Pastor Jim's past sermons:
The Hands of Christ
Sunday, February 10, 2019
Exodus 20: 8-11
Luke 13: 10-17
Links to past sermons can be found at the bottom of this page.
Did you know that human skin is considered an organ? It’s true; it is the largest organ of our bodies, and it is an amazing organ. It is extremely flexible and versatile. On the one hand, it has enough durability and strength to allow us to hold a heavy object like a brick, and on the other hand, it has the sensitivity to allow us to hold something delicate, like a find crystal goblet. It is an amazing organ that God has given to us. And, one of the most amazing properties of skin is that it allows us to touch. It allows us to reach out and make contact with others. And, with that touch we can communicate so much.
For example, a message of love is communicated to a little child as she is held in her mother’s arms. A message of caring is communicated to a dying man laying in a hospital bed by his friend who holds his hand through the pain. Of course, human touch can also be hurtful, just ask anyone who has ever been abused at the hands of another, just ask anyone who has every felt rejected because another person wouldn’t shake their hand. The human touch can communicate with such power, that sometimes it alone can reinforce in another person a sense of acceptance or rejection. It is the power of touch that plays an important role in our gospel lesson this morning. For, when Jesus reached out and touch the woman, he broke through not only the physical barriers, but also the social barriers in order to bring healing to this woman who was afflicted with her infirmity. Jesus was teaching in the synagogue that day. It just happened to be the Sabbath, the day that God had set aside as a day of rest, a day that was so important that it was included in the Ten Commandments. So, here was Jesus teaching on the Sabbath, and he sees a woman who is bent over, who is not able to stand up because of the spirit of infirmity that had a hold of her. Though we may not know exactly what this spirit of infirmity was, we do know that this woman had been bound this way for eighteen years. When Jesus saw her, he reached out to her. He called to her and then he touched her. He placed his hands upon her and freed her from her infirmity. It is interesting to note that Jesus did not have heal her in this way. Based on some of the other miracles that have been recorded, all Jesus needed to do was just to say the word, and the woman would have been free, but he chose to reach out and lay his hands upon her, which is something that Jesus did often when he healed people. If you think about it, it would have been a lot faster and Jesus could have healed more if he had just waved his hand over a group of people who needed healing, but Jesus chose to reach out to them one by one, with a touch of his hands. There was power in the touch, and it was power to heal more than just the physical, but also the emotional and spiritual. Because of her infirmity, this woman would not have been well accepted in her community. She would have been exposed to ridicule, like a child being teased on the playground. She probably would have been treated as one who was cursed by God. So, she would have been bound by more than just the physical infirmity; she would have been bound by the feelings and the opinions of the community itself. But, when Jesus reach out and laid his hands upon her, he broke those cords of bondage, and set her free. Jesus reached out with the love and compassion of God, and placed them upon her. Jesus sent out a message of acceptance and love, just by reaching and touching. Jesus still desires to reach out into the broken and hurt areas of our society; he still desires to reach out into the broken and hurt areas of our lives. For, Jesus is not blind to the pains of his people. Jesus knows the hurts, and also the way to heal. As Creator, Jesus knows us inside and out. There was a story of a church that had a beautiful pipe organ that produced the most wonderful sound. Well, one Sunday, when the organist went to play, what came out was a hideous, fingernails on the chalk board type of sound. The church quickly called some repair people to try and fix it, but with no success. No one could determine the location of the problem. One day, an older gentleman walked into the church and immediately went to the organ, and in no time at all, had that organ producing a beautiful, rich sound once again. “How in the world did you know how to fix it?” the older gentleman was asked. “It was easy,” replied the man, “I know every inch of this pipe organ. I was the one who made it.” As the one who creates, Jesus knows every inch of his people, and knows right where to touch the hurts and the pains that people go through. And so, Jesus desires to free all people from the bonds which still bind. And, he desires to do this through people like us, the church. The church is called the body of Christ, which is an appropriate way to understand ourselves, because now we are the hands of Christ which reaches