Sermon Notes for Proper 16 Year C

  • First reading and Psalm
    • Jeremiah 1:4-10
    • Psalm 71:1-6
  • Alternate First reading and Psalm
    • Isaiah 58:9b-14
    • Psalm 103:1-8
  • Second reading
    • Hebrews 12:18-29
  • Gospel
    • Luke 13:10-17

The passage from Jeremiah is intriguing.   I can’t quite imagine that a boy would, or should, have confidence to speak God’s word.  He is certainly challenging the powers, reminding us that all organization is reorganization. We have to build anew: is this a question for the church?

Perhaps building an infrastructure takes years, so we often begin as children and must learn along the way.

I wonder if being a child is akin to being in a state of emotional “flow:” constantly learning and challenging, the slow building of mastery over a particular task.  In this case: learning how to speak.  But there many places we must simply do the work in order to learn, making mistakes along the way.  I wonder if our current society allows kids to just make mistakes enough.

Isaiah reminds me of Heschel’s statement that the Sabbath is God’s Cathedral.  In some way, the Sabbath restores a human economy, when we are not counting the goods we have, but simply enjoying them.

The gospel raises a few questions:  what does it mean to be set free from the bondage of Satan?  What are the steps to be free from envy or pride?  How do we pray this?  Is Satan here the same as sin?  It does not imply that the woman is a bad person; rather, she is burdened.

So to be free – can it mean free from self-delusion?  Do we become newly confident?  Or is that also an error.   Or does it mean being able to clearly see our mistakes, and to humanize our flaws and strengths, without thinking they’re judged by God.  I’ll be thinking about  what does it mean to be crippled

Sometimes I wonder about the ways we create our own obstacles.  We say mantras to ourselves that we inherit from other people.  We believe everything the media says.  We’re told we can’t sing; that we’re not worthy; that only through hard work on the Sabbath do we deserve to live.

But the touch of Jesus is simply this:  there is nothing you can do to deserve life; there is nothing you can do to deserve what you have.  By simply being a live you may shine in God’s glory.  Echoing Jeremiah, you have been made.  That’s all.  That’s enough.

The Bent Lady; or Having a Really Bad Day

(A general summary of the sermon given August 22nd, 2010, Proper 16)

Sometimes we have really bad days.

Start off with a lack of sleep and nightmares about the apocalypse, being
naked in public, or realizing you never should have graduated high school.
Wake up.  There’s no hot water.  You cut yourself shaving.  Then there’s a
leak from the floor into the ceiling of your living room onto your cherry

There’s no more juice or milk in the refrigerator.  Someone in the house
finished the eggs and the cereal.  You get dressed, but you’re in a rush so
you rip your pants.  You try on another suit, and you notice a little grease
stain.  The next suit is too tight.  You take everything off and weigh
yourself, and you’ve gained ten pounds.

You can’t find your keys.

After you find them twenty minutes later, you speedily back out of your
driveway, hitting a parked car that isn’t usually there.

You’re late for a meeting with your biggest client.

As you drive, you smell a horrible odor.   You wore this shirt dancing a
couple days ago and forgot to place it in the hamper.

When you stop at a red light, a car pulls up next to you and a five year old
gives you the finger.

At work you’re handed divorce papers.  After your secretary quits, your
daughter calls and tells you she’s marrying her one true love, a musician
who has a long criminal record, who you caught smoking pot in your back

He hadn’t even offered to share.

When you come home, you discover there isn’t a single glass of booze in the
house.  The dog opened the refrigerator door and ate the steak you
were marinating.   You smell a strange odor of burning wood coming from
somewhere in your house before the alarm goes off.  In the distance you see
a volcano erupt.

That’s a bad day.

Now imagine having a bad day for eighteen years.

Some take the optimistic view.   _There’s always someone with a worse day.
_ “I have cancer, but it could be stage four melanoma.  That would really
suck.”  Or “I have a terminal disease, but I’ve always wanted to die before
my husband and kids.”

Others become like zombies, their sensitivity to pain so reduced they can’t
feel anything.  Some of those are so calloused themselves, they can’t feel
the pain of others.  Some become bitter, outraged at the injustice around
them, the needless victimization, they shake their fists at the absurdity of
a God or a world that would make suffering so ubiquitous and ordinary.
They become pillars of resentment, with such a chip on their shoulder they
can’t make friends, alienate their family and routinely insult police
officers and babies.

In one parable, a woman who’d been sick for 18 years, bent with a serious
form of arthritis, asks Jesus for healing.   The scene has the indignant
priest, upset that Jesus is ignoring the holiest of God’s laws – don’t work
on the Sabbath.  He represents the enforcer against Jesus’ libertine
sensibilities.  But they are also indignant because they complain because
she’s a woman, an old woman, one who is not seen or allowed much power or
voice in a patriarchal society.

Jesus sees her; she stands.  He chastizes the rule-makers.  Even they would
free their animals on the Sabbath to get them a drink of water.   This
woman, isn’t she also a child of God?  Shouldn’t she also be liberated?

After 18 years, she could have been defined by her bad days.  This was the
sick woman; who others thought she may have deserved her plight; her identity was confined and bound by the fears around her.  Jesus sees her differently, instead as a child of Abraham, a person who could be free.

It wasn’t sympathy he offered; nor did he erase the past.  Rather, he saw her as a human being worthy of love, interrupting the cruelty of the habitual pieties that
rendered invisible the ones who always have a bad day.