Sermon for Sunday, October 13, 2019 – “Worship As Cataract Surgery”

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost
October 13, 2019
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Decorah, Iowa
Rev. Amy Zalk Larson

Click here to read scripture passages for the day.

Beloved of God, grace to you and peace in the name of Jesus.

This week I read a vivid description of what happens when we worship: In worship we experience something like cataract surgery.[1]As many of you know from personal experience, a cataract makes your vision cloudy as if you are looking through a frosty or fogged-up window. Cataract surgery involves removing the cloudy lens of the eye and replacing it with a new lens. After people have this surgery, their eye seems to sparkle like a window that has just been cleaned. There is a twinkle in their eye. Take a close look at someone who’s had this procedure recently- it’s fun to see.

Worship is a bit like cataract surgery. It cleans the fog from our vision and changes how we see the world. It helps our eyes to shine with clear-eyed hopefulness. That’s good news because how we see things really matters. The way we perceive God, other people and ourselves really impacts our lives. That’s clear in our Gospel reading today.

Ten men with leprosy approach Jesus but keep their distance because they knew they’re seen as unclean, impure, disgusting. They know people look at them with judgement and condemnation.

They’ve been taught to hide away out of sight, to keep their distance. Yet Jesus sees these people and wants them to be both healed and restored to community. So, he tells them to go and show themselves to the priests. He wants the priests to look closely at them and declare that they are well.

These ten lepers do as Jesus tells them. Yet as they go, we’re told that one man sees that he is healed. He notices, recognizes, perceives the amazing thing that God has done for him. Because he can see it, he can’t help but turn back to praise and give thanks – a very faithful response.

Ten people have been healed, but apparently only one really perceives clearly what has happened. What he sees makes all the difference in the trajectory of his life and provides him with powerful healing experiences as he praises God, expresses gratitude and gets to hear Jesus’ words of blessing spoken over him.

Those things all contribute to well-being and wholeness (and by the way, we get to share in them today.) He experiences these things after perceiving what God has done for him. How we see matters.

Jesus then asks his disciples and all of us to take a look at this faithful man – to really see him and learn from him. He is a Samaritan, which means he is not only considered a foreigner to the Jews, but also an enemy. The Jewish people have been conditioned to look down on people like him, to view them with suspicion – the way prominent politicians are encouraging us to perceive immi- grants and Muslims. How we see matters.

Jesus wants us to see others differently – to see as he sees. So, throughout the Gospel of Luke, Jesus calls his disciples’ attention to the people they view as enemies and says, look here is a good Samaritan. Here is a faithful Samaritan. This is who you should picture when you think about goodness and faithfulness. As he does this, Jesus asks all of us to look more closely at those we fear and distrust to see their abundant goodness and faithfulness.

From a variety of different angles, this story shows us that the way we see matters. It impacts everything.

Yet, so often our vision is clouded by our fears, insecurities and judgements. We view people as problems to be kept at a distance or as enemies to be feared. We look at ourselves with shame and even disgust, seeking to hide from others and from God. We perceive God as an angry judge and are unable to recognize and give thanks for the healing that God brings into our lives. We get stuck in negative perceptions of ourselves and the world around us. When we see the world in these ways, we don’t experience well-being and wholeness.

Jesus wants us to see differently. Jesus wants to cleanse away all that clouds our vision and give us a new way to see. That is what happens each week in worship – it’s why worship is a bit like cataract surgery. Through word and song, bread and wine our perceptions of the world are challenged and reoriented. Our vision is cleansed and renewed. We are given a new lens with which to view God, others and ourselves – a lens of compassion and love.

Yet before we’re willing to enter this process, we need to know we have a trustworthy surgeon. We need to know that we can trust God to guide our perceptions and our view of the world. This is the most important thing that happens in worship – we learn that God can be trusted.

We learn this because in worship we are drawn into God’s loving gaze. We come into God’s presence and we experience God’s face shining on us with love and delight. We see that God is loving, compassionate and forgiving. This allows us to be clear-eyed and hopeful, even in this troubled world. It allows us to experience well-being and wholeness, even when we face illness, pain and hardship.

The healing service we share in today lets us bask in God’s compassionate gaze. In this gaze, you are seen, blessed, healed and sent out to delight in God’s world.

Let’s take a moment for silent prayer.

[1] Rev. Dr. David Lose offers this image for worship in the Dear Working Preacher blog dated October 3, 2010, entitled “Cataract Surgery”

http://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?post=1518

This Week at Good Shepherd, October 14-20, 2019

Wednesday, October 16
1:00 p.m. – Prayer Shawl Ministry
5:30 p.m. – Confirmation Class
7:00 p.m. – Choir Practice
8:00 p.m. – Band Practice

Thursday, October 17
10:00 a.m.- Bible study with Pastor Marion
12 :00 noon – Centering Prayers
5:00 p.m. – Community Meal at Decorah Lutheran

Thursday, October 18
11:00 a.m. – Stewardship Committee
3:45 p.m. – Outreach & Hospitality

Sunday, October 20 – 19th Sunday after Pentecost
8:45 a.m. – Handbell warmup
9:30 a.m. – Worship with Holy Communion
10:30 a.m. – Fellowship Hour
10:45 a.m. – Sunday School and Youth Forum
11:00 a.m. – New Member Information Meeting

 

Sermon for Sunday, October 6, 2019 – “You Are Enough”

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
October 6, 2019
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Decorah, Iowa
Rev. Amy Zalk Larson

Click here to read scripture passages for the day.

Beloved of God, grace to you and peace in the name of Jesus.

