August 21, 2016

Sermon by The Reverend Jodi L. Baron, 14th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C, Luke 13: 10-17

“When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God.”
In the name of our Loving God: Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. Amen.
Good Morning!
I was sitting in my office yesterday afternoon, after walking around and chatting with folks at the Baby Pantry, Car seat check, and health fair, and decided to listen to the rain. I had just gotten back from a quick down and back to Holland to visit a good friend while Christian went fishing with some of his buddies. I was sitting there, with the window open, listening to the wind rustle the leaves and rain drip from the roof, and it was a really lovely moment of connection to some peace and stillness that I have been lacking the last few months, maybe even years!
Connection, peace, and stillness are not always things that we seek more of, though, at times they are even quite upsetting experiences. By their very presence, they reveal the glaring reality of their absence.

When we witness connection, sometimes it reminds us of our disconnection to someone or something,
when we witness peace, we are struck at how long we’ve been without it,
when we are still, we are reminded just how much our bodies and minds move…all the time.
And these particular reflections of absence doesn’t necessarily mean anything negative or anything to push away.
In fact, sometimes, it’s in those deep places of awe that we find, if we are brave enough to lean into them, that we can hear God whisper a special invitation.
That’s what listening to the rain does for me.
It doesn’t happen every time I’m still, or every time it rains, but once in awhile, if I’m in a space where I can really pay attention to the movements of God…I can hear it, like St. Benedict taught, with the ear of my heart.
It’s an amazing gift
A gift that I want to hold onto.
I wonder if, like me, today’s Gospel reading was one of those God-whispering moments for you too, but through scripture.
One that is a really. quiet. whisper.
A whisper of wondering and questions and what-ifs, and gratitude.
For me, deep within the text, we read a sentence that was an experience. of connection, peace, and stillness.
“When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God.”
Within this tiny passage of Luke, we are witnessing a teaching so ordinary and profound, that I often forget just how paradigm-shifting his ministry actually was, and in fact, continues to be.
Jesus is teaching that concern over the suffering of fellow human beings TRUMPS our obligations related to rules.
In the end of this healing story of Jesus, we witness Jesus restoring a status of dignity to the woman with no name.
She would have experienced a diminished status, in access to worship God in the Synagogue because of her “ailment.” For EIGHTEEN years this unnamed woman was cut out of the blessings of communal exploration of God’s word, the community that is inherent in the touch of friends, peace that comes from knowing you are not alone.
This restoration of dignity, inherent in her lineage as a daughter of Abraham, of which she’d been denied for so long, is evident. immediately.
She stood up straight.
She praised God.
A most fitting, and biological response to God’s love and grace.
Her response, however, only comes from a deep well of gratitude from within. Like a fountain, her gratitude springs forth and she has no other choice but to smile, maybe laugh…most certainly a little jig…
And the Prayer book that our church, The Episcopal Church, uses has found this status of dignity for human beings so important that we say it every time we baptize someone or renew our vows of our own baptism. We want this knowledge to sink down so deep into our consciousness that it seeps into our bones.
The celebrant asks the congregation:
Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
The people respond “I will, with God’s help.”
After a few more questions we ask, Will you seek and serve all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
Again, the people respond, I will, with God’s help.
And then, finally, we ask,
will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
And we answer “I will, with God’s help.”
Every time we baptize someone,
every time we renew our vows,
every time we make the sign of the cross after dipping a finger into the baptismal font.
We are confronted, if we listen, with the ways in which so many of God’s children are robbed of this basic status of dignity, as Children of the Most High.
And hopefully, through these reminders, we are challenged,
to seek out those things which are getting in the way of our brothers and sisters, and even ourselves, from claiming that dignity bestowed upon all of God’s children by this virtue of our baptism.
If we listen closely God just might whisper to you someone who needs a healing touch of restored dignity.
Maybe it’s the single mom in the grocery store in line ahead of you who’s card just got declined.
Maybe it’s in the person driving slower through town who obviously doesn’t know where to turn next.
Maybe it’s “in” the child who is throwing a temper tantrum, again.
Maybe it’s in the folks in Baton Rouge who are suffering from the recent floods,
or the refugees from Syria who are trying to keep their children alive.
It could be any of those situations and all of them.
The point is to pay attention.
To pay attention to the needs of others because we’ve been given so much. We have, as a good friend once lamented to me, won the lottery and we didn’t even buy the ticket.
These signs and rituals, experiences within the context of our liturgy…they CAN be a beautiful invitation to living a life of intention and attention to the whispers of God.
Jesus will never stop striving to restore justice, never stop calling us to break down the walls that divide us,
God will never stop calling us to reconcile our union with God and with one another.
To provide ways for us to love our neighbor without judgment.
We serve a Loving God, St. Philip’s. A God with abundant love for all of creation, enough to extend to our neighbors and friends, our family and ourselves. Even enough for us to contemplate what loving our enemies might mean.
I’m excited to be on this journey with you.
I’m excited about the ways in which we are going to be invited into creating more space for the kingdom of God to break through and manifest a Gospel-sized experience of connection, peace, and stillness…for all.