Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Mid-Week Prayer and Up-Date from Rev. Fry @ EBPC

Hello All, I hope this finds you doing well. 

I encourage you to take a moment and pray the following prayer and pray for the people and situations on the prayer list from the bulletin and those listed in the e-mail. 

Holy God, 
you alone are worthy of honor and praise. 
Open our eyes to see the world as you see it.  
Give us the wisdom to witness your presence in all people.  
Transform us in love,
grow us in our faith, 
call us to love with a full heart 
and to share you promises with all People.  Amen.  

Please Pray For: 
-  Another person in our congregation.  
-  The people with whom you work.  
-  Children and families as they prepare to begin or return to school. 
-  Christians in Syria and Egypt caught in the middle of violence.  
-  Those in our community who are poor, hungry, sick, and lonely. 

This Sunday: In Worship (@10:30am) we will be celebrating the Lord's Supper. 

Lectionary Readings for this Sunday: (I have been preaching from Luke this Summer). 
-  Jeremiah 2:4-13  
-  Psalm 81:1, 10-16
-  Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16
-  Luke 14:1, 7-14 (verses 2-6 are worth reading as well). 

God's Peace, Rev. Michael Fry.  

Sermon from August 25, 2013

Rev. Michael Fry
Preaching @ East Bethany PC
Aug. 25, 2013

Luke 13:10-17

On Tuesday afternoon Michael Brandon Hill entered an elementary school in Decatur, Georgia with the intent of ending his life and taking everybody with him. 

On that same afternoon Antoinette Tuff sat down to relieve a school secretary and was able to put into practice the Christian values of compassion and mercy to prevent what could have been another tragic school shooting. 

In an interview later that day, Antoinette told a reporter that she felt sorry for the man with the gun who held her hostage. 

When he told her that nobody loved him and that he was going to die today, she told him that she loved him and that he didn’t have to die today – and he didn’t.  Antoinette talked him into turning himself in to the police.  She could see that he was troubled and shared with him about the struggles that she experienced in her own life, causing him to open up to her, saying that he was sick and hadn’t taken his medicine. 

I believe that Michael Brandon Hill did not shoot all those children because of the power of God at work in the life of Antoinette Tuff—she is what I would call a practicing Christian.  She relied on her faith and what she had learned from her pastor about anchoring herself in God and was able to reach out to this hurting young man rather than react in fear.

The daily practice of her Christian faith prepared her for this moment and the same is true for us: what we do here in worship on Sunday morning matters more than we realize because it shapes our values and to a certain extent how we are going to behave—whether we will be able to act as Christ’s hands and feet in a hurting world.

As Christians we are called to live in anticipation of God’s kingdom participating in the healing and restoration of the world that will one day be complete.  The day when there will be no blindness, no loss of hearing, no one broken or disfigured like the woman whom Jesus heals; a world without mental illness, school shootings, and chemical warfare; a time when death will be no more and every tear will be wiped away. 

The people in our gospel lesson today witness a glimpse of the transformative and liberating nature of the Kingdom of God on this Sabbath as Jesus frees this woman, a daughter of Abraham, from her confining posture.  And what better a day than the Sabbath? 

For the first time in eighteen years this woman is able to stand up straight.  Her life has changed from one of pain and her posture now allows her to have a new perspective on the world.  She no longer is bent over, seeing only the ground in front of her a few steps a way.  She no longer has to contort her body to look up at the sky or the person to whom she is speaking.  Now she is able to stand up and look around.  She has been freed and her response is to stand and praise the God who liberated her on the Sabbath.

So often we have a negative view of the Sabbath.  Some people harbor resentment from being forced to go to church as children and being told what can and cannot be done.  Or the messages that they hear in worship do not seem to have a practical “real world” application. 

And in our world and a culture where “what do you do?” is often the first question we ask; where being busy is seen as a badge of honor and time is perhaps the most precious commodity we have, it seems counter productive and even silly to rest even when rest is what our bodies, our minds, and our spirits need the most.

The rest God calls us to take on the Sabbath is meant to be liberating instead of confining.  Our Sabbath doesn’t even have to be Sunday—since I work on Sundays, I take a Sabbath on Mondays.  The point is that we are called to take time to rest and to let God heal our tired lives and prepare us for the week ahead.

Listen to the whole commandment from Deuteronomy, the part that comes after “Observe the Sabbath and keep it holy.”  God says, “You have six days in which to do your work, but the seventh day is a day of rest dedicated to me.  On that day no one is to work – neither you, your children, your slaves, your animals, nor the foreigners who live in your country.  Your slaves must rest just as you do.  Remember that you were slaves in Egypt, and that I, the LORD your God, rescued you by my great power and strength.  That is why I command you to observe the Sabbath” (5:12-13). 

Part of what observing the Sabbath does is that it creates equality among people because everyone is supposed to get one.  From the greatest to the least everybody gets some time off to rest.  When the people were slaves in Egypt, there was no day off — now freedom has come, liberation has come, and they are called to follow the example of God and observe the Sabbath.

While we have not been literal slaves, often we are so busy that we do not realize how we have become enslaved by our fears and burdened by our desires, distracting us from the God who gives us life. 

Theologian Emilie Townes observes that we are like the woman bent over and unable to see what God is doing in the world and that Jesus invites us to stand up so that we can see, praise God, and participate in the kingdom. 

Part of my job as your pastor is to encourage you in your faith like Antoinette Tuff’s pastor helped her so that you can then be Christ’s hands and feet working for the kingdom, living out the values of compassion, mercy, generosity, and peace.

But I can only do so much.  I can give you a theological framework to work with, I can seek God’s guidance in giving meaningful sermons and good pastoral care but it is up to you to decide what you do with these tools.  After all in the end our community of faith is a volunteer organization. 

It is you who decides to come to worship.  It is you who decides how much time and money you give to the work of God.  And most importantly it is you who decides how you will respond when you are faced with the Michael Brandon Hills of the world. 

As Jesus heals this woman, he reminds us of the liberating nature of the Sabbath freeing us to rest from the burdens that we are carrying, freeing us from the demands of work and commerce, freeing us to worship the Lord who gives us life and grace.  In the end this is a story of mercy, freedom, and healing. 

Jesus has shown us mercy; Jesus has freed us from sin; Jesus has healed our brokenness and shown us the way that leads to life. 

Will we rise, no longer bent by sin, guilt, distraction or fear?  Will we let ourselves be freed to experience the Sabbath and rise up in praise?

Antoinette Tuff’s answer to that question saved her life and the life of 870 children this week.  By the grace of God our answer can change our lives too so that we become part of God’s healing of the world.

People have called Ms. Tuff a hero and yet she says, “I give it all to God, through his grace and mercy.” 

May we go and do likewise.  Amen. 

*                *                *

References that helped shape this sermon.
·       David Lose Article The Law of Love, at Working Preacher web site.  Accessed 8/24/13.                                    
·       Feasting on the Word Commentary: Luke 13:10-17. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors. Year C, Vo. 3. WJK Press: Louisville, 2010.
·       Interview with Antionette Tuff from NPR. Org and ABC News.
·       Sermon Brain Wave Podcast #312 Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost accessed 8/24/13.
·       Working Preacher Commentary on Luke 13:10-17 by Emerson Powery accessed 8/24/13.   

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