Becoming Who We Are Called to BePentecost
We seem to be here again, Jesus is teaching, this time in the synagogue. What word of hope will we hear for our life in community?
Jesus notices a woman who has been crippled for 18 years. Marginalized people were a common sight around the temple. The crowd might have thought, “Oh, that’s just Lydia, she is easy to ignore. We hope that she does not ask for anything.”
It is Jesus who singles her out, calls her over, and heals her without her asking to be healed.
Immediately Jesus is reprimanded by the leader of the Synagogue. The leader was indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath and said to the crowd, ‘There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.’
The crowd knew the commandment to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. No work on the Sabbath meant that you could not thread a needle, weren’t allowed to bake bread, and certainly healing on this holy day was forbidden. These were the understood rules and the leader articulated them to the crowd as opposed to directing his rebuke to Jesus, after all, trial by jury.
In this story, it is easy to focus on the poster child of callousness, the synagogue leader, so fixated on the rules that he missed the miracle in their midst. The miracle of healing the woman who could finally look them in the eye and stand erect.
What would have been our focus on that day?
Would it have been upon the miracle? Or would we have only seen illness, incapacities, and bending the rules to meet current trends?
The prophet Isaiah had spoken long before, “I am doing a new thing, do you not perceive it?” I guess not.
Jesus turns and appeals to the crowd calling out their hypocrisy. Look at your own lifestyle and see how you bend the rules for your own needs.
The story is more than what happens at that moment. The crowd was called to look beyond the limitations, beyond the strict rules that were over and above human need.
In the Old Testament scripture, Jeremiah begins a familiar exchange with God where he raises his inadequacies to the forefront. God reminds Jeremiah, “I. knew you before you were born. Even then I called you to be a prophet.”
Jeremiah protests, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” Jeremiah’s counter seems relevant, “I’m not the person for the job.” I am not prepared or qualified; I feel inadequate.
If Jeremiah only focuses on his inadequacy, he will never hear God’s call for what he is to be and do next. God is calling Jeremiah and God knows that he is young, vulnerable, and inexperienced.
What is our call as God’s people in this community? Like those in the synagogue and the prophet Jeremiah, do we only see barriers to that call? Do we only see what COVID has done to our community?
Four years ago, I was sent to help St Andrews transition. An Interim focuses only on holding together “the basics” until a new pastor is called. Transitional ministry is to examine who we have been so we can claim who God is calling us to be.
When there has been conflict, we will look at ourselves and our own behaviour that has too often blamed others, mistrusted our leaders, and asked questions like, “why did they…” instead of “What can I do moving forward?
Transition is to focus on challenging ourselves to not think and act like what we have always done but rather think and act as God is leading us to do now.
Transition doesn’t focus on the gifts of a leader—but rather, on helping us all clarify and stir up our own gifts that are to be used alongside the person God will name as the next permanent leader of St. Andrews.
But I confess, I have been caught by Covid, locked into week-to-week duties of articles, worship, and sermon planning and preparation. I, too, have been stymied by our grief and stuckness that has challenged us to see beyond the deficits that seem insurmountable. In both of today’s scriptures, we are called to community, to serve the greater good. Our highest calling is outside themselves.
Jeremiah’s call is to pluck up and to pull down; to destroy and to overthrow; and finally, to build and to plant. God is calling Jeremiah to a ministry of transition that is difficult and often unpopular.
The Luke story ends with Jesus’ opponents being reminded of their limited vision. What started as the crowd seeing only illness and inability transitioned to the entire crowd rejoicing in all the wonderful things that Jesus was doing. The community was celebrated, and the healing was beyond one woman.
We can easily focus on our limitations. Our ministry of transition continues. If we, like Jeremiah, only dwell on inadequacy, we will not hear God’s call for what we are to be and do next. We too are called to serve God through community as we: explore collaborative partnerships with sister congregations, develop new leaders, especially session clerk and treasurer, and access and address property issues including a long-term financial plan that will enable us to fulfill God’s call.
There will be times when the anguish of God claims us for bold word and action. Only God’s promise to sustain us will make such work bearable. God knows us and says, “Do not be afraid…for I am with you.”