Luke 13:10-17
Jesus Heals a Crippled Woman

10 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 11 And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” 13 When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. 14 But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.” 15 But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?” 17 When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.

Hebrews 12:25-29

25 See that you do not refuse the one who is speaking; for if they did not escape when they refused the one who warned them on earth, how much less will we escape if we reject the one who warns from heaven! 26 At that time his voice shook the earth; but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven.”

27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of what is shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; 29 for indeed our God is a consuming fire.

What does it mean to be unshakeable? Is that possible? Seems like there’s a lot in life that leaves us shaking, wondering what could happen.

Sometimes, being shaken is literal. While I was in class at Fuller Seminary one day, I experienced an earthquake. Its epicenter was only a few miles away and it shook the windows and it felt like the floor beneath me was very wobbly! I didn’t know what to do, I looked at my friend sitting next to me, Igors from Latvia, we both looked at the professor who started to head out of the classroom. All of our other classmates ducked under their desks. It lasted a few moments and then it was calm.

Class was dismissed and I began to walk home. While walking, I looked up into the mountains surrounding Pasadena, CA and began to get a bit weak and emotional as I thought about the awesome power of that earthquake…and how God’s power is overwhelming and more powerful than anything in all of his creation. It was a humbling moment.

Friends, we have a powerful God who has been revealed to us through Jesus by the power of God’s Spirit. That power is flowing all around us and in us! This is an awesome God who has made promises to us, and has made God’s dwelling with us, in us. We are not alone. We live in Christ and participate in Christ’s movement from conception, to birth, to life, to death, and then to resurrection! It’s a powerful cycle that is infused with God’s presence throughout…and even into eternity.

Life may leave us shaking, but we have an inner strength from Christ that can give us a measure of confidence…that strength comes from a deeper sense of awareness of who we are, of others, and of God. This is a power that is unshakeable, a power that can be overwhelming, terrifying really, painful even, yet, can also move mountains both in reality and figuratively.

I see this unshakable power often in others who have been crippled, impaired in some way. Yet, they have been able to overcome and find a deeper strength that is simply beautiful. I have been following a few runners and athletes on Instagram who have inspired me. These are folks who compete at a high level even though they may be missing an arm or a leg. It started in two ways: when I ran the Boston Marathon injured, my time was off and I ended up running with some blade runners. The other is the work that my wife does in physical therapy. Her clinic works with some amazing folks who have had powerful traumatic impacts on their bodies that have left them paralyzed physically, yet they have a deeper power that they tap into…it’s amazing.

I still can’t quite comprehend what it must have been like for the woman in our gospel story. For 18 years she probably didn’t have crowds cheering her on. As a cripple, in that society, she was considered on the margins, outside of society. Even the religious order of the day did not fully embrace her in her humanity. They seemed to be more focused on their sense of order, propriety, or doing the things they way they’ve always been done that they had forgotten their own shared humanity. They had reduced religion to rules and not relationships. They were blind and deaf to God’s very heart of relationship and could not recognize this woman’s humanity….they could not even recognize Jesus as the messiah, the one who came to give us our humanity back.

Our passage doesn’t say what she was crippled with, but that she was crippled by a spirit.

She was so harassed by something that it physically affected her.

I can somewhat relate to that, so can many of us. We can be crippled by spirits of fear, anxiety, the unknown, even change. We can let the spirit of our selfishness, I call that our small e egos, that we are crippled if you will to doing the hard work of self and others awareness. Those spirits of selfishness, anxiousness, fear, loneliness, can lead to physical issues. They are powerful narratives in our lives. I am about to go in for my annual physical, my doctor always asks how work is going, how is my family life, how is anxiety showing up physically? Am I experiencing tightness in my chest, back pains, stomach issues? If those are present, how can I reduce my anxiety so that it doesn’t cripple me further? How can I let go of certain things so that I not only survive by thrive.

I think this woman knew that she could not live as she had lived for almost two decades. She didn’t want to be crippled, yet it was what she knew. She meets Jesus and she sees someone who can help her, there’s a deeper power at work. She begins the process of awareness and tapping into that power. She knows she needs to change, she knows that she wants something better, she takes a risk in trusting someone else. Jesus sees her, Jesus touches her, Jesus heals her. And, she dances. She’s been given life!

As she celebrates, as something good happens, as she begins this new life of God’s unshakable belief in her, how did the religious rulers respond? Well, again, they focused on the negative, they couldn’t see beyond themselves and their rules to the opportunities of restored relationship. Jesus had compassion on the crippled woman, and, even the blindness of the religious leaders. He healed the woman, yes, but he also calls out the religious leaders. Jesus goes on to point out that they would take care of their animals on the sabbath, so why shouldn’t Jesus take care of this woman? In other words, the religious leaders had become so stuck in a way of thinking, they couldn’t see their blind spots, or notice others. Jesus doesn’t say much else, he just points out the obvious, this woman, one of us, a human being, has been healed. The religious leaders were shamed a bit as it says, and maybe, just maybe, they knew they had been focusing on the wrong things.

Friends, I don’t know where you are today. Maybe some of us have been stuck in a certain way of thinking for a long time and it’s crippling us…maybe you have experienced change or are getting ready for a big change. Maybe something is happening in your job, in your family, education, maybe you are afraid of what the future may bring you.

I believe that, just like this woman, when we are met by Jesus, when something inside of us is touched by the divine, and we are given the chance to be healed and we recognize God’s unshakeable power flow through us, we should not be afraid to let go of what has been crippling us. It starts with our hearts being moved, then our minds being healed as we
move towards awareness of our deeper selves, then healing can take root and work within us, moving us towards joy and away from what is crippling us.

I believe that Jesus came to heal us beyond in the depth of who we are…we live in the body of Christ to move towards a sense of wholeness, relationship, and joy in the moment no matter what may be waiting around the corner. To be healed and to experience God’s power, to let go of what is crippling us can be hard work, but when we allow ourselves to be touched by the divine, touched by God, allowing ourselves to be dependent on one another and brought into community, we can then dance, celebrate, and live in God’s unshakable love and commitment to us.


Luke 12:49-56

Not Peace but Division

49 “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!

50 But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed!51 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. 52 From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in- law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
Interpreting the Times

54 He said to the crowd: “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does. 55 And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is. 56 Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?

Hebrews 12:1-2

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

I love so many aspects of being a pastor, baptizing folks is certainly one of them. Our reformed heritage is built upon a premise of Christ’s actions happening on our behalf and Jesus is baptized for all of humanity, and that our baptism is a symbol of our participating in what Christ has participated in. It doesn’t give us salvation, God has saved us from the beginning and, as Paul reminds us, we are all working out that salvation. Baptism is symbolic of God’s action…that we are marked by God’s grace.

This morning’s gospel lesson has a lot to say about God’s actions through Jesus. It’s also a stark reminder that being a follower of Jesus, being wrapped in God’s actions on our behalf through Jesus, is not always understood.

When we hear Jesus say that he didn’t come to bring peace, but division, it’s a bit disorienting. Isn’t this the same Jesus who is always preaching unity, peace on earth and in us, and to work together, to be connected?

But, when this passage is read in context, Jesus is saying that following him has consequences, we are operating under a different understanding than what is evident in the world. The old ways of doing things are behind us, a new way of being, of loving, of including and even a changing worldview is required.

The world, the systems that dominate our thinking…what we see and is fed to us on social media and the news cycle at times…tell us to live and think a certain way. But, following Jesus requires a different depth, a change of course, a deeper inner peace that is not understood in a world dominated by transactional thinking.

So, even as we are called to love the world, to build bridges and not walls, we are living countercultural and that causes division, and sometimes even violence and persecution… it certainly did for Jesus and the early disciples. It cost them their lives.

Many of you know my friend Daniel Hughes. He’s one of my best friends. He’s a black Methodist pastor on the west side of Cincinnati in Price Hill. A few years ago, we had an incredibly deep conversation in light of some of the social upheaval at the time around racism, which has been a part of this country since before the Revolution, and the world since the beginning of time.

One of the things that came out of that conversation has changed our friendship in the years since. I realized during that conversation my love for my friend and what he’s had to deal with as a black man. Would I be willing to follow Jesus’ words and actions and lay down my life for him? In that moment, and since then, I have said yes to that.

It may not be a physical death, but it’s certainly been a death of some of my opinions, the way that that I think at times, and how I relate to the world that I’ve been brought up in. It’s been a constant flow of death and resurrection in our friendship that has produced growth. At times, it has not been peaceful, actually hard and divisive. Yet, it’s been good, a deep good. And I’m grateful for it.

