Pastor Lynn Rubier-Capron’s Sermon

February 17, 2019

We have just done something that marks Alexandra.  She is not a part of the crowd, but rather she is one of Jesus’ disciples.  To be fair, Alexandra will have the chance to confirm this calling when she is older.  That is when she will agree with us and her parents, that God has created her to participate in God’s mission through the church.  But until she reaches that age, she will stand with us as one of Jesus’ disciples.

The crowd are not disciples, not in the gospel of Luke.  They are people who come to Jesus in order to be healed and to eat his bread.  Some of them even act like they are troubled.  They want what his power can do for them.  Disciples are chosen to follow Jesus and become part of his mission and ministry from that crowd.  Alexandra has sort of been Grandfathered into the disciple group for a while until she reaches the age of decision.

And the question for us is, after Alexandra has watched us for 12 – 15 years, will she have experienced any of Jesus’ power for healing, for feeding people and for releasing people from their inner demons? 

I ask that because, on paper, I’m not sure her decision to follow Jesus looks obvious.  Jesus just told us that his blessings are for the poor, the hungry, those who weep and those who are willing to stand with him even in his rejection.  These are not things that parents tend to want for their children.  They are also not things that we tend to want for ourselves. 

When Jesus walked the dusty roads of Jerusalem in the first century, he had power that went out from his body.  With that power he healed people for free, fed them bread they did not earn and freed people  from their inner demons.  The crowds didn’t give him room to breath because they were poor, and they knew they needed him, so they were blessed.

But Jesus is not walking the asphalted roads of Northern Jersey, nor the cemented side walks of our suburbs.  Not the same way that he did in the first century.  There is not a man with skin on who exudes the power of God.

The church is supposed to be doing that.  The church is supposed to be the place where the power of God to heal, to feed and to release people from their inner demons is so powerful that they come out to us to get their needs met.  And, while they are here, they find that Jesus has called them to follow him and become part of his mission, God’s mission to bless and redeem all of creation. 

When I was growing up, we moved about every five years.  God did not meet me with power in the church.  God met me with power and healing in the privacy of my own prayers and imagination.  What I got at church was stability and an education about our tradition.  And those things are essential.  But any more, they are not enough.  The crowds aren’t coming out for those things any more.  They never did.  The crowds are looking for power that  touches and heals them.  The question I have for us, Jesus’ disciples, is this:  where has Jesus’ power to heal and feed and release you come into your life?  And, how are we going to allow Alexandra to experience God that way?  I am happy to share prayer with her, that’s how God has touched me.  But prayer, as much as I hope she practices prayer, may not be the thing that works for her.  She may need you to share the thing that God touches you with.  What is that thing?  And, how are we going to allow Alexandra to have that experience here in this church? 

Not too long ago, I sat with someone whom you don’t know to provide him with pastoral counseling.  Sometimes people stop by for that sort of thing, and they aren’t always members of the church. 

His first question to me was “pastor, are you spiritual?  I need to tell you about something but, before I do, I need to find out if you are spiritual?  I have spoken with some people in churches and sometimes they don’t like with that sort of thing.”

This man was clamoring for God’s power to touch him, and he wanted to know if he could find that power in this church. 

Christian education cannot be about handing on information any more.  It has to include information.  But it also has to be about you and me getting to know our youth, finding  out how God is touching them, and letting them see for themselves how God is touching us.  They  want to know where God’s power is  and if they don’t find it here, they will look for it elsewhere.  There is one thing right about that.  And that is, behind their search for God’s power is the assumption that God has power.

I want the power of God to flow so forcefully here that there will never be a question.  I want it for Alexandra, so that when she has to make her decision in 12 to 15 years, she will have experienced the kinds of things that turn members of the crowd into life long disciples.

I don’t know where you stand in this story right now.  Maybe you know where your need is and you have come out with the crowd so that Jesus can meet it.  From his perspective, that is a blessed place to be.

If you have been following Jesus for a long time and are one of his disciples, Jesus is determined that he and his disciples are here for the crowds.  He keeps pointing us back in their direction.  It keeps us from spending ourselves on success and riches for their own sake and keeps us relying firmly on God’s power.

If you have lived as long as I have lived or longer and you are wondering what has happened to our beloved religion, and why is it that tv shows, movies and the media seem to have nothing but negative things to say about Christianity, then Jesus has something  relevant for us in this story as well. 

I’m going to read this passage from Luke one more time, and I want you to listen for where you stand in the story: with the crowd, with the disciples or with the people who feel that we are taking it on the chin for following Jesus right now.  As I read, I ask you this question: why would anyone decide to follow Jesus as he speaks these words?  Why have you?  And when we find the answer to those questions, I believe we will have something to give to Alexandra:

17 He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon, 18 who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by impure spirits were cured, 19 and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.

20 Looking at his disciples, he said:

“Blessed are you who are poor,
    for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 Blessed are you who hunger now,
    for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
    for you will laugh.
22 Blessed are you when people hate you,
    when they exclude you and insult you
    and reject your name as evil,
        because of the Son of Man.

23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.

There are so many ways to bring these teachings into our life of discipleship.  Here are three for today.

1.)  There are rare occasions when we must take it on the chin because we are disciples of Jesus.  It’s not often, but it’s starting to happen more than it use to.  On those rare occasions this teaching is clear.

2.)There are  times when life is just hard and we must live through a season of suffering.  I hope those times are rare for you.  When you must go through tough times, please let us know!  We cannot be a place of healing, of nourishment and of shalom unless we know you need it.  That is why Dotty Ostella’s ministry with the Diakonoi is so powerful!  We do it right, privacy is kept  and boundaries are respected.  The power of God is flowing in that ministry! I believe our other ministries of meeting people’s physical needs are also filled with God’s power, the thrift shop and Sunday Suppers.  These things are a good start. 

3.) When you are in a time of consolation where life is going well, your grandchild is being baptized and there is a big party after church, it’s easy to step into the flow of God’s power from that position too.  We all know it.  Just turn back towards the crowd who need God’s  power.  It will flow through you.