Monday, May 6, 2013

What Do You Make?

Sermon "What Do You Make?" given at United Church of Beloit May 5, 2013

Psalm 67
For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A psalm. A song.

1 May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face shine on us―
2 so that your ways may be known on earth,
your salvation among all nations.
3 May the peoples praise you, God;
may all the peoples praise you.
4 May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you rule the peoples with equity
and guide the nations of the earth.
5 May the peoples praise you, God;
may all the peoples praise you.
6 The land yields its harvest;
God, our God, blesses us.
7 May God bless us still,
so that all the ends of the earth will fear him.

John 5
The Healing at the Pool
5 Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie―the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.

[*Some manuscripts include here, wholly or in part, paralyzed―and they waited for the moving of the waters. 4 From time to time an angel of the Lord would come down and stir up the waters. The first one into the pool after each such disturbance would be cured of whatever disease they had. ]

5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
7 “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
8 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
The day on which this took place was a Sabbath.

Hebrew word Beth=House
Hesda=hesed, God's love, mercy, grace. the place was literally house of mercy or house of grace. It was a place known for healing, as the explanatory verse tells us the belief was that when the waters were stirred up, it was by an angel and the 1st person to step into the pool when it had been stirred would be healed.

This story shows that Jesus' power is much greater than that of an angel or superstition. It also shows that one does not have to profess belief in Jesus to benefit! The man does not say I believe, he doesn't ask for Jesus to heal him, does he?
I find it interesting what he does answer, he doesn't directly answer! Or say yes, he launches into this explanation...i have no one to help me....he is sort of having a pity party here isn't he? “oh me poor me, nobody likes me..”
he does not profess faith in Jesus, in fact later in the text it's clear he has NO idea who Jesus is. So why does Jesus choose to heal THIS man!? Perhaps the longevity of his disability? It shows the power of Jesus' healing ability! Maybe to reward the persistance the man has shown..despite his attitude?

Why is this particular story in our Bible?! Could it be to show that Jesus can overcome even the hardest problems? A disability of 38 years?! Could it be to show that Jesus can overcome our worst attitude? That superstition and “they say...” beliefs are no match for the healing power of God's unconditional love, mercy, grace? What do you make of this?

Yes, all of the above :)

what do we make when we are in a challenging situation? Do we sometimes make an excuse? “no one will help me, someone else always gets to the healing water before me...” “Oh I don't have time, money, energy, knowledge, to do that. If I don't do it, soemone else will and they will probably do it better.”

What can we make instead of excuses? We can make a decision.

We can make a decision to change our attitude. You do know you choose your emotions! A friend of mine who was traveling this weekend said one of the flight attendants said, “Sit back and relax or sit up and be tense. Either way we get paid and we are going home to Chicago.” (yes it was Southwest Airlines)  
You choose to be tense or grumpy, or you can choose to be grateful for life, for freedom, for enough to eat, grateful for little things and big things. Remembering how blessed we are helps us recognize even more blessings.

What else can we make? How about a decision to help someone else. Or a decision to share our time, our talents, whatever they may be. We can make a choice to reach out to others, just to say hello to someone you don't know, to have a cup of coffee together. We can make a choice to pray for them.

When we pray for others, we may be praying for people who aren't sure about Jesus, but they benefit from prayer anyway! People know prayer works, that's why someone who does not have a church family may ask one of us for prayer! And to say “I'm praying for you” is a great way to reach out for others.

What else do we make? How about a choice to work with our church family? We have lots of ways to help, from wiping tables after coffee hour to ushering, serving on boards or committees, helping visit our homebound members. Especially now as we will be looking for a new Sr Minister, we as a church really need to pull together with everyone involved! It would be better if you volunteer now rather than waiting for someone to come asking! ;)

and as we are thinking and planning for our church's future, we need to be clear that it is indeed God's leading. That is why in both of our denominational traditions we appoint committees or boards to discuss and and make decision and we have congregational meetings to discuss and vote on the final decisions.

You see, God speaks to each of us and because God is so vast, and we humans are so finite, we hear from God best in community! No matter how well the pastor and lay leader perceive God's leading, it is never quite the whole picture because God's vision is so much bigger and brighter than a single human can perceive. As scripture says in Ephesians “Now to  him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think..”
We each may hear a bit of God's ideas so that together we hear more of the big vision that God has for us.

I confess, I'm trying to make it sound easy here. Change is not always easy, most of us dislike change. We don't know what's ahead and thats a bit scary isn't it?

You have likely heard 'Church bulletin bloopers” things like
Don’t let worry kill you off – let the church help.
Potluck supper: prayer and medication to follow.
Ushers will eat latecomers.
Today's sermon, what is hell? Come early and listen to choir practice.

one of my favorites is one where the pastor's 3 sermon points were in the bulletin:
  1. Define your fear
  2. Disown your fear
  3. Displace your rear

which isn't really a bad idea for the 3rd step. “Displace your rear” is precisely what the church needs! This church, every church. Needs people to make the decision to be an active participant in the every day, EVERY day not just Sunday EVERY day life of the church.

Foster, Richard J. (2009-10-13). Life with God: Reading the Bible for Spiritual Transformation (Kindle Locations 631-644). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

If we continue to choose life apart from God, we will take on an identity that focuses exclusively on ourselves, and we will then try to master our life and our world on our own―just what happened in the Garden, ... But God chooses to be with us in spite of our flight. God the {Creator and } Initiator becomes God the Pursuer―not to destroy us for our disobedience, but to turn us away from it and draw us back to life. The Apostle Paul explains, “But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Through God’s sustaining presence in Christ, the Unifier of all things on heaven and on earth (see Eph. 1:10; Col. 1:20), the consequences of our disobedience do not have to lead to eternal separation from God. We can choose the freedom of life in Christ... It is a free gift: ... Will we choose this gift―here, now, in this present moment of our life?

We can make an excuse, or we can make a decision to act.
We can decide to feel bad, or we can choose to be thankful for what we have!
We can choose to live for ourselves, or we can choose to live in a way that honors Our Maker. Jesus is more powerful than any angel, than any thing else on earth!
when we make a choice for Jesus, then we make a difference!
Let's make a difference today!

Let's prepare for Communion by prayerfully singing “As the Deer”

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