#HealForgiveLove is the Podcast for August 21, 2016. What is faith, religion, and spirituality about? Are they about power? Are they about getting it right? Being strong? Or, is there a message that we have gotten all wrong all these years? Listen here in this reflection: Download it into your phone. #MSAWordfortheDay # MySpiritualAdvisor #Sermon #AreYouSaved #Evangelism #AcceptChrist #Healing #love #forgiveness
Healing, Forgiveness, Love: A Reflection on Luke 13:10-17
For Listener Supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 8/21/2016 The 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Luke 13:10-17.
When religion is used for power, it is no longer the Gospel.
Take, for example, the question “Are you saved?”
Without context, without reason, the evangelist stood at the door and said, “Are you saved?”
It is a question that I personally felt violated by when I heard it. I did not rejoice, even though, yes, I am saved. The person stood at the door to my house in the 1980s. I know they meant well. They wanted me to have the joy that they had. They wanted me to be free from sin, have my name written in the Book of Life, and be with Jesus Christ forever and ever. Yet, the question has some problems with it.
First, the question, “are you saved?” indicates that there are some who are “in”, namely the person who is on the outside of the door. It indicates that there are some who are “out”, that is, the person on the inside of the door. The question itself relies upon pointing out how the person who is not “saved” doesn’t have the favor of God.
It is a well-intentioned power move. It is a power move nonetheless. It is also easily swatted away by the Chief of Lies who tries to convince us that everything is about power. This line of evangelism is disheartening to me.
The word “evangelism” comes from the Greek word “eu-an-gel-ion” which means “good message” or, as we have come to translate it, “Good News”. Is it really “good news” when the message is “you are not favored by God.” This is not “good news”. It is bad news. It is also contrary to the message of Jesus Christ.
The message of Jesus Christ is this: “God loves you.” When you reject him, God loves you. When you accept him, God loves you. When you enjoy him, God loves you. When you deny he exists, God loves you. Jesus himself said that he did not come for those who knew the Father in Heaven. He came for those who did not accept the Father in Heaven.
The Son of God took on human flesh to walk the earth and gather up those who reject the Lord and his ways. He came for the weak, the ungodly, and the sinner. As he stood before the woman who was caught in adultery, his message was not, “Stone her!” No, his message was that God is merciful and chooses to have mercy on those who need mercy the most.
When a woman walked into the Synagogue where Jesus was teaching, this whole dichotomy comes into focus. There is this woman, who for 18 years was crippled! She struggled to walk apparently. So, Jesus walks over, lays hands on her, proclaims her healed, and she walks.
What is the response of the holy people? The religious people? Do they rejoice that God has healed someone through the prophet? Do they follow the woman’s lead and praise God? No. It didn’t happen the way they thought it should. It did not follow the Sabbath laws as they understood them. It is ridiculous to me. It is absurd. Yet, it is no different than when someone through generosity can obviously fix a situation and they don’t because the proper form has not been filled out.
In Louisiana this week, there was the worst natural disaster since Hurricane Sandy. In the midst of the storm, people who had lost their own houses, got in their boats and started saving people. Wait. Don’t save them, where is the waiver that they need to sign to get in your boat? Where is the safety equipment in case they fall out of your boat? Are you certified to save someone from their flooded home? Thankfully, the people with the boats didn’t stop to make sure they were qualified to save another human being’s life. The press called them the Louisiana boat brigade. Yet, the response of the leader of the synagogue where Jesus was would have said, “Wait. Are you certified to pick up that passenger? Do you have the proper licensing?”
It is the same absurdity with which we treat religion and the great and powerful encounter with God in our churches. Are they a member? It is a right thing to do? Should we do good on the Sabbath because the Sabbath is set aside for God? Friends, God does not need the Sabbath. He does not need our Holy Days and our worship. Those are for us. So is the Sabbath. It is for us.
If you are on your way to church and there is someone stranded by the side of the road, you should help them and be late. Still go to church, but help them. Then invite them to Church.
As we look at this story, it is clear that Jesus came to heal us, forgive us, and love us. When he heals us, forgives us, and loves us, then we are saved. We experience the Good News that God is not mad at us. We experience the Good News that God is in love with us. We experience the Good News that God wants us and we can make our decisions to accept him as our personal Savior later.
The Good News is an invitation, not a warning. It is a message that “God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son…so that the world would be saved through Him.” God came in a manger as a child, a baby amidst the waste and smell of animals, to serve humanity. God came to heal, forgive, and love. So, why would we think that religion and spirituality are about anything other than healing those who are sick in any way, forgiving those who need forgiveness the most, and loving those who are unlovable?
The people know that faith, religion, and spirituality are not about power. We know there is truth, but there is also life. Life is messy. It doesn’t always work the way we wanted it to work. We are struggling to make ends meet and the last thing we need is to be told that you cannot be a good person to another human being, especially on the Sabbath.
This whole thing should be a Saturday Night Live skit. The leader of the Synagogue should shout, “No good deed on the Sabbath!” in the crowded Synagogue as someone lets another person pass through to get to their seat. Another person sneezes and they are blessed. The leader screams, “No good deed on the Sabbath!” It would be funny if our words and actions in our desire to be faithful didn’t reek of power and control. Faith is not about power and control, as Jesus shows today. Faith, religion, and spirituality are about healing, forgiveness, and love.
So, as we walk this week, we need to remember that when we feel as though we have failed, that we are not good enough, that we are too weak, that the Gospel is not about getting it right, being good enough, and being strong. The “Good News” is that God wants to make it right, make us good, and give us strength. All he wants is to love us. That is good news for us and for those around us who need to hear a healing word.
The question should not be ‘Are you saved?’, but “Did you know you are loved?” Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2016.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian