – he asked.
Don’t you just love Jesus? Isn’t he just the best? It’s not just that he healed the woman. It’s not even that he healed the woman on the Sabbath. It’s that Jesus lives in our hearts through the breaking open of the stories in scripture and continues to heal us in our lives today.
That’s what happens when you let love be the leaven in your life.
We are all, in our own ways, very much like that bent over woman. So many of us have been carrying the weight of ‘oughts’ and shoulds’ for years and years – 18 at least.
Some of us are emotionally crippled by a sense of inadequacy. Others of us are spiritually incapacitated by doubt. Still others of us have grown bitter with regrets and the dis-ease of the WCS:
The “Woulda-Coulda-Shoulda’s”. Oh, we would have. . . . If we only could have. . . . Still, we probably should have .. . .
If only I had been . . . (fill in the blank). . . . Better. Smarter. More handsome. Prettier. Thinner. Richer. Luckier. In the right place at the right time.
The Woulda-Coulda-Shoulda’s of regret are lethal, shrinking the heart and crippling the soul, bending the human spirit and keeping us from standing in “the full stature of Christ” to which we were baptized.
The truth is that many of us in this church, like so many people in so many churches in so many places this very morning, may look physically fit and even physically strong, but underneath the exterior ‘optics’ are people who are emotionally and spiritually bent over.
We are not calling out to Jesus for attention. We’ve not come here this morning looking for healing.
Some of us may not even be sure why we came here this morning. Perhaps, like the woman in this morning’s scripture story, it’s just what we always do on the Sabbath.
Some of us may be absolutely soul-sick about what’s happening in the world. In Lebanon and Syria, Jerusalem and Palestine. And, right here in this country, in our own cities and towns where gun violence is epidemic and natural disasters of fire and flood and even pestilence (in the Zika virus) are in epic, biblical proportion.
And then, there’s the political campaign.
The weight of all of that is enough to bend us all over in pain. The miracle is that any of us got out of bed this morning, put our feet on the floor, got washed and dressed and actually came to church.
The good news is that Jesus has come to us this morning, in the breaking open of the scripture and the breaking of the bread to heal us and say to us: “You are set free from your ailment.”
Jesus has come here this morning to say to me, “You are set free from your ailment.” And yes, despite what you see before you, I do struggle with my own spiritual ailments that threaten to bend my spirit.
Jesus has come here this morning to say to YOU … and YOU… and YOU… “You are set free from your ailment.” Whatever it is – known or unknown, acknowledged or ignored – that keeps you from your full potential as a child of God, baptized of Jesus, and guided by the Spirit.
In the almost 30 years I’ve been ordained, I’ve been privileged to witness this sort of healing over and over again.
When the spirit is set free, the infirmities of the body can no longer contain it. It’s a miracle I cannot explain. I just know this much to be true:
When the heart and mind and soul of a person are unbound, the infirmities of the body are healed. This, I believe, is the mystery and miracle of the healing of Jesus.
Not “fixed”. Not “perfect”. Oh, no. What Jesus does is better than “fixed”. Even better than “perfect”.
This is what Jesus does: Heal. Jesus heals.
It’s a kind of healing that breaks all the rules of what we know about healing. I also know this much to be true: Sometimes, you’ve got to break a few rules in order to be healed.
As crazy and illogical as it sounds, sometimes, you’ve got to reach way down to find a star.
So, no matter what brought you to church this morning, no matter how healthy you think you are, no matter what your ailment is – whatever it is that is keeping you bent over – crippling your soul – incapacitating your heart – know this: there is healing. The wondrous love of Jesus can and will lift you and heal you – without your even asking for it or expecting it.
That’s the promise of scripture. That’s the hope of scripture. That’s the good news of Jesus.
It’s what happens when love is the leaven in your life. And, that love is Jesus.
Turn to your neighbor right now and say that. Say, “Love is the leaven in my life.”
Now, say, “Jesus is the center of the love in my life.”
I really do believe that if we love God and love our neighbor as ourselves we can change the world.
No, I seriously believe that. Love God. Love your neighbor as yourself. Change the world. I believe that can and will happen. We've just got to live like we believe it.
Which is why I am a self-avowed, unrepentant, deeply committed, practicing “Jesus freak”. And, trust me, it takes a lot of practice to be a Jesus freak. I’m sure that’s why God called me to the priesthood. This way, Jesus could keep me busy and out of trouble. Well, mostly.
So, let’s let love be the leaven in our lives.
Let’s be like the bent over woman in this morning’s scripture and stand up straight in our bodies and in our hearts and in our souls and let’s praise Jesus.
Please sing with me about Jesus, the sweetest name on earth:
It tells of one whose loving heart / Can feel my deepest woe
Who in each sorrow bears a part / That none can bear below
Oh, how I love Jesus. Oh, how I love Jesus.
Oh, how I love Jesus, because he first loved me.
Let love be the leaven in your life. And, let that love be Jesus.
Now, go out and change the world!