Monday, August 22, 2016

Pentecost 14 Proper 16C

[NOTE:  I rarely post sermons on this Blog but I received so many requests this week for copies, that I decided to make an exception.  This is the text of the sermon I preached on Aug. 21, 2016 at St. Andrew's Jacksonville]

Almost every Friday my son Ian calls or texts me to say “Happy Friday.”  Which I guess means “The weekend is coming!”  A day of rest is upon us.

Which always makes me wonder, “How will you rest? How will you keep the Sabbath?” 

Scripture suggests two origins to the Sabbath commandment.  One comes from the creation story—as God rested on the seventh day, so also should all creation have a time of rest and renewal. 

Pretty straight-forward and unambiguous. God endorses a day off from our work for us to rest.  

The second Sabbath story comes from Exodus. The Hebrew slaves working for Pharaoh never, ever had a chance to rest. So, the commandment and promise of rest was extended to all; rich or poor, adult or child, human or animal, everyone needs a time to rest, and so God makes it a commandment to safeguard rest for all. 

It was an important question for the Jewish community in Jesus' day. Jesus rebuffed those interpreters of the Law who argued that even healing should be put on hold until the Sabbath was over. 

Jesus recognized that the larger purpose of the commandment was to free God's people from whatever holds us in bondage, including work.

When he healed the crippled woman he did so in order to free her from a condition that had held her in bondage for eighteen years.

Whenever we hear a story of Jesus healing or doing some other ‘forbidden’ act on the Sabbath Day, look for the bondage from which he is freeing us. And look for the overriding Law of Love which guides Jesus and you and me.

Ask yourself how you might reclaim the necessity—and the gift of a weekly Sabbath from daily work?

We are most faithful to the Sabbath when we use it to help and protect each other; to take a time of rest and refreshment from our daily work and routine and not insist on Sabbath it for its own sake.

As I suspect you have also, I have been watching a lot of the Olympic games from Rio and I have been hearing many stories of dreams that have been fulfilled by the athletes as they trained and participated in these games.  One in particular came to mind and reminded me of the woman in today’s lesson. 

Stacy Lewis is a woman golfer who has achieved the pinnacle of her profession by winning two major championships.  The amount of sacrifice and practice that she put into her sport is amazing, especial considering she suffered from scoliosis, which was diagnosed at a young age. She was treated by a spinal fusion when she was in high school, and missed her first collegiate golf season at the University of Arkansas recovering from the surgery.

As a child, Stacy wore back braces to try and correct the results of the disease—a curvature in her spine which affected her posture. In a TV interview she described how difficult it was to wear these braces, then return to the doctor only to be told that she had to continue to wear them another three months. Finally, her back was straight and she no longer had to wear the brace.

The commentator asked Stacy if it was difficult to look at the brace he had in the studio.  She said no, because they made he into the person she was today—they made it possible for her to be a Championship Golfer.

Stacy had dreams for her life. She wanted to be a golfer and she wanted to be cured from scoliosis.  I wonder what goals the crippled woman had that Jesus cured? 

I doubt if she wanted to play golf. Maybe she simply wanted to stand tall and erect, free from the pain of her affliction?  Did she envy the other women who were able to carry water from the wells to their homes?
We all have dreams and we all struggle to achieve our dreams.

So I have for us five ways to tend to our dreams .

First, dreams don’t happen overnight.

It takes commitment and hard work to achieve our dreams.  When we hear of someone who has burst onto the scene, we are often told that person is an overnight success.

There is no overnight success.  Success takes years of preparation, practice, wearing a back-brace, study.

Robert Schuller, the American televangelist who built Crystal Cathedral said, “Spectacular achievement is always preceded by unspectacular preparation.”

The second way to tend your dreams is to remember, you may want to believe that someone out there has all the answers for you. They don’t.
Someone else may have a part of the answer you need, but only you have what’s necessary to put your dream together.

One of our great thinkers and leaders, Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Rarely do we find people who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.”  So wherever you need answers, THINK.

Third, never settle for some for less than your best. There is always an improvement that will make your idea better.

When Henry Kissinger was Secretary of State, he gave an assignment to one of his aides.  The young man was excited to have been trusted with an important task. He ran off and burned the midnight oil completing the task and the next day returned it to Kissinger’s desk. Later that day it was returned with the note: “Nice beginning, try again. H.K.”

The aide doubled down at re-wrote to paper, checking all his research again and then put it on Dr. Kissinger's desk the next morning. Again, later in the day it was back on the aide’s desk with the note, “This looks kind of light. H.K.”

This time the aide tore his work apart, looking for every possible way to improve his writing. The next morning, he carefully placed the edited document on the Dr.’s desk and said a prayer. Again, later in the day the paper was back on the aides desk with a new note, “Is this the best you can do?  H.K.”

Despondent, after the third re-write, and worried that his short career in the diplomatic corps was about to end, the aid made an appointment with Dr. K. 

He said, “Dr. Kissinger I have put my heart and soul into this paper. I’ve checked my research, referenced every citation, and followed up on every quotation. Sir, this is the very best I can do.” 

Without looking up, Dr. Kissinger took the paper from the aide and said, “Ok, now I’ll read it.”

Fourth. Never believe that someone else is at fault when things don’t go according to your dream. You can’t blame your teachers, your father or mother, or even your most trusted adviser.

If you want to tend your dream you're the one who has got to change—take responsibility because it's always your fault.  

Finally, as you chase your dream remember, it is not the goals that are important. It’s passing the milestones and inch-pebbles along the way that are important. Steady progress. 

Life and dreams are never about the goals themselves. It is about the journey—the steps are what are important.

If we did not have God’s Law, it would be everybody for him or herself. But God has given us the Law as His gift to help us live into God’s dream of abundant life for everyone. 

We are most faithful to the law not when we blindly follow it but when we use it to help and protect each other, not insist on it for its own sake or for personal again. 

Sabbath is for our benefit. A gift from God of rest and refreshment.
Now, rather than looking out for ourselves, we have a whole community of people looking out for us, even as we look out for others.

We are invited into this new life, placing the law of love above all other laws; reaching out to help those around us stand up a little taller—a little straighter—as they hear of and experience God’s love through our words and deeds.