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Pentecost 14 Proper 16C RCL August 25, 2013

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm 71:1-16

Hebrews 12:18-29

Luke 13:10-17

In our opening reading today, we hear God’s call to the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah was very young when he was called to his prophetic ministry. Scholars tell us that he was only about eighteen years old.

God says these wonderful words to Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you a prophet to the nations.” As Christians, we believe in a loving God who knows each of us intimately. God has called each of us to be God’s unique and precious child. Each of us is called to use the gifts God has given us to love and help others and to build God’s kingdom.

Like so many people in the Bible who face a call from God, Jeremiah feels that he just can’t do the job God is calling him to do. In Jeremiah’s case, his excuse is that he is too young. Moses said he wasn’t a good enough public speaker. Isaiah said that he wasn’t holy enough. God has an answer for all these objections. God says, “I know it’s scary to answer my call, but I’ll help you.” To Jeremiah he says, “I have put my words in your mouth.” When God puts God’s words in one’s mouth, that pretty well ends the discussion. Jeremiah was a faithful and courageous prophet of God. He did not have an easy time of it, but he never compromised God’s message to God’s people. He always called them to be faithful to God’s standards.

What I want us to think about today is that this lesson is for each of us. God knows each of us and loves each of us. God has known us and loved us from the very beginning of time and God will love us for all eternity. God has called us to do our ministries and will help us every moment of every day.

In today’s gospel, as in every gospel, we see in Jesus God walking the face of the earth, Jesus is teaching in the synagogue. He sees a woman who has been crippled for eighteen years. In those days they thought this was due to a spirit. Now we know there would be a medical reason for this illness. The woman could not even stand up straight.

In this encounter we see the loving nature of our God. Jesus notices this woman, He cares about her illness and her suffering, He does not wait for her to ask him for help. He loves us. He wants to help us. Before we even think of reaching out to God for help, God is already reaching out to us.

Jesus tells the woman she is free from her illness. He lays his hands upon her and right away she stands up straight and praises God. But then some religious leaders say that Jesus has not done things the right way. He has broken the laws about the Sabbath. How often we religious people allow a literal interpretation of the law or rules or Scripture to get in the way of God’s work of love and healing. God and Jesus and the Spirit will free us from illness and bondage of any kind at any time. As Jesus points out, the law provided for folks to take care of their animals on the Sabbath, and God is going to heal and free God’s children every day of the week.

Our reading from the Letter to the Hebrews traces our growing understanding of God. When Moses went up on the mountain to meet with God over three thousand years ago, people were scared of God. They knew that God was powerful and they described God in terms of smoke and fire and thunder. They believed that one could not look into the face of God and live. That is what is being referred to in the beginning of today’s epistle. But then we come to “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant.”

Our understanding of God has grown over the centuries. Yes, God is powerful, but God uses God’s power differently from how we humans sometimes tend to use power. God uses God’s power the way Jesus used his power to heal this woman in today’s gospel.

God loves you. God loves me. God calls us to be the persons God has made us to be—loving, caring, compassionate, healing persons, each of us using our God-given gifts. God reaches out to us. God heals us and frees us from everything that would hold us in bondage.

Jesus is our model, He is the logos, the Word, the blueprint for how to live a human life in the service of God. As we study his life, his actions and words, we grow more and more into his likeness. We grow more and more into serving others as he served. That is what our journey in faith is all about.

Loving and gracious God, may we answer Yes when you call. May we grow more and more into your likeness. Amen.

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