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2016.08 Trinity 13

SERMON (based on Luke 13:10-17)

 

William Temple who was once Archbishop of Canterbury famously said: "The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members."

 

This morning, our gospel story has Jesus in the synagogue teaching. To the outrage of the synagogue leader Jesus heals a woman, in the synagogue, on the Sabbath. This is partly a story about the role and function of our religious traditions. Perhaps an examination of OUR claims about what could and should be practiced on the “Sabbath”,

or even: who is allowed within the walls of our religious communities. Who is allowed or should be  allowed in our Church

 

JESUS will NOT allow the  traditions of the synagogue  to exclude people. Perhaps we need to ask ourselves regularly, do our traditions hinder the “daughter of Abraham,” in our day, from joining us?  What kind of community do we see ourselves as? What kind of community does Jesus we want us to be? And importantly, how do those outside of church,  for whose benefit we exist, how do they see us?

 

We are called to build the Kingdom of God “where we are”. One of the most inspiring portrayals of the kingdom of God was Martin Luther King’s notion of  ‘the beloved community’. In the face of bigotry and racial hatred, King dreamt of a transformed world: A society, where  brotherhood and sisterhood would be a reality; where people would NOT be judged by their creed, or gender , or by the colour of their skin, or their ethnic origins, or by their social mobility or their sexuality, but would be accepted for who they were. He called this the beloved community, a companionship of love and justice.

 

Jesus’ action is also profoundly about love.  This woman had been in this condition for 18 years and certainly would have, been ignored, even rejected by her community. Jesus, in the midst of his teaching stopped everything.  But here’s another thing neither this woman, nor anyone else had asked for her to be to be healed, perhaps because it was the Sabbath, or perhaps she was so ignored it wouldn’t have mattered what day it was. But it mattered to Jesus. He restored her to wholeness and gave her back to her community

 

St John of the Cross, in one of his canticles writes:

 

When you regarded me

Your eyes imprinted

your grace in me,

 

In this, you loved me again,

 

And thus my eyes merited

to also love what you see in me.

 

Let us go forth together

to see ourselves in your beauty.

 

When we read poetry as beautiful and profound as this verse (despite its archaic usage) we can see why John of the Cross was far ahead of his time in the spiritual and psychological understanding of how love works and how true love changes us at a deep level.

St John speaks of divine love as the template and model for all human love and he sees human love as the necessary preparation for any encounter with God. If you have never felt or experienced any human love, it’s hard to access God as Love (although grace overcomes this barrier). If you have never let God love you, you will not know how to love other people or things as they deserve. John is surely describing the very process of love at its best:

 

You give something of yourself to another. You see a piece of yourself in this other person (usually unconsciously). This allows the other person to do the same in return. You do not need or demand anything back from them, because you know that you are both participating in a single, bigger Love. This is a love that fully satisfies and creates an immense Inner Aliveness.

 

Simply to love is its own reward. You accept being accepted--for no reason, and by no criteria whatsoever! This is the key that unlocks everything in me, for others, and toward God, so much so that we call it "salvation." To put it another way, what I let God see and accept in me also becomes what I can see and accept in myself. And even more, it becomes that through which I see everything else.

 

This is why it is crucial to allow God, and at least one other person, to see us in our imperfection, as we truly are, rather than as we ideally wish to be. It is also why we must give others this same experience of being looked upon and loved, in their imperfection

 

If we don’t do this, they will never know the essential and utterly transforming mystery of grace. Such utterly free and unmerited love is the only love that confirms, that transforms, and changes us at the deepest levels of consciousness. This is the love that transformed and changed the woman who had been disabled, bent over, disregarded and ignored for 18 years

 

Are there people in our parish, in our community, or even in our church, who are bent over, disabled, by money worries, by debt, by loneliness; disabled by their status, by their social class, their race, their colour or their sexuality?

 

"The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members."

 

Let us together strive to continue to make this place - The Beloved Community. A place of refuge and hope, place of birth and rebirth, a place of welcome and acceptance, no matter who you are or where you come from

 

Ought not these people who have been bound for so long, be set free from their bondage, even on the Sabbath day?

 

 

Amen

 


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