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Sermons

Click here to view Worship Videos.

For sermon texts, please click on the links below.

October 2019


October 6, 2019  "A New Family" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

September 2019


September 15, 2019  "Sight? Or Insight?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

August 2019


August 25, 2019  "Seeing as God Sees" by Rev. Don Wahlig

August 4, 2019  "Five Lies & the Truth" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

July 2019


July 28, 2019  "Walking Hand in Hand" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

June 2019


June 23, 2019  "The New, True You!" by Rev. Don Wahlig

June 16, 2019  "The Fuzzy Logic of Discernment" by Rev. Don Wahlig

June 9, 2019  "Speaking of Dreams and Visions" by Rev. Don Wahlig

June 2, 2019 "Who's the Prisoner?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

May 2019


May 5, 2019 "Vision Correction" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

April 2019


April 21, 2019 "So, Where Is He?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

April 14, 2019 "A Wondrous Love" by Rev. Don Wahlig

April 7, 2019 "For Love, or Money?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

March 2019


March 31 "Grace Forgotten" by Rev. Don Wahlig

March 17, 2019 "The Love that Won't Quit" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

February 2019


February 17, 2019 "The Kingdom Vision" by Rev. Don Wahlig

February 10, 2019 "Fishing Tips for Amateur Anglers" by Rev. Don Wahlig

February 3, 2019 "Grace Unlimited" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

January 2019


January 13, 2019 "The Promise of Baptism" by Rev. Don Wahlig

January 6, 2019 "The Message of the Magi" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

December 2018


Christmas Eve, 2018 "Self-giving Love" by Rev. Don Wahlig

December 23, 2018 "Sing Along" by Rev. Don Wahlig

December 2, 2018 “Living in Between" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

November 2018


November 18, 2018 “Persistent Witness" by Rev. Don Wahlig

November 11, 2018 “Everyday Foxhole Faith" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

October 2018


October 28, 2018 “True Discipleship" by Rev. Don Wahlig

October 21, 2018 “How the Truly Great Get that Way" by Rev. Don Wahlig

October 14, 2018 “The Cost of Discipleship" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

September 2018


September 30, 2018 “Holding It All Together" by Rev. Don Wahlig

September 23, 2018 “Gentle Wisdom" by Rev. Don Wahlig

September 16, 2018 “Finding the Right Words" by Rev. Don Wahlig

September 9, 2018 “Jesus: Savior...and Lord?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

Click here for previous sermons

 

 

August 25, 2019

“Seeing as God Sees” by the Rev. Don Wahlig, August 25, 2019, Year C / Pentecost 11 –  Isaiah 58:9b-14  •  Psalm 103:1-8  •  Hebrews 12:18-29  •  Luke 13:10-21

 

THEME:  Seek out the marginalized and overlooked and make them whole to make the Kingdom of God visible.

 

How many of you have ever read anything by the author Pearl Buck?  If you have, then you probably know her most famous book, “The Good Earth”.   

It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932.  A few years later, with dark clouds of war gathering over Europe and Asia, it was the reason Pearl Buck became the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature.

The judges were especially impressed by what they called “her rich and truly epic descriptions of peasant life in China.”  As recently as 2004, thanks to Oprah’s Book Club, “The Good Earth” popped up on best-seller lists once again.

What you may not know is that Pearl Buck was the child of Presbyterian Missionaries.  When she was just 5 months old, they took her to China, where she spent most of the next 40 years.

She was home-schooled by her mother in the morning and then by a Chinese tutor in the afternoon.  After college in the US, she followed in her parents’ footsteps.  She returned to China as an English teacher and Presbyterian missionary.

By the time she returned to the United States for good in 1934, she had developed a uniquely nuanced and compassionate perspective on the Chinese people. 

Bear in mind, China in the 1920s and ‘30s was a far cry from the economic power it is today.  Famine had killed 500,000 people.  Severe poverty was rampant, and political turmoil was rising. 

Pearl had seen all this firsthand. She knew what it was like to be poor and powerless in that country.  So, she understood better than most why so many Chinese chose to emigrate to America.

She also knew they faced stiff challenges here.  In fact, it’s been argued that the Chinese faced more racism and marginalization in this country than any other immigrant group.  So, she set about doing something to change that. 

Pearl Buck became an outspoken Christian humanitarian.  In her writing and speaking, she raised awareness of the problems the Chinese faced both at home and here in the US. 

She founded the East and West Association in 1941 to improve living conditions for disadvantaged Asian Americans.  She started an adoption agency for Asian-American children, and the Pearl S. Buck Foundation to combat poverty and discrimination faced by children in Asian countries.

It’s been said that no one has done more to sensitize first-world Westerners to the plight of our marginalized Asian neighbors. 

But in her own mind, what she was doing was nothing more or less than following the example of Jesus in passages like the one I just read.

For this crippled woman, it’s been 18 long years of living life hunched over.  She’s gotten used to looking in one direction:  down.  It was easier for her to see the ground than the eyes of those around her.

And, in some twisted way, maybe that was a good thing.  She knew from hard experience that her neighbors, if they looked at her at all, saw her with a mixture of revulsion and pity.

But, even if she was almost invisible, she was still one of them.  She was a Jew just like them.  She gathered with the rest at the synagogue on the Sabbath, just as the Jewish law commanded.

On this particular Sabbath, there was a buzz in the air. An itinerant preacher, prophet and, some said, miracle-worker, was going to read the lesson and teach that morning. 

So, as she usually did, she arrived late and stood at the back.  Easier to avoid the stares and whispers that way. 

