My planned talk from The Point Church, Sun 8 Feb.
As always this is not really the transcript more the notes I made in advance.... and in this case, actually quite different from what I actually said as I felt God saying to listen to him and be led by him in what I said. So this is what I would have said! It will be available online to listen to what I actually said here, next week.
Word for the church – God calling us to greater freedom...
CHALLENGE/ WHY ARE YOU HERE?
So if you’ve heard me preach before, you may know that I often like to challenge you when I’m speaking. I’ll maybe give a challenge for the week ahead or ask some searching questions of you. Usually I like to ease you in gently, give some background, get into the text first… well not today.
Today I felt we should go straight in with the challenge - and I want to ask you:
What are you doing here today?
Why are you here?
What are you expecting this morning?
I mean really and truly? Why are you here?
I am asking each of you to think about that. I’m not making a joke or being flippant, I actually want you to think about that today. What are you doing here, what is the main reason you are here at St Paul’s this morning?
So firstly, just in case I’ve alarmed anyone, you might have been invited here today by someone or you might be visiting us right or you might be new to this church? And if so, great, you are so welcome here. You know since my family became part of this church we have felt part of a big family. Welcome J
But still, I want to say to you, why are you here?
Some of you might say, well it’s Sunday I come to church on Sunday, it’s what we do, right? Ok but why? Why is it ‘what you do on a Sunday?’
Or maybe you come for the community, for the family feel, you get to meet your friends, hang out, have a chat, you get to be part of something. But you can get that at a football game, with your mates, or going to a ‘Sunday Assembly’ heaven forbid…
So why have you come here…?
Because actually there is nothing particularly special about this place, about the coming together, about being family together – none of these things set this place apart from any other gathering of people.
Because the thing that makes this place different is Jesus. The thing that should make US different, is encountering Jesus.
So why are you here? well I hope that at the root of all our reasons, we are all here because of Jesus. If we are visiting, or been invited for the first time, perhaps it’s because you feel life is missing something or you recognise something in others, the person who invited you maybe? If you are a regular, is it because your life is committed to Jesus? Not just because, that’s what we do on a Sunday….
When was the last time you asked yourself, challenged yourself about your faith? About where Jesus is in your life?
Because in our passage today we’re going to see what is essentially a church, and one person in particular encountering Jesus, probably, although we don’t know for sure, for the first time. Having gone along faithfully to worship for years, going through the motions, obeying the rules and yet, when she meets Jesus, it all changes…
Let’s read it shall we…
Turn to Luke 13: 10-17
HAVE YOUR OWN BIBLE!
It’s on the screen but you know what, it’s good to have your own bible with you. I know you can have it on your iphones etc and I am a real tech fan, but if you really want to get into this, get deeper into God’s word there is nothing like having your own bible in your hand, a physical book. Mine is scrawled with notes and underlinings and dates and it’s real – living and active (Hebrews 4:12) – this is your manual for life…
Anyway whatever you are using today…. We are at Luke 13: 10-7
So what’s going on here?
Let’s set the scene here - we have a Jewish synagogue, not one of the big temples, but a smaller town synagogue, where local people would be gathering on the Sabbath (Saturday not Sunday), probably in the evening, people would come here each week, just as we do here, there would be prayer and some teaching. But until now, until this passage no Jesus. As Jews they would have believed in the coming of a Messiah, they would know the prophecies, the words spoken foretelling his coming, but hey wouldn’t know him for themselves.
This is a faith with a lot of rules and regulations, but no Jesus.
And why did they come? Maybe because they were Jews, because the law told them to? Because that’s what they did on the Sabbath? Because it was expected of them?
Except this day is different. On this day they have a visiting preacher, if you like…. and that wouldn’t have been unusual especially in these smaller places, for educated teachers to speak, but on this day they get the ultimate guest speaker don’t they. They get a whole lot more than they came for.
They get to encounter Jesus, and I say they, because although it’s one woman who is really impacted, they all get to hear him, see him, meet him, they get what we need. What we all need. Whoever you are, whatever you think or believe, you need Jesus. And not just to know about him, to hear about him, to read something about him, you need to encounter him, for yourself.