out into our communities, and into our world. Christ has given us the opportunity as the church to reach out and touch the lives of those who we see that are hurting, or beaten down. And, as the hands of Christ, we have been given the authority and the power to reach out. Reaching out gives us power in many ways. Just as touch can detect fever and disease, so by reaching out, the church, can perceive the needs of the people that she comes in contact. For, we will constantly receive a stream of signals about the needs of our communities. Reaching out gives us the power to communicate the love and grace of our heavenly Father. So often, there are people who feel isolated, left alone to hurt. For example, I came across a story of a young family, as husband and wife, and a young boy. Now, the young boy had a grandfather whom he dearly loved, and he always enjoyed spending time with his grandfather. Well, it happened that his grandfather was struck with terminal cancer, and came to stay with this family to live out his last days. The grandfather stayed in his room isolated from the rest of the house, and in order to protect the little boy, the mother and father would not allow the boy to go and see his grandfather. This caused a great deal of pain, for everyone in the family. Each day the little boy would beg to go and see his grandfather, while his grandfather felt more and more isolated, left alone in his pain. His physical condition did not deteriorate nearly as fast as his emotional and spiritual condition. Well, one day the little boy’s parents finally agreed to let him see his grandfather, and the little boy raced into the room and threw his arms around his grandfather’s neck, and it was as if life was breathed back into his grandfather. That touch from the little boy communicated a love so great that although the grandfather did not recover physically, he was able to pass on in the peaceful knowledge that he was not rejected but still greatly cherished. There is such power to change lives when one takes the courage to reach out. And it does take courage for the church to reach out because reaching out means pushing through our own fears and biases. It means pushing through the barriers that people will set up, both inside and outside the church. Jesus had to push through the barriers established by the rigid legalism that separated people from the true intent of God’s Law. The Pharisees indirectly condemned Jesus for healing on the Sabbath believing that he had contradicted the Law. But, Jesus never contradicted the Law, simply the way it was interpreted. Instead of interpreting the Law as a gracious gift of God, the Pharisees had turned the Law into a burden that bound the people. The Law was given for the people. God graciously gave the law in order to help the people, help them to love God, and to love their neighbor. Jesus who came and re-interpreted the Law as a law of love for the people. The Pharisees said that only those who were in danger of death could be helped on the Sabbath, but Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for people, people were not made for the Sabbath.” God provided that Sabbath as a rest, because God knew that we could not go on 24 hours a day, seven days a week. God knew that we needed times to regain our strength and to refocus ourselves upon God. God gave this Law as a Law of compassion, but God did not want our compassion to stop when the sun went down. Jesus did not wait for the woman to meet the right criteria in order to help her. Jesus did not wait until a more appropriate moment to help her, because the appropriate moment was right then. And, as the church, we are called to act in the present moment. As the church we are called to reach out to all, not just those who match a certain established criteria. A reporter once asked Mother Teresa, “why she would expend her limited resources on people for whom there was no hope? Why not attend to people worthy of rehabilitation? What kind of success rate could her hospital boast of when most of its patients died in a matter of days or weeks?” Mother Teresa stared at the man and then answered him saying, “These people have been treated all their lives like dogs. Their greatest disease is a sense that they are unwanted. Don’t they have a right to die like angels?” Mother Teresa reached out to the untouchables of the society. As we reach out with the hands of Christ, we will also communicate to people that they are indeed wanted, wanted by God. As we reach out, we can perceive the needs of the people, and we can know how to minister. We complain that our elected leaders in D.C. are so far removed from their constituency that they do not know the needs of their people. But, we are not so far away, we are right here in the community. We are near to our neighbor; we are near to the needy. And, we have the opportunity to reach out with the hands of Christ. We reach out so that, like the woman in the story, all can know that they are loved and wanted by God. When we stretch out our hand to help, we stretch out the hand of Christ.