I’m living into my baptism with Daniel, and with you, our church, as well. The relationships in my life, in our lives, remind us that our old lives are buried in the water, and new life springs out as we are washed in the waters! But, that’s a hard process at times, we may embrace it out of God’s love, but it has a cost doesn’t it? Love is free, love wins, but the growth that love brings can be hard to navigate at times.

But, baptism gives us hope. We are not alone. God is with us and has given us Jesus. And, as our passage in Hebrews reminds us, we have a great cloud of witnesses that have gone before and after us, cheering us on to the finish line.

When Jesus was baptized, it was dramatic. He comes to the river Jordan to be baptized by his cousin John. As we’ve said in the past, John came preaching a message of repentance, of a change of heart and mind to a new way of living. Baptism symbolized that dying of the old and living into a new life. That baptism, for all of humanity, eventually cost Jesus is his life. That baptism, also symbolized Jesus rising up in the resurrection as well…and we, because of our shared baptism in Christ, also die and rise up.

As followers of Christ, we need to recognize this need in our lives daily. It is tempting to be in a church setting and in our lives outside of this church building to live as we always have, which oftentimes looks much like how everyone else in this world lives. We settle into old patterns that bring only death and decay over time, rather than living into a new life of being present with God’s imagination and creative spirit. This is a life that God doesn’t promise will be one without suffering, but one that God promises to be with us in and as we cultivate a sense of God’s Presence in our lives, one filled with live giving and growing relationship with God and with others.

Yet, it is so hard to break free of those old patterns, isn’t it? Often, in church world, those patterns are reinforced in the way that we do church. Too often we let how the world operates in a negative way determine how we operate in our lives together in the church. We fall into patterns of negative thinking, of gossiping, scapegoating others, control, etc. Whereas God calls us towards freedom, positive engagement with others, honoring others when they are around us and when they are not (which, by the way, political correctness or “saying it like it is” are not excuses for being mean spirited in front of others or behind their back), and of self-awareness to where we ask ourselves how can we serve others rather than blame others.

We cannot live in the way of Jesus without help. We cannot love others, God, or even ourselves until we’ve learned to receive love. That’s why we have to live in recognition of Christ’s baptism for us and to understand the cost of what that means.

This is Jesus’ example to us in his baptism. When he came to John, John didn’t think he should baptize Jesus, that Jesus should baptize him. Yet, Jesus says no, that in order for righteousness to be demonstrated, that Jesus should be baptized by John. Jesus knew who he was, that he was representing all of humanity and that he was God’s son, God’s human representation on earth. He was connected to the flow of God that created, saved, and sustains all of life. Yet, he also knew that to be righteous, or right in relationship, means to submit to someone else, to live in humility. So, he submits to John’s baptism.

His dying to self on our behalf cuts to the core of who we are, tells us that we too are a part of the flow of God that changes everything. The question for us this morning: are we willing to let go of those old ways of thinking and being and live into the new reality that Christ’s baptism represents?

Do we recognize as this story points out that we can’t hide from the present times that we live in? WE, Jesus’ followers, are being reminded that we do have eyes to see and that the times are changing, just as we recognize that weather is changing. We may not want to recognize that culture is changing and that gives us opportunities for imagination and growth…Jesus is saying that we are called to adapt and to grow with him.

When Jesus is baptized, we read that the Spirit of God descends on Jesus life a dove. God’s Spirit is always with Jesus, even before this, and also with us. In the story of Noah, when the floods recede, there is a dove flying over the chaos, reminding us of the hope of new life, and, out of chaos, comes new life and stability.

Friends, the same spirit of God is descending upon us even now, are we willing to receive God’s Presence in our lives and live fully in this new reality? If we are, then we will see evidence of changed behavior on our part, we will see our lives change and this church become all that God intends.


Luke 12:32-40

32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Watchful Servants

35 “Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; 36 be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. 38 If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.

39 “But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he[a] would not have let his house be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

The gospels say a lot about the Kingdom of God, or God’s Presence. It is in our midst, its embodiment is deep and abiding relationship with one another and with God. In so many ways, we cannot see or hear the Kingdom if we are not striving for authentic relationship with each other, ourselves, and God. It’s all one thread that weaves throughout life.

Our text says that God is giving us God’s Presence, this is our treasure if you will.