You know, I have been so convicted of that recently and for myself but it’s relevant for us all, that not only do we need to encounter Jesus for ourselves, but as followers of Jesus, we need to help others to encounter him. You can say what you like, tell people what you like, give them books to read, bring them to Alpha and so on, but if they don t encounter Jesus for themselves it’s empty.
And you know how I really know that, because that was me, and my husband a few years ago.... Going along to church on a Sunday, every week, because that’s what we had always done, what our parents taught us to do, on a Sunday you go to church. We didn’t think much about God the rest of the time, if at all, we didn’t live out a faith particularly, we didn’t have Jesus in here (heart). That’s our story. For years we went to church faithfully. We knew what was expected us, we knew the prayers how to recite them and when. In a way we just followed the rules, what was expected of us. I even served on the PCC, bit like our trustees, we basically helped the Vicar run the church, make decisions about it, we helped with the youth group.
BUT despite that, despite our involvement, despite our faithfulness in going to church, despite our desire to be part of the church, there was nothing different about us than anyone else, Because we didn’t know Jesus, we didn’t encounter him for ourselves. In fact if someone had told me I needed to encounter Jesus I probably would have thought them a bit whacko TBH. I don’t think I even thought it even possible to ‘meet Jesus’, I thought people who went to non CofE churches were not proper Christians!! Oh the shame…!!
Makes me laugh now – some of the people I met, they knew Jesus, really knew him….
And yet our churches need to be places where people meet Jesus. Truly.
So back to our synagogue, then, what happens … v.11 – we are straight in, aren’t we, Jesus sees this crippled woman, suffering, in pain, could she even see him I wonder, bent over… and he calls her forward and heals her. She’s been like this for 18 years and he heals her right there.
Who was she? This woman, the one he picks out? Calls forward? This woman who gets to encounter Jesus?
Well we know that she was probably not just a one off visitor, because Jesus calls her, v16 a daughter of Abraham. So if you don’t know, Abraham appears in the very first book of the bible, in Genesis, he is a descendent of Noah. God calls him and made a covenant with him (like a legal agreement) and says that he will make him into a great nation, that he will have numerous descendants, in fact he says as numerous as the stars in the sky. Which at the time was a pretty big claim to make when Abraham’s wife was barren, she couldn’t have children. However nothing is impossible for God, they did have a son and Abraham’s descendants became the Jewish nation, he is referred to as the Father of Israel. In Isaiah he is even referred to as a Friend of God.
So, to refer to this woman as ‘a daughter of Abraham’ meant she was a Jew and a faithful one at that. It is likely she would have known the Jewish law, the rules the things she had to do and would have regularly attended the synagogue.
And yet…. v16 tells us that she had been kept bound by this spirit, by Satan, for 18 years. 18 years, crippled, not able to stand, bent over and in pain. For 18 years.
And we get this seemingly slightly random reference of Jesus calling the rulers hypocrites and mentioning untying oxen etc. which actually isn’t so random as it looks -
Jewish law had a list of tasks you were not allowed to do on the Sabbath, which included tying and untying things. And yet as he points out they still untied their animals to take them to water, there is a level of compassion for their animals, and he suggests that what he was doing here was undoing the bindings of this woman - untying her from being kept bound by Satan with this crippling affliction.
It’s not just a physical ailment but a spiritual affliction too.
For her here that meeting Jesus, in him reaching out to her, he healed her. But more than that – her life was transformed, both physically and spiritually. I think it’s really significant that the passage talks of the spiritual side of this. In v.11 it says she had been ‘crippled by a spirit’ and in v16, she had been kept bound by Satan’. This is a picture of a spiritual world, one where there is so much more than we can imagine or understand – what’s that line from Hamlet:
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
There are more things on heaven and earth than we an even begin to understand, and there is a spiritual world, a level of things going on that we can be completely oblivious to.
Here’s the thing, if we are not walking in the freedom of Christ then we are bound by Satan - the enemy, the devil, force of evil, whatever you want to call it.
