YOUR CHOICE … A Band Aid or HEALING
Luke 14: 1 & 7-14
August 30, 2020 AM
Poet James Baldwin never sat back on his laurels during his lifetime. He wrote with great insight about human interactions. And, this morning when I woke up there were the words of Baldwin once again providing a challenge; poignant words that this morning are reflective to me of our need to become people who are healed in the name of Jesus Christ. The words of this 20th century man in his gift of written clarity should cause all of us who attend church, volunteer for church, work for church or who just enjoy saying we belong to church to consider whether our life ambitions, our life goals, and our life associations connect not with James Baldwin but with the book of James in God’s Word.
You have heard me refer to the pastor of my growing up years, Reverend Stanley Lewis. I have his books from his ministry that he gifted to me. As an older adult, I truly became friends with this soft spoken man of God who served as pastor, friend, and mentor until he went home to the Lord. Pastor Lewis loved the book of James and perhaps that is why I love it. He said he preached a lot from it … so as a youth thinking I wasn’t paying attention to the sermons while seated next to mom and dad perhaps I was. He shared with me a focus on being a Christian that he took from merged verses of James, “Everyone,” Pastor Lewis would say, “is tempted but those who listen discover God’s call to action. You will be tested but in God you can find joy. You must be doers of the Word to be healed.”
I haven’t thought about his mini-sermon in a long time but this week I found where I had written down those words. Since he only shared them over the telephone with me, I don’t know if he had memorized them or was reading them to me but on more than one occasion as he gave me insight into being a pastor he shared those Scriptural truths that come from the first chapter of James.
Whenever there is a fifth Sunday this church’s tradition has been to be a church that offers a healing service … healing of the spirit and healing of the soul. We share words from that same book of James, “If any of you are suffering, you should pray. If any of your are sick you should call the elders of the church. Prayers that come from faith will heal the sick and the prayer of the righteous person is powerful in what it can achieve.” In those quarterly services, we reflect that our souls need healing, our battered persona’s tempted and tested by the world need recovery in the Spirit of God. When we admit the truth about life those of us sensing that God matters, that Jesus heals and that the Spirit can direct us turn back to the Holy desperately know that the world has again pushed us away and need healing.
Actually, our true need to heal is reflective in the fact that all too frequently we just hear but we don’t really want to be healed in the Spirit of God. We casually toss out words of association with a church or even with Jesus but then invest our life’s visibility through the words of those not healed by God’s grace and love; we value our protected treasures that we are quick to shout we have a right for but one day they won’t matter. Through actions that are not locked into the Christ driven teachings of the Gospels but rather aligning with the voices of the times we live in we proudly claim we belong to one of the clubs and associations of the world.
God’s Word calls us to give up that world … Jesus words in the Gospels provide light into God’s expectations and I am hoping that each of you has taken up my challenge to read just a few words directly from Jesus each day spending a few moments the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Acts chapter 1. But, we all know that there are many who would rather invest hours of their time into the talking heads of political radicalism whether it comes from the networks of the right or of the left seeking direction or affirmation from men and women hired to be one-sided, loud, attacking and boisterous rather than going to the Son of God, Savior of the World whose message of love for all, healing of the broken, and forgiveness is easier to put aside until the next church event.
So, today … I want us to consider our personal need for healing on a day some have referred to as a day of rest. Others call this a Sabbath or perhaps some even as their one hour to say they belong to Jesus Christ. Today, my friends you are amongst many who have made an active decision to worship with this global church whose parish includes Malaysia, Liberia, Florida, Arizona, North Carolina, Nebraska, and even the Jersey Shore … what choices have you made for your life … do you just put on the Jesus Band-Aid occasionally or are you in the process of being healed through a life focused on living as Christ taught and God expects?
On this fifth Sunday of August in this bizarre year when so much healing is needed in so many ways … what is it for you? BAND-AID or HEALING? The James Baldwin words that I have hinted at this morning are these: “Nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
NOTHING CAN BE CHANGED UNTIL IT IS FACED. In counselling, it is always important to get individuals who are hurting to discover or admit to the underlying issues that are causing their particular problem to occur but as people of faith in the 21st century we have been conditioned to be self-protecting, self-preserving, and self-focused, which means for most of us we have little interest in facing the challenges and realities that show weakness. We can do it all … or it’s just a little boo boo that needs a temporary Band-Aid to fix.
<<TAKE OUT A BAND AID>> This is an official BAND-AID and it comes with its own warnings: ‘Do not use if open or damaged.’ ‘The packing of this product contains rubber latex, which may cause allergic reaction.’
If we are willing to accept the reality that in this all too temporary life we need the hope of Salvation … the eternal opportunity of the promises of God … and to live this life here on earth with all of its challenges, storms and disasters with hope for our future and yes, with joy knowing that God is with us well then we need to get with God. We need to truly connect with Jesus Christ and yes, that means allowing the Holy Spirit to be the only commentator, talking head, and expert guiding our lives.
