Aug 22, 2010: In the Presence of Jesus
Where some would see a broken rule, Jesus sees a broken person. Standing in front of him is a woman in need of his healing touch. Standing in front of Jesus is the very reason God took on flesh and came to earth.
We must consider Jesus’ inaugural address at the beginning of his ministry. It happened in another synagogue, at his hometown in Nazareth. Jesus spoke these words, “He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives…and to let the oppressed go free…today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Yes, the bent-over woman was captive to a spirit that held her in bondage for eighteen years. But the story is not just about her. It is also about us…meant for us.
The line that jumps out to me is “Does not each one of you (on the Sabbath)untie your ox or donkey and lead it to water?” That is exactly what Jesus accomplishes in this healing. In his holy presence she is liberated, as though being led out from a desert wasteland. She doesn’t have to look down at the ground anymore, but can turn her face toward the sun and the rain and the moon and the stars. She regains her place in community and can be a blessing to others. That kind of freedom can’t wait until tomorrow. In the presence of Jesus we own that freedom, too.
Where Jesus is, beings become healthy, situations get made right. The lame walk, the blind see, the deaf hear and those who have been tied are untied. Jesus pulls back the curtain so that we can glimpse the kingdom of God. In that kingdom we are continually being re-made as new creations- as free people who can stand up straight and praise God. In a real sense we are untied and led to healing water within the healing presence of Jesus Christ.
In the fall we will add a mission program to our church life. We have been in touch with an organization called “Healing Waters.” As some of you already know, this organization formed some years ago to serve recently wounded veterans. Their mission statement is simple: Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, Inc. is dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active military service personnel and veterans through fly fishing and fly tying education and outings. What does that have to do with Christian mission?
Go on-line and look at the video clips of those outings and you will see broken people who are standing up straight. One piece shows someone with a prosthetic arm learning to tie an intricate fly. You will see someone in a wheel chair with water lapping at his feet. Maybe it’s someone with a brain trauma who is able to spend a day in a peaceful, beautiful place.
I checked the schedule on the website and we are listed on the calendar for October 23. The outing is listed as “Conewago trip with Arendtsville volunteers”. I thought that was interesting. It doesn’t mention the church, which maybe is just as well. Possibly the potential attendees would be afraid that we are only doing it to evangelize or that we would lay some heavy religious message on them. But we’ll bring Jesus with us, never fear about that.
Our role, besides providing the place for fishing and fishing guides for each participant, is pretty simple. We provide a picnic lunch or cookout at noon time. At the end of the day, I would like for us to treat the group to dinner at Hickory Bridge, on their way back to Walter Reed. Last, we could provide goody bags for them to take along back with them…a reminder of our friendship and continuing presence. We also can covenant to pray for them as they recover from their wounds.
As disciples of the Risen Lord, we bring the resurrecting power of Jesus with us wherever we go. At the soup kitchen– serving a meal graciously to whomever finds his or her way to that dining room, we bring Jesus with us. At a Habitat building site, we bring Jesus with us. Our skills, talents, and resources are magnified and blessed in the presence of Jesus. We become a tool of healing. The results will not be immediately apparent. It may just look like another Saturday at the soup kitchen. It may look just like two fishermen standing next to the stream with fly rods in their hands.
Remember the images given us by Jesus for the kingdom of God. It is like yeast hidden in a measure of flour. The kingdom of God is like the mustard seed that grows into a mighty tree. The kingdom of God is like treasure hidden in a field.
Theologians use a strange figure of speech to speak of the Kingdom of God: it is already and not yet. The kingdom dawned when God chose to be born here on earth, but the kingdom has not yet been fulfilled. God is working God’s purpose out, but the world still looks like we’re in charge: In other words–broken. But God spoke the first word, and God gets the last word.
In between the first and the last we have the presence of our risen Lord as we go about the business of healing. All of our ministry and mission efforts are about helping someone stand up straight and praise God. We must never sell that short or diminish the healing that does take place all around us, just because it seems our efforts are so modest or lack the effect we desire.
One of my favorite writers, Annie Lamott says this: “It’s funny: I always imagined when I was a kid that adults had some kind of inner toolbox full of shiny tools: the saw of discernment, the hammer of wisdom, the sandpaper of patience. But then when I grew up I found that life handed you these rusty bent old tools – friendships, prayer, conscience, honesty – and said ‘do the best you can with these, they will have to do’. And mostly, against all odds, they do.”
The simple reason we can make do with these rusty old tools is that Jesus shines through. And I guess those are same tools that Jesus used in his ministry. Friendship, prayer, conscience, honesty. I suppose that the fanciest mason tools in the world couldn’t build a kingdom better than those. We have those tools in abundance in this church and using them well becomes a ministry of healing.
Disciples—as you go about your business this week, do the best you can with the tools you have. Speak a word of hope to the forlorn, offer a hand to one who is helpless, or simply allow someone to offer the help that you need.
God’s last word is this: We are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken. For that we give thanks with reverence and awe.