Bound by addiction maybe? and not necessarily to alcohol or gambling, or drugs - the obvious, what about or work, addicted to work to achievement, finding our identity in the things we do, the money we earn? Our title? What about porn.
It's not nice to talk about, but for men and women it can be something that binds us, secretive, we can’t talk about it, exactly what the enemy wants, us to be bound in a world where no one knows what we’re doing, feeling thinking… Alone and fearful.
Or we can be bound by things from our past, rejection – you know not feeling loved enough, not feeling good enough, or are we bound up in rules and regulations? Even in the church – in religion – this is the way we do things…?
If you don’t think you are bound by anything, or you don’t know what binds you then just think, what do you spend the most amount of time thinking about or doing? What are the things that worry you, keep you awake at night?
What is binding you? Because I’m telling you, Jesus brings us freedom. True freedom, transforming freedom. Like this woman experienced,
So, why did you come here today? Do you want that freedom?
Our lives – so I told you about us, we were definitely bound by the things we ‘should’ do – like going to church and yet when we met Jesus (too long but happy to tell any of you over a cuppa!) that our lives were transformed.
And the reality is that nothing has really changed in our lives (apart from me training for ministry! That’s a biggie!!) but the essential elements are the same, same house, phil same job, family etc. But what has changed is that we know we are walking in the freedom of Christ and that feels so different! Like a different world!
It’s kind of like that picture of the left and right brain – don’t know if you’ve seen it? So the left brain is analytical, logical, regulated. The right is creativity, spontanaiety, crazy almost! And the thing is if we just had the left side, with the regulation and the right way of doing things life would be just that, ordered logical, and methodical. But with Jesus, you get this too. The full technicolour picture! Both not one or the other! You need the left too…. We don’t just discard what the Jewish faith teaches, it largely forms our OT (not going into specifics but largely the same will do!) Jesus is the fulfilment of what the ancient scriptures teach us. So we are not just casting that aside, not at all. But without the fulfilment of those teachings, well it's like this…
You know a while back we booked to go to Bills restaurant for breakfast. You know Bills? Local restaurant, now chains all over the place. Anyway they do good breakfasts. So this day we had booked a table and they called to tell us that they had no gas and so they could not do any hot food or hot drinks. Right, so restaurant famous for breakfasts, hot food, hot drinks. What are they left with, a nice looking restaurant sure, very pretty, on trend, but its main focus, is missing. I mean its like going to Starbucks and them saying sorry we’ve got no coffee! You see where I am going with this right?
I heard a quote the other day that said if God was removed from our churches, 95% if them would stay the same! Let’s reinforce that – if God were removed from our churches, most of them would stay exactly the same!? Pretty depressing thought and I happen to think as a church we’re doing ok, but how about you? You personally.
Are you a Starbucks without the coffee, Bills without the breakfast – are you living a life in black and white? And when was the last time you even thought about it? Even questioned yourself on it.
If God walked out of your life would you even know?
Why have you come here today?
I have been privileged over the last few years to get to know Yvrose from Hope House a little bit. Yvrose lives a life utterly full of Jesus and you can see it in her, she overflows with joy and love and compassion. And they have so little. They could be bound by anxiety and fear. Where is the next meal coming from? What if a child gets sick? They could be bound by the fear of those who practise witchcraft in the area. They have been threatened, people holding voodoo ceremonies on the edge of their land. Yvrose could be bound by the fact that she could never have biological children of her own, she could be bound by insignificance and pain. But she isn’t, because she knows Jesus, She is committed to Jesus, every single day is lived for him, through him and with him and as a result she walks in the freedom of Christ and it is clear and pain as day for the world to see…
We have so much here, we are so blessed, but when I spend time with her I want to give it all up and live with nothing, because they encounter Jesus every day. And that is more precious than anything else…
I mean, come on, what are we settling for? Are we just going through the motions?
Do we want to step into a season of greater freedom, of encountering Jesus more than ever before...?
This is a new season, God wants to draw closer to us as a church and as individuals.
He is calling you, calling us like he called the woman – so are we going to go forward for all he has?
Why you here? Want to be part of this new season?