Tear down our own … get outside our …. to plant … build up the presence of the Kingdom of God

14th Sunday after Pentecost

Proper 16: Jeremiah 1:4-10, Psalm 71:1-6, Hebrews 12:18-29, Luke 13:10-17

Listen to my sermon here: http://www.saintstephensblytheville.org/sermons-2013.php

or read on …

Do not be afraid …. Go where I tell you to go …. Speak what I tell you to speak …. All these rather terse instructions are okay, ~ for prophets. Not so for us, isn’t this why God calls others to be prophets? Terry thought so.

Decades ago, as a part of his seminary field work, Terry interns with a church that has a lunch ministry. Rotating with other churches in town, every Wednesday they feed the homeless & hungry. When it is the church’s turn, Terry gets an early start, opens doors, sets the heat and A/C properly, makes sure the kitchen, pantry etc. are all ready to go, and he helps the volunteers, on the serving line, washing dishes, emptying trash cans, doing whatever needs doing, he serves as a general all around go-fer. One day the soup kitchen director calls him over. She tells him: Get out from behind this counter go eat with our guest. In short ~ go be with God’s people.

Some years later Terry is serving on a board which sponsors a habitat house. Terry does fund raising, calls around for supply donations, recruits volunteers, makes presentations to any organization, any interested group, about the good Habitat for Humanity does. One day the construction director calls. They are in a real pinch, the family whose house they are currently building is a bit behind on the hours they are required to help. They are ready to be there this weekend and they can catch-up; actually get ahead. However, they are short volunteers, they only need one more, Terry is the last person the director can call, she asks: Please come work with the He’sus family! In other words, ~ come help God’s people.

More time passes, Terry is in a small group that meets weekly to discuss anything church. This week’s discussion about ministry has gotten kind of strange; they’ve gotten to talking about missionaries. Terry keeps hedging, he’s having spontaneous ideas, rapidly countered by huge Oh No! Impulses. Someone, who notices his discomfort, says, Relax Terry, if God’s calling you, you will want to go. Terry replies: You don’t understand; I don’t want to, want to go! No one has ever admitted to speaking, but the voice was clear, Yes you do. Briefly ~ go to God’s people.

More time passes and Terry has a chance to go on a trip to Africa. Not as missionary, just a visit to various ministries. His group visits a leper colony. The patients there live 3 or 4 to a thatched hut. They are invited into one hut. Terry speaks to 3 of the patients; the 4th speaks too softly to be heard. He waves for Terry to bend over he does. Suddenly patient sits up surrounds him in a bear hug. Terry shivers, as the patient lies back down and the open sores on his arms drag down the length Terry’s body. In a nutshell ~Be present to God’s people.

Go where I tell you to go. Say what I tell you to say. Pluck up, tear down, destroy, and over throw: your own inhibitions, your own fears, your distrust; trust me, then you are ready to build and to plant.

For 11 chapters Hebrews, has been building a long complex argument, to Christians, who are considering returning to Judaism, that Jesus is the far better choice. Today, Paul’s argument compares two mountains: Sinai, the mountain of the covenant, originally given to Abraham, then confirmed to Moses with Zion the mountain of Jesus’ cross, where the blood of Jesus speaks better than the blood of Able. Erik Heen writes: the whole passage point forward (13:12):
Jesus suffered outside the city gate in order to sanctify the people by his own blood. Let us then go to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured. [i]
You won’t be surprised to hear me say we can go, we can even speak as we proclaim the Kingdom of God in our worship and beyond, outside our walls. But isn’t this a bit offensive to family, friends and neighbors in our “I” whatever I want to believe culture to proclaim Jesus is the better way, to profess faith in Jesus’ birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and awaited return as the Word of God? Probably. But isn’t it a greater offense to affront God by letting folks walk into judgment, to let folks walk into eternal divine absence? Go where I tell you to go. Say what I tell you to say.

Pluck up, pull down, destroy, overthrow, are not typical healing words. Jesus calls a women bend over for many years. I’ve always assumed she suffers from some sort of medical condition, some sort of osteo-whatever. But, there are other views. Luke frequently describes the breakdown of the body with some sort of spiritual weakness. Satan is reeking havoc. On the other hand it is the Sabbath, and Jesus breaks all the rules to: either heal the woman of her infirmities or to drive Satan away. Either way it is breaking the rules. But Jesus’ says no, the Sabbath is all about enjoying God’s presence. The 613 rules and regulations designed to ensure you don’t do any real work, not only makes a donkey more important than this woman, they actually weigh folks down. Jesus steps outside the limitations of tradition, The purity code, and the Law. He shatters the status quo. Jesus will not tolerate a domesticated form of God’s Word. Which rules need to be plucked up, what walls are to be pulled down, what limitations need to be destroyed, which traditions need to be overthrown, so that the Word of God may have its way with us [ii] with all who come with in its embrace?

Do not be afraid …. Go where I tell you to go …. Speak what I tell you to speak …. Pluck up, pull down, destroy, overthrow whatever stands between me and any of my people even yourselves.

Trust me, the fiery God of Sinai, the incarnate God of Zion, and you will plant you will build the presence of the Kingdom of God right here.

[i] Working Preacher, Hebrews. Heen
[ii] Sermons that Work, August 25, 2013, Rev. Kirk Alan Kubicek
lectionaryscripturenotes.com http://www.lectionaryscripturenotes.com/
Proper 16 | OT 21 | Pentecost 14, Cycle C

episcopaldigitalnetwork.com http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/stw/2013/08/09/
14-pentecost-pro per-16-c/, Rev. Kirk Alan Kubicek

This Week at the Center for Excellence in Preaching
cep.calvinseminary.edu http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/thisWeek/index.php
Luke 13:10-17,  Scott Hoezee
Jeremiah 1:4-10, Scott Hoezee
Hebrews 12:18-29,  Stan Mast
Psalm 71:1-6, Doug Bratt

Working Preacher,      http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1753
Jeremiah 1:4-10, Alphonetta Wines
Hebrews 12:18-29, Erik Heen
Luke 13:10-17, Emerson Powery


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