on Jer 1:4–10 and Luke 13:10–17, for Wesley Uniting Church Canberra, 25 August 2019
My, but we can get in God’s way, can’t we?
‘Not today, God, there are rules we cannot break.’
‘Not me, God, I’m too young, too old, not educated enough or skilled enough or … enough.’
‘Only’ (pray the story: Jer 1:4–10)
I am only, I do not know
how or what or where;
I am only, I cannot go,
I am too afraid.
I am only, I have not
height or voice or strength;
I am only, I am little,
broken, old, young.
I am only, I will not
be welcomed, heard or heeded;
I am only, they are more,
so much more than me.
I am only, but I am listening,
I will trust you when you call;
for I am only who I am,
and with you I am not alone.
God calls us anyway.
We are young: God calls.
We are old: God calls.
We are ill: God calls – I assure you, God still calls.
It’s there in the stories we tell, God reaching out to humanity: a voice we hear directly, the words and actions of prophets calling us back to the Way, the incarnation of Wisdom, of Love, in Jesus, showing us the Way, the breath of the Spirit who frees us from spirits that pull us over and into ourselves.
It’s there, always there, God reaching out through our doubts and insecurities, God reaching out to see us when we can no longer see ourselves, God moving, calling, always towards healing, restoration, wholeness.
does it require courage to speak the words God will put in our mouths – oh, yes.
does it hurt, to unbend from the position we’ve held ourselves in for decades. most definitely.
and even more – it is not about me, not about ourselves alone.
she praised God, and how do you think she praised God? we must imagine from what we know of other women who responded to the call of Jesus, who travelled and supported, who opened their homes and offered their food, who stood with him in his dying when others ran away, who were present to bear witness to life resurrected. she praised God.
he served God, and we have the stories of Jeremiah calling the people back to the justice and right relationships of their covenant with God. Jeremiah resisted the call of God, a lot, but could not abandon it. He paid great costs, facing much opposition to his message, and to himself personally; he gave up having a wife and children of his own, he was hated, misunderstood, physically abused even to the point of his life being threatened. His message was a difficult message – you will pluck up and tear down, God tells him right from the start. But he also spoke God’s message of hope, of building and planting. Jeremiah understood the gravity of the call to be God’s prophet, and did not suffer lightly the fools who embraced the privilege without taking seriously the cost. God’s call to Jeremiah was not for Jeremiah alone, and he knew it, and accepted it.
Whatever our capacity, God asks us to use it: whatever our capacity, God asks us to use it – for love, for kindness, for the sharing of our humanity in order for us each to move, together, towards our wholeness, towards God.
That is why we have a pastoral care approach that is reciprocal, mutual, every member looking out for each other.
That is why we are reimagining ministry with the younger members as a ministry with and for all our members and beyond, a ministry of deep relationship across generations as well as with our peers.
That is why we meet for coffee and craft and conversation, why we meet in the ‘shed’, as the friendship group, the walking group, the tennis club; why we long ago established the music foundation and centre and scholarship program; why we visit aged care facilities and hospitals and people restricted to home, why we serve on boards and committees, sing in operas, give food, give money, give time …
all that we do in this parish isa response to God’s call to meet each other where we are and build deep relationships of healing and nurture. Because we know ourselves to have been met by this God who sees us as we are and loves us, lifts us up, and calls us –as we are .Persons of dignity and worth; gifted to be a gift to each other. Having been so met, so loved, by God, we are challenged and called to go and do the same for one another.
Oh, perhaps I can say it better in a story, imagining into the story of the woman Jesus encountered. my imagination is shaped by September being just around the corner, as I look ahead to the campaigns that run for depression and suicide awareness, so if that will make it a difficult story to hear, feel free to slip out or switch off for a few minutes.
‘with his call’
She had a spirit that crippled her; a dis-ease of mind, of mood. So slowly had it crept up beside her, she never noticed until it had her pinned down completely. Then she tasted the salt left by tears that had run so freely for months on end and had now run dry.
She tried to remember the last time she felt a reason to smile.
Her friends had long ago stopped stopping by, stopped sending invites, since she had stopped going out, stopped inviting them in … and now, when she turned her head, she was alone.
Days, weeks, drifted by unmarked as she slept, slept, slept. Even awake, she was asleep.
Her body wasted away with food forgotten, and she hunched, hungry, weak, aching with all of herself, aching with despair, for a decade, and for nearly another …
Until he saw her.
Until he called her.
Until he reached out and touched her.
Held her hand and connected, lifted her face to the sunlight dancing in his eyes, set her feet in the earth again just as she felt she might float beyond sight …
and she remembered.
she heard the Voice, and she remembered
she breathed – sharp at first, in shock, then deep, and full; she breathed and delighted at the feel of the breath in her lungs and her spine straightened, and her shoulders straightened, and she almost fell over with the giddiness of life remembered!
she hardly noticed the consternation of the naysayers, worrying about laws everyone breaks for the sake of preserving a life
but she noticed him noticing hers as a life worth preserving. oh, she noticed. and she remembered.
every day after that she had to remember hers was a life worth preserving, as she remembered again to eat and to move and to connect with the world around her
each day she had to listen hard for the Voice still calling her into her life, and respond
each day she paid attention to the breath in her lungs, and straightened her back and straightened her shoulders and breathed her gratitude until one day she hardly had to think about breathing at all
it began with his call
with his seeing her thirsty and leading her to water, and never did she forget the healing that began in that moment of connection on that sacred day of life preservation
and slowly she began to see, for herself, the others bent over as she had been crippled by a spirit within
slowly she built again her strength to stand alongside, to see, and to call, to reach out and to touch, through connection begin healing for another life worth preserving
and she did, every day that she could, stand alongside, remembering, for herself and for others, till they could remember themselves; remembering as she was re-membered, and so the healing goes on, the healing that began with his call.
It’s there in the stories we tell again and again, God reaching out beyond our doubts, through our brokenness, calling us, restoring us, back to life. listen, breathe, stand up straight and respond, with the commitment that bears the cost of the call for the sake of a restored community, with the praise that reaches out to others with the love that heals.
It is for this that, again and again, God calls. Amen.