Sermon: It’s Time to Get Up! May 2, 2021
John 5: 8-14
Our scripture lesson finds Jesus in conversation with a certain man who for 38 years has been marginalized and sidelined with hundreds of other sick people. The man was without help, without hope and without healing.
But Jesus gave him an action plan that provide a way out. It was a plan that allowed the man to take control of his destiny and be accountable for himself. In the contemporary language translation by Eugene Peterson, called The Message, Jesus said: “Get up, take your bedroll, start walking.” The man was healed on the spot. He picked up his bedroll and walked off.
Can you imagine the excitement the man felt? He has been freed from a life of isolation, despair, and helplessness. A new life has opened for him. But then he runs into the Temple police. “You can’t carry your bedroll around on the Sabbath. It’s against the rules.” They tell him.
The man tells them, I may be breaking the rules, but the man that made me well said, ‘Take up your bedroll and start walking” Hearing this the Jewish leaders began plotting to get Jesus. Jesus on the other hand, found the man and said, “You look wonderful. You are well! Don’t return to sinning or something worse might happen.”
Which of these would most likely draw you into a relationship that could lead to faith?
Me too! I like Jesus’ way. Welcome people into relationship, rather than lock them out with rules that exclude.
John Wesley loved to invite people into relationship. Relationships with God and with the people of God. Wesley developed practices that were means of grace for developing our faith and discipling our Christian walk. The late Bishop Ruben Job captured these Wesley practices into what he called “3 Simple Rules”:
- First, Do No Harm.
- Do Good.
- Stay in Love with God.
These are important rules to remember as you start your ministry. These practices help us build up the people of God.
FIRST DO NO HARM
The Jewish leaders that stopped the healed man on the Sabbath wanted to teach and practice the Word of God, but they failed to realize that God’s ways arenfar beyond our human understanding. God gave us the Sabbath so that we can rest and Praise God. But these religious leaders sought to use their understanding of God’s Law as a tool of suppression to force everyone to be guided by their understanding of God’s Law.
It was this narrowness that caused them to fail to see God’s work in Jesus or the Disciples.
Jesus on the other hand, was encouraging and welcoming.
Our God is bigger than the momentary limitations of our mindset or understanding. We must not be so narrow in our understanding of God’s law that we miss the gift of God’s grace. And God’s love. As the healed man told them: “The man who made me well told me: “Take your bedroll and start walking.”
So people who seek to serve God must remember that this work is not about us. Everything is about God. As Jeremiah 29:11 tells us
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.”
Even John Wesley struggled with his understanding of his call to ministry. Fearing his faith was too weak, he asked his friend Peter Bohler one night: “What can I Preach?” Wesley wanted to Do No Harm. Peter Bohler told him: “Preach Faith, tell you have it; and then, because you have it, you will preach faith.”
Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)
Faith is what we don’t see, and what we don’t have all the answers about. Faith is the trust in God that forms a foundation under everything that makes life worth living.
In the Jewish Midrash, a tribal leader named Nahshon is identified as the person whose faith initiated the Passage of the Hebrew people through the Red Sea. The rabbis say he walked into the water until he was head deep, confident God would part the water. While the Israelites stood on the banks wailing and crying in despair, and Pharoah’s army began to catch up with them; Nahshon kept walking into the water. It was not until he was up to his nose before the sea parted.
How did Isaiah say it in Chapter 4, verse 31:
“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
Powered by the hope God gives us, Do Good! Do all the Good you can, for all the People you can, in all the ways you can. Then, love with everything in you.
Now I know in part, then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain faith, hope and love; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)
In the 21st Chapter of John’s Gospel we find the story of Jesus appearing to disciples once again. He sees them with their empty nets after fishing all night and he tells them to cast their nets where they have not cast them, and they will find some fish.
When the disciples get to shore, Jesus has breakfast ready. Bread and fish are already prepared, but he asks them to add some of the fish they have caught.
When they finished the meal, Jesus asked Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord, you know I love you,” Peter answered. But, Jesus kept asking the question: Do you love me?
Staying in love with God is the greatest calling on our lives. It includes everything else. You can’t love God and not also love your neighbor. You can’t love God and not love the people of God.
So, Jesus taught Peter: 1. Feed my lambs 2. Take care of my sheep 3. Feed my sheep.
In my first pastoral appointment, my mentor pastor gave me a great lesson that I pass on to you. “The most important thing you can do is, Love the people.”
In this life of ministry, may we go on to perfection in love so that God’s Love is reflected in us.
It’s not that I have already reached this goal or have already been perfected, but I pursue it, so that I may grab hold of it because Christ grabbed hold of me for just this purpose. Brothers and sisters, I, myself, don’t think I’ve reached it, but I do this one thing: I forget about the things behind me and reach out for the things ahead of me. The goal I pursue is the prize of God’s upward call in Christ Jesus. So, all of us who are spiritually mature should think this way and if anyone thinks differently. God will reveal it to him or her. Only let’s live in a way that is consistent with whatever level we have reached.