Sermon – September 27th 2015
18th Sunday after Pentecost
By Roland Legge
Jesus’ disciples are feeling good about themselves. They were a part of very important ministry with the Messiah. How good can it get? Yet they were threatened by someone else healing in the name of God.
They tell Jesus about this impostor. But to their surprise Jesus was not upset and says “Whoever is not against us is for us.” His followers cannot comprehend why he wasn’t upset. Jesus has to explain to them, that as the strangers were healing in the name of Spirit, he had no issue with their ministry. As far as Jesus was concerned the more the merrier.
Jesus demonstrated through his life that he was more concerned with what people did rather than the background of the person who did it. So for Jesus the act had more importance than the reputation of the person who did it. A person’s actions were far more important for Jesus than their nationality, gender, religion, color of their skin or abilities. We still struggle with prejudice today.
Last week we were talking about what it means to be Christian. Over the centuries people have answered this question in many ways. Still today the challenge is for us to be open what Scripture is telling us today.
Many of us have a tendency to make God into our own image making the holy a weapon rather than a blessing. Our personal demon tricks us into thinking that we are one of the saved while the people we don’t like will go to hell. Most of us realize that this is a too simplistic way of thinking. Yet it still hard to motivate ourselves to risk turning our belief systems upside down.
For me the miracle is that our inspired Scriptures have new things to say to each new generation. Our Scripture reminds us that we believe in a God of surprises who keeps challenging our prejudices. Much to our annoyance there is no place that the Creators love cannot go! The only person we can hold responsible is our selves.
What do we do when we have no person, religion, nationality or belief system to blame? So for example instead of blaming Muslims, or some other groups, we need to look at ourselves. We all have shadow sides, that part of us which can be mean, close minded, exclusive and demeaning. Whether or not we want to admit it we all have it. The question is are we able to acknowledge that part of ourselves so we can be free from it. Are we able to allow God’s love to shine on our hurts, anger and greed so they can be transformed into generosity and love? I believe that with the Creator’s help through each of us we can be changed people building people up rather than tearing them down.
James reminds us that our heart is changed when we to get to know people who we do not feel comfortable with, such as people of the Muslim faith. I think we would find just as many amazing Muslims as Christians in the world.
The Spirit has shown me the goodness in so many people from all walks of life. Sometimes it has taken longer than I would like to see people in the eyes of God. What helped to change my way of thinking was getting to know people I had up to then looked down upon.
In fact James shows us how important hospitality is for our faith. We are here on this earth to care for each other through prayer, helping each other out in tangible ways, encouraging each other through the hard times and challenging each other through the good times.
The only way we can care for each other is by really knowing each other. How well do you know each member of our congregation? Why is it such a challenge for so many congregations to take the time to get to know each other well? Imagine if a new person arrived in our congregation. How are we to get to know each other if we don’t create time for this to happen.
James wants us to do more than hospitality. He wants us to create a healing ministry. Jesus spent much of his time healing those who were suffering. Healing begins to happen when we take time to be with a hurting person. When we risk touching a person by shaking hands, hugging, and just being in their midst barriers are broken. When we participate in the ancient rituals of anointing a person with oil, sharing prayer and invoking the spirit through the laying on of hands there is transformation. When we really listen to another person’s story and share our own we become closer. When we help a person out in need not only with our time and attention but with our physical resources fear is released.
For me there is a big difference between healing and curing. When we participate in the healing ministry we can make no promises other than the Spirit will be with us. I believe that we will be healed in some way. But it may not be the way we would like the healing to happen. Yes extraordinary healings do happen with cancer being there one minute and gone the next.
But more often the miracle is a change of heart. It might be a family coming back together in forgiveness. It might mean discovering what their life is really about and taking whatever time they have left to live out their life mission. Healing comes in many ways. It is a gift to be welcomed. It is the knowledge that God loves each of us unconditionally. Whether we are cured or not is no determination of the efficacy of the healing. It simply is.
Thank you Jesus for showing us the way. God’s love for each of us is much broader than any person could comprehend. So let us learn from Jesus and welcome each person we meet, knowing they are a person of God. Let us celebrate with Jesus as the walls crumble and we are reminded that we are all part of a great family. Whenever we do something that enhances God’s creation, no matter how small or big, God is celebrating saying well done good and faithful steward.