Do you realize that 25 years ago we were not inundated with so-called experts screaming at us daily their opinions about the world of politics and events in the world pressuring us to fall in step with their paid thoughts while not using our own minds to consolidate the events of the world? Young people might be surprised that back in the olden days people watched comedies and dramas at night rather than being taken under dark deep waters by people whose only claim to fame and fortune was in their ability to divide us into the left and into the right? Friends, just your schedules … how many hours do you find value in watching people who put down others? Is that your choice for living? Is that your way of loving? Is church a Sunday or Wednesday Band-Aid but you can’t wait to see what latest self-created put down one of those polished TV heads has come up with against the people you don’t like must less love … OH WAIT, aren’t we supposed to love all of our neighbors as ourselves? These talking gods of TV and Talk Radio most certainly are not invested in loving ALL neighbors so are you invested in changing your lives and words and actions through their thoughts?
So, this morning as we worship God and Christ … what are your afternoon plans? Your tomorrow’s discussions? Are you going to pull off the BAND AID of Sunday Worship to fit in with the world by your choice ASAP? Are you going to watch as the stickiness of faith that overcame you through the hymns of the church, the prayers of the church, God’s Word … this morning … are you going to allow it all to slip away because the investment is just too much for you to make in this world full of demands especially in these days, weeks and months to come?
Did you hear the psalmist’s teachings this morning? “PRAISE THE LORD!” We are told … actually it says “PRAISE THE LORD Those who honor the Lord … those who adore God’s commandments ,,, those who are truly happy PRAISE THE LORD!” Is that you this morning? Was that you last night as you headed to bed … do you adore God’s commandments?
You see, to be healed in God … to be alive in faith … to have the hope for the future with a veracity of faith not just in your saying you are a Christian but as a proven person of faith then you and I must be healed in the Word by the Word and it begins by adoring, accepting, and living out the commandments of God.
And, if you have spent some time in your Gospels … if you are a Jesus follower and believer … then you know I am not talking about the MIGHTY TEN on a ROCK that Moses brought down … I am talking about the Jesus declaration of faith … the Jesus explanation of the healed … friends this afternoon will you be adoring the words of Jesus Christ and the commandments of God?
Jesus replied when asked about the greatest Commandment in the Law, in the Gospel of Matthew, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And, the second is like it: You must love your neighbors as you love yourself. ALL the laws and the prophets depend on these two commands.” They are commands … they are the keys so when the Psalmist writes those who honor God and adore God’s commandments that’s the essence of that answer … you can’t praise the Lord in truth … of course you can say the words and even shout or sing them but you can’t mean them and God does figure that out by the way unless you love and adore God’s commandments.
So, I am here again with the James Baldwin challenge … NOTHING CAN BE CHANGED UNTIL IT IS FACED … we can’t be healed by God until we really look at our faith walk to determine if we love and adore God’s commands not just for a moment but as our life’s call … the world is eager to take you over again; just this week a youth leader told me that shooting innocent people dead is ok if those shot dead were swinging a skateboard through the air. A youth leader … from one of our churches … am sure he claims to be pro-life but to him it’s ok to shoot down human beings like being on a hunting trip driven to the hunting zone across state lines by mama because he was underaged.
To be healed by God … to be transformed by Jesus Christ … it takes us to make a choice to adore and love God’s Commands; loving our neighbors. My challenge for each of us goes back to the BAND AID or the HEALING.
If we are healed we will do as the psalmist taught: “Those who honor God,” we heard, “shine in darkness for others. They are merciful, compassionate, and righteous. Their righteousness stands forever. They conduct their affairs with justice. They won’t be frightened with bad news. Their hearts are steady trusting in the Lord. They give freely to those in need.”
And, friends just as now it was true then … the psalmist mentions what the neighbors will think about people of faith, “the wicked will see all of this and fume. They will grind their teeth but disappear to nothing.” God’s Word tells us “what the wicked want to see happen comes to nothing” because God’s teaching brings others home to the Lord. We can be the change agents .. we can be the difference makers.
Today, those of us who have Jesus can find our joy in the hope we are certain of for our tomorrow’s. But all of us continue to need God’s healing Spirit … we continue to need the balm of Gilead that is found through prayer and the study of God’s Word. People of faith … whose actions are reflective of the teaching of Jesus such as we heard this morning to care for the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind … we know we need healing. We come to the Lord’s Table … we pray … we strive to ward off the world and the shouting, bullying voices of the world telling us we are wrong to love all of our neighbors, to welcome the stranger, to stand up for justice for all, and to live as Jesus Christ lived.
But, if your life’s investment when you FACE THE TRUTH about who you are today is in your desire to fit in with the world, be treasured by their neighbors, be endorsed by the powerful in their neighborhoods, their towns, or beyond, or in learning the words for TV and radio’s talking heads but you know you need to change. Do your neighbors, friends and colleagues see you as a spokesperson for the world’s views, the world’s divisions but you know you need to let Jesus flow through the words you use? Then, let today be the first day for change. Let today be a day when your faith healing is more than a temporary BAND-AID but instead a day when you allow God’s Spirit to engulf you and wrap around you.
Find a corner of your home, your yard or God’s nature where it is just you and God for all the time it takes. NOTHING CAN BE CHANGED in your relationship with GOD until you honestly FACE THE TRUTH.
It is my prayer that all of us can stand together across the world and PRAISE THE LORD because we love God’s Commandments and are ready to call the world out for what it is. That we walk in God’s path and the light of Christ.
It’s your choice … BAND AID or HEALING … I pray today is a day you and I both seek to again be more fully healed by God as we continue our journey towards our future heavenly home.