Now, when I see that word treasure, I think of looking for treasure chests, or material possessions of some sort.

As a kid, I would have things that were of value to me, things like baseball cards, toy soldiers, a favorite souvenir, or something. I’d put them in a special place where they’d be safe just in case someone broke into our home.

Later, as an adult, I’d have a safety deposit box, which I still do as many of us do. In that box, we store things that we value or that we simply want to keep safe as they may be hard to replace.

Yet, God’s Kingdom, our treasure, can’t be locked away, it’s in our midst, all around us, pulling us towards each other and God…finding the gift of the joy of being connected with each other and God’s purposes in our lives together and with God.

And, on the contrary, God’s Kingdom, our treasure, is about putting material possessions in their proper place, which is a place of not holding on too tightly.

We can’t take our material possessions with us, and that’s not God’s economy or measurement of wealth. God values relationship, that’s what gives the energy for creating, saving, sustaining…that’s the treasure.

So many times, we hold on to material treasure, but Jesus is saying that we are called to share it, to be give it away. To bless the poor and one another. Why? Well, certainly to meet needs, but also to empty ourselves of possessions that keep us separated from one another. It’s also meant to say that if we bless others, take care of them as best we can, we can then have the joy of entering into relationship with them.

God’s kingdom treasure is about taking away barriers that may keep us from embracing others, ourselves, and God. God’s Kingdom treasure has much more to do with our becoming fully human as we were created to be in the first place.

When we are able to love and share freely with others, to move from transactional relationships to truly transformational relationships, we experience joy and purpose. When we invest in others, that is a deposit of treasure that cannot be destroyed. However, as scripture says, we can let thieves in that steal away that joy…we listen to voices that are divisive, mean spirited, anxious, and lead us towards a sense of deep selfishness and even a loss of self.

Jesus tells us this morning to take stock on where our treasure lies…if it is with things that pull us apart, then we will be fragmented and produce nothing good and cause us to be in states of deep separation from one another, but if it’s on the Kingdom of God, then it will bring unity, peace, and bear good fruit that blesses others.

We must be on watch for the Kingdom of God in our midst. God’s desire is to give us Godself, it brings God pleasure to be with us. We are given purses that don’t wear out… God’s presence is with us, holding us in tension and in beautiful ways.

We are called to be aware of God’s presence around us, to keep our lamps lit in the darkness in order to recognize when God, the master of the banquet laid out before us arrives. This master is hosting an amazing gathering for us, wanting us to have glimpses of love and grace…wanting us to be awake, alive to the wonderful work of becoming more human in the way of Jesus.

Jesus also warns us to be on the watch for the leaven of the Pharisees, the substance that they want to give us, the substance of control and scarcity, leads us to a misunderstanding of God’s purpose. God does not simply desire piety from us, God desires live, abundant life. The leaven that God offers fills us, nourishes us, makes us come alive. There is a thief that comes to steal from us the fullness of God’s presence in our lives, God’s joy and revelry in who we are in our humanity, yet Jesus comes to make us aware and to live in the present moment with God and others.

In this parable, there are three things to be aware of:

  1. The master provides for this who have eyes to see, who have been faithful with keeping their lamps lit…those who want to see.
  2. Jesus calls us to be vigilant.
  3. Jesus wants to reveal to us the nature of what it means to be truly human as Godintended.

Friends, let us remember God’s actions on our behalf through Jesus, let us remember that God’s leaven is Jesus…and Jesus’ body, Jesus’ life nourishes us…let us also remember that Jesus poured life into us, giving us the courage to live as the truest humans we can be…it takes time and practice, but this action reminds us of Jesus’ coming to us to call us into being the people we were created to be, the people we’ve always wanted to be.


Luke 12:13-21

The Parable of the Rich Fool

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” 16 Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17 And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’18 Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20 But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”

A good friend of mine, Andy Matheson, used to be the international director for Oasis.  Before that he was the national director for Oasis in India, and has now gone back to India with a different role with Oasis India.  

He’s an amazing friend.  Really believes in folks, builds great relationships.  He’s also written a couple of books on God’s measurement of prosperity.  In God’s economy, one’s wealth is not measured by what you have in material possessions, but God measures wealth by relationship, by friendship.  And, it’s not just the quantity of those relationships, but the quality of those relationships.

