Sunday, August 22, 2010


Chapel of the Incarnation, Gainesville FL
August 22, 2010

Year C, Proper 16: The Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Jeremiah 1:4-10
Psalm 71:1-6
Hebrews 12:18-29
Luke 13:10-17


This is a really exciting time. For my wife Sue and me, we’ve managed to finish the move of ourselves and our cat, Noelle, and (I hope) all our stuff from New Jersey to Gainesville. The unpacking is going to take a while, but we’re glad to be here and excited to be with all of you.

And, of course, with school starting this is an exciting time here at UF. It’s been fun these past couple of days to see freshmen and their parents wearing their brand-new Gator t-shirts, wandering around, taking it all in. We were over at Target a couple of days ago and there they were, filling the aisles, buying all the stuff needed to equip a dorm room.

Way back when I was in elementary school, I would moan and groan about the end of summer vacation. Maybe you did the same thing. But, secretly I was excited that school was about to start, excited that I was going to see my friends and excited to learn new things. Maybe you felt the same way. At the end of each summer I always liked going with my mom and sister to buy new notebooks and book bags and lunch boxes – although for a little kid it was a lot of pressure to decide which was the coolest lunch box to have.

Later in college I was always eager to get to the bookstore as early as I could – to get good deals on used books, but mostly just to see what books I’d be reading, to find out what new things I’d be studying and learning about that semester. You probably know the feeling.

And that’s all good. But, of course, school isn’t about the new books and book bags and clothes and laptops and textbooks, and all the rest. All of that stuff, including what will be blessed in a few minutes, needs to be used. The bindings of your books need to be broken. Notes need to be written on the margins. Your laptop needs to get beaten up a little bit. If we keep our supplies in mint condition we’ve missed the point. Those things are just means to an end.

When school would start and throughout the school year I’d also worry a lot about my grades. Maybe you can relate. I’d be especially worried about math. I was always weak in math and my math grades would sometimes keep me off of honor roll. I remember being at honor assemblies seething with resentment of my teachers and anger at myself when I’d see my friends and classmates get their little honor cards and I’d just be sitting there, fuming.

But, despite my bad attitude, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to get good grades, to do as well as you can, to receive honors for your ability and hard work. But, just like your notebooks and textbooks, grades are just a means to an end.

School isn’t about clean new notebooks or perfect grades.

School is about learning about the world and about yourself. School is about getting ready to go out into the world. School is about getting prepared to earn a living so you can support yourself. But, more important, school is about getting ready to go out into the world and help to build a better world. School is about getting prepared to go out and help build a better world. I don’t need to tell you that we live in a world bent by poverty and injustice and materialism and immorality. All of us are needed - all of us are called - to help heal our bent and broken world.

We need to be healers.

And what’s true about school is even truer about our religious life.

In today’s gospel lesson, we heard a story told only by Luke of Jesus healing a woman who has been bent over for eighteen years. Nothing unusual about that. The problem, of course, is that Jesus healed her on the Sabbath. According Jewish law, there should be no physical work on the Sabbath.

Now, since this woman had been in pain for so long, presumably Jesus could have waited another day to do the healing. But, obviously Jesus and Luke are trying to make a point in setting this healing on the Sabbath.

The point is that our religious practices are just fine so long as we remember that that they are means to an end. If our religious practices help us to be better Christians - better healers of a bent and broken world - then that’s great. But, we shouldn’t think that it’s our religious practices that make us Christians.

What makes us Christians is opening our hearts to the power of God. What makes us Christians is allowing God to work through us to heal our bent and broken world, to build the kingdom of God right here and now.

I don’t know this community very well yet, but I bet there are bent people all around us. There are people who are bent because they are unpopular or outcasts, who are bent by regrets about bad decisions, who are bent by worry about illness or money, who are bent by addiction, who are bent by fears about the future. I bet there are bent people all around us.

As Christians we are called to imitate and continue the healing work of Jesus.

We are called to be healers.

And you don’t have to wait until after graduation to get started on that healing work. In our Old Testament lesson we heard God’s call to the prophet Jeremiah. God calls him to the difficult work of being a prophet. Jeremiah replies, no way, God, I’m too young:

“Ah, Lord GOD, Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.”

And God replies, “Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’; for you shall go to all whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.”

So, two good messages for us as we begin an exciting new year. I pray that we remember that as Christians we are called to imitate and continue the healing work of Jesus, no matter our age. And I pray that through our life together here at Chapel House, we may receive the strength and the grace to do the healing work God has given us to do.

We need to be – and we are called to be – healers.