Last Sunday we heard from a great hero of the Christian faith, Bishop Munib Younan. He has work- ed tirelessly for a just peace in the Holy Land and for interfaith understanding throughout the world. At times he’s risked his own life. Bishop Younan had just received the Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth) Award, an honor that he shares with others like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa, Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama. Yet at a luncheon last week, when that award was mentioned, Bishop Younan laughed it off and said something like, “I’m Lutheran we’re saved by grace. I don’t need an award.”

As I talked with the bishop at different gatherings last week, I was struck that he hasn’t set out to be a great and powerful man. He is simply a pastor who loves God and his people, who is doing what needs to be done to serve them. He isn’t seeking to have influence and power; he’s just doing his job.

Yet before I met Bishop Younan, I was a bit intimidated when I thought about spending time with such a heroic man. How have I contributed to peace and justice in the world? I probably felt a little like the disciples in our Gospel reading today when they plead with Jesus to increase their faith.

They feel inadequate in the face of what Jesus is asking of them – they want more faith, more power, more assurance that they can do this.

The problem is by quantifying faith, by begging for extra help to do what Jesus tells them to do, by fantasizing about some superpower that they don’t possess, they miss the point. Faith is not a sub- stance you can measure – it is someone you trust. And Jesus has told his disciples over and over: I’m right here, I’ve called you, I’m with you, you can trust me, you can trust God.

So, Jesus gets impatient with them and basically tells them: stop focusing on yourself and what you think you lack. Don’t expect more of some thing in order to do what I’m calling you to do. Get over yourself, look to God, you have all that you need.

You can trust God to do more in you than you can do on your own.

There’s also something lost in translation with Jesus’ words here. What he says is really more like: If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, and you know you do, you can work wonders. But then he continues: Don’t try to be amazing and work wonders and get all sorts of accolades – just do what needs to be done and be content with that.

OK, that’s not exactly what Jesus says. According to Luke, he says, “When you have done all that you were ordered to do, say … We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!”

I wish Jesus had used a different metaphor and been a little more kind, but he does give us some pretty freeing advice here. Don’t try to be more than you are, don’t do things expecting praise, don’t try to be amazing, just do your job and God will work in you as you do.

Our reading from 1 Timothy tells us that God has saved us and called us with a holy calling. God has given us each important callings. Our callings are to be workers, parents, spouses, friends, helpers, teachers and servants. As we live out our callings, God is working through us to love and heal the world.

This is important to remember in this time when there are so many challenges in our world. It can all be overwhelming and intimidating. We can start to feel like we need to be heroic to make any difference. Sometimes we feel if we can’t be like Bishop Younan or Greta Thunberg or Desmund Tutu, we shouldn’t even try.

But Jesus says just be who you are. Just do what is yours to do. Just get to work. This is all Bishop Younan does – he just seeks to do his job well. It is all any heroic person ever says. Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta, originally from Clinton, Iowa, is the first living recipient of the Medal of Honor from either the Iraq or Afghan wars. There’s a terrible story that led up to it, as is usually the case, but in reflecting on his actions SSG Giunta had this to say, “I didn’t run through fire to do any- thing heroic or brave; I did what I believe anyone would have done.” Heroes of most any kind usually echo that sentiment. “I was just doing my job.” “Anybody would have done it.” “I just did what I’m supposed to do.” That’s Jesus’ point: Just do what you’re supposed to do – you don’t need more faith, you just have to be who you are as God’s child and use the faith God has given you.

Just do your job. Care for your spouse, be kind to your kids, help your neighbor, listen to a co-worker who is down, bring soup for the October Fiesta, call your representative. In daily life, in the ordinary things, practice love and kindness and service. In these and so many other ways, you are doing what God has called you to do and you are bringing hope and love into our world.

You are a beloved child of God. You are enough.

You don’t have to do anything heroic, or grand, or flashy. Just do your job.

God will work through you.

This Week at Good Shepherd, October 7-13, 2019

Tuesday, October 8
9:00 a.m.- Worship and Music Committee
9:30 a.m. – Anna Circle – Carol Hasvold hosts
1:00 p.m. – Wellington Place Bingo Party – GS volunteers

Wednesday, October 9
10:00 a.m. – Miriam Circle – Carol Hasvold hosts
10:30 a.m. – Communion at Aase Haugen
1:00 p.m. – Communion at Wellington Place
5:30 p.m. – Confirmation Class
7:00 p.m. – Choir Practice
8:00 p.m. – Band Practice

Thursday, October 10
10:00 a.m.- Bible study with Pastor Marion
12 :00 noon – Centering Prayers

Sunday, October 13 – 18th Sunday after Pentecost
8:45 a.m. – Choir warmup
9:30 a.m. – Worship Service with Holy Communion – Service of Healing
10:30 a.m. – Fellowship Hour
10:50 a.m. – Sunday School and Youth Forum
11:00 a.m. – Adult Forum – Facilities Improvement Update

 

This Week at Good Shepherd, September 30-October 6, 2019

Wednesday, October 2
5:30 p.m. – Confirmation Class
7:00 p.m. – Choir Practice
8:00 p.m. – Band Practice

Thursday, October 3
10:00 a.m.- Bible study with Pastor
12 :00 noon – Centering Prayers
1:30 p.m. – Property & Management Committee
5:00 p.m. – Community Meal at Decorah Lutheran (Good Shepherd sponsors)

Sunday, October 6 – 17th Sunday after Pentecost
8:45 a.m. – Choir warmup
9:30 a.m. – Worship with Holy Communion
10:30 a.m. – Fellowship Hour
10:45 a.m. – Sunday School and Youth Forum
11:00 a.m. – Adult Forum – Quilting Project with Carole Daughton