As we come to this past Sunday’s text, it’s good to keep in mind how God measures wealth.  The passages before this are about faithfulness to God’s message of how we honor others, is how we honor God.

Jesus talks in the previous verses about the yeast of God and the yeast of the Pharisees.  The yeast of the Pharisees is pretty selfish and it not only infects and kills the Pharisees joy in life, it also works its ways through the followers of the Pharisees.  However, God’s yeast moves and grows within us towards a sense of love and respect for another.  Do we hold malice in our hearts for others, or do we look to others with love?  In our national and local dialogues and friendships, we have to recognize that God is not wanting us to be divisive or always looking for ways we can build walls around ourselves, but how can be a blessing and plant good yeast, God’s yeast, into the lives of others and the culture around us.

A friend of mine, Daniel Hughes is a Methodist pastor….we had a conversation a while back about yeast.  He talked about seeking out persons of peace in my life.  Persons of peace are usually fairly positive, open to relationship, and have meaningful impact on those they meet.  The opposite are persons of discord, persons who can’t seem to be experience joy, have fear of losing control, and are more focused on holding on to something rather than trusting God’s work in their lives and the lives of others.  Now, at times, one can be both…this isn’t about labelling someone a certain way.  

After this discussion about the yeast of the Pharisees, a person approaches Jesus from the crowd and wants Jesus to tell his brother to divide his inheritance.  Jesus responds to him with a question, as he often does, who made me the judge of your material possessions?  As if to say, have you been listening?  Have you not heard that our God is about something more than material possessions?

Jesus doesn’t condemn him, even calls him friend.  He goes on to share a parable.  Again, parables aren’t merely morality stories, they are meant to be simple stories that we listen to, chew on, and let them be like seeds planted in our lives to grow as God intends.  

The story is about a rich man who has more grain than he can handle.  His response is not one of gratitude or how can I bless others or contribute my excess to the benefit of my neighbors, but it is to tear down his silos and build larger ones…then to sit back and consume what he can never really consume, be safe…relax, eat, drink, be merry.  

But God calls him a fool.  Now, that’s a harsh word as I understand it growing up.  My parents would never let me use that word.  But, in this context, it means to rebel against the very person of God, to go against God’s principles of relationship.  As we’ve said before, God’s nature is one of relationship…the trinity is a relationship, we are created in God’s image and therefore called to treat one another in loving, wholesome relationships…we are not to tear each down, we are not to be critical or full of complaints out of a sense of disrespect or contempt, but to build each other up, to live in loving accountability that frees us to be creative, redemptive, and sustaining….just as the father, son and holy spirit live and interact.  To not do so leads to death and that is foolish.  

This man, and really all of us, have been given much in life.  Really, as one of my seminary professors, Joel B. Green says in one of his commentaries, all that we have is on loan to us from God.  How we share it with others leads us towards making the world a better place for others, and along the way, we find ourselves growing in ways that we never thought possible.

Jesus goes on to say that this very night, this rich man’s life would be demanded of him.  I wonder what others would say about him at that point?  He didn’t share, he didn’t open the doors of his life in hospitality towards others, his grain, as much as he had, didn’t do any good for others and it simply rotted in the new grain silos he built.

I’d also say that this man was probably pretty poor in God’s economy.  His life came and went and folks didn’t really notice.

Now, friends, there is much to glean if you will from this parable.  But, I’d simply ask you how wealthy you’d like to be in God’s economy?  How can we let go of what we hold on to so tightly in order to bless others and see others blessed?  

My friend, Troy Bronsink, sings these lyrics from time to time:

Hold on to these things. But don’t hold them so tightly. ‘Cause what you hold so tightly you no longer hold for me, but for you. 

Yes, make a living.  But, along the way, don’t hold on to things too tightly.  If what we practice in life isn’t hospitable towards others, then we are rebelling against God…and really causing us to live in places of fear and comfort, which is more dangerous to our souls than living in places of risk, love, and even some discomfort.  

Friends, I would also add, that after the events of this past week and weekend, in the violence caused by hate, racism, and easy access to weapons of war, we need to be people who are willing to take risks in loving well, reaching out to those that are lonely, and calling out our national leaders to be people of peace, to build bridges and unity and not walls and hate.

May we bless one another and the world around us as move towards responding to God’s abundance that God shares with us freely…and in so doing, grow in our wealth in God’s economy.