Luke doesn’t tell us what Jesus taught, but if his sermon was anything like the one he preached at his home synagogue, it probably sounded like our reading from Isaiah:

If you remove the yoke from among you,
   the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, 
if you offer your food to the hungry
   and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
   and your gloom be like the noonday. 
 

          This crippled woman would have heard the possibility in those words.  But after 18 painful years of being ignored and pushed aside, she would have had a hard time believing it could possibly come true for her.  Nevertheless, somewhere in her heart, there was a tiny little ray of hope that the yoke of her affliction might be lifted. 

          Suddenly, that speck of hope grows bigger.  Jesus sees her, stooped over at the back of the room.   And he calls her forward!  Now, she’s the center of attention.  All eyes are on her.

          What happens next is both simple and profound.  Jesus lays his hands on her hunched back and declares, “Woman, you are set free from your ailments.”  And, just like that, she stands up straight.  Naturally, she’s overjoyed.  Who wouldn’t be?

          Well, the synagogue president, for one.  It’s his responsibility to interpret Sabbath law.  His job is to make sure the congregation observes it.  In his eyes, what Jesus has just done violates the fourth commandment to do no work on the Sabbath.

          Jesus quickly points out the hypocrisy here:  every single one of them, even the synagogue president, unties their donkey on the Sabbath to water and feed it. 

Isn’t this woman more important than a donkey?  How much more important is it in God’s eyes that she be released from the ailment that binds her so she can be restored to her community?

The synagogue president applies the letter of the law; Jesus applies the spirit.  His mission and his message are one in the same:  God has sent him to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free.  

That’s what the world is meant to look like when God’s in charge.  And Jesus is inviting them all to become part of it.  The place to start is by focusing on the most overlooked places, and the most overlooked people.

But don’t be deceived, he warns.  Yes, God’s Kingdom breaks into our world in seemingly insignificant places, among those whom the world regards as insignificant.  But from such humble beginnings come great and powerful things.

To make sure everyone gets that point, Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to the tiny mustard seed that grows into a huge bush, or a few sprinkles of leaven that, mixed in with dough, produces huge quantities of bread.

          As striking as those images are, even more striking is what Jesus does not say.  He doesn’t say earthly kings and rulers must first be transformed before God’s Kingdom can come into being.  He doesn’t say Rome must first be overthrown, although eventually it will, along with every other earthly realm.

Instead, Jesus focuses on transforming the lowest strata of society first.  The Kingdom of God begins not with powerful leaders like the synagogue president or the Pharisees or Sadducees, but with the very least, the ones who live on the outskirts of life.  

That was the pattern of his ministry:  begin with the powerless, and then invite the powerful to follow.

Friends, just as his vision of God’s Kingdom starts by restoring this crippled woman in the full sight of her community, so does he ask you and me to adjust our vision of the Kingdom. 

He invites us to focus our vision on the least, to make them whole and restore them to our community.  That draws all of us nearer to the Kingdom. 

That’s what inspired Pearl Buck when she famously said “the test of a civilization is the way it cares for its helpless members.”  

She didn’t just make that up.  That’s what Jesus asks of all his disciples.  That’s what Matthew 25, the famous judgment scene of the sheep and the goats, is all about.  On judgment day, the question you and I will be asked is “How did we treat the lowest and least among us?”

It won’t matter to the judge that they look different from us, or come from different countries or have different legal status or language capability.  In God’s eyes, they’re all his children, the same as you and me.  He made them, he loves them – and he sent Jesus to teach us to do the same.

Something miraculous happens when we do that.  Not only do they rejoice at being restored to the community, so does everyone else.  That’s why all the other worshipers in that synagogue on that Sabbath morning 2000 years ago were cheering and praising God.  When we are all together as God’s children, it’s like a family reunion – everybody’s filled with joy. 

That kind of joy is contagious.  Sociologists will tell you that our happiness influences the people we know and the people they know.  

For example, the happiness of a close contact increases our chance of being happy by 15%. The happiness of a 2nd-degree contact (a friend of a friend) increases our chance of happiness by 10%.  And so on. 

A friend of mine describes this dynamic in the context of his marriage.  He says, “happy wife, happy life.”  He’s right.

What it all boils down to is learning to see the way God sees. Learning to see in the lowest, the least and the lost an opportunity for love to work its wonders.  

In your daily walk, do you encounter folks like that?  Outsiders whom we may not be seeing properly – or not at all?

Well, let’s adjust our vision.   Let’s make it our business to see them more clearly.  Let’s get to know them and their needs.  Then, let’s focus on making them whole and restoring them to our community, which is the family of all God’s children.

That’s how the Kingdom becomes real – for them and for us.

May it be so.    Amen.

 

Last Published: August 27, 2019 10:09 AM
Sermons

Click here to view Worship Videos.

For sermon texts, please click on the links below.

October 2019


October 6, 2019  "A New Family" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

September 2019


September 15, 2019  "Sight? Or Insight?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

August 2019


August 25, 2019  "Seeing as God Sees" by Rev. Don Wahlig

August 4, 2019  "Five Lies & the Truth" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

July 2019


July 28, 2019  "Walking Hand in Hand" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

June 2019


June 23, 2019  "The New, True You!" by Rev. Don Wahlig

June 16, 2019  "The Fuzzy Logic of Discernment" by Rev. Don Wahlig

June 9, 2019  "Speaking of Dreams and Visions" by Rev. Don Wahlig

June 2, 2019 "Who's the Prisoner?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

May 2019


May 5, 2019 "Vision Correction" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

April 2019


April 21, 2019 "So, Where Is He?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

April 14, 2019 "A Wondrous Love" by Rev. Don Wahlig

April 7, 2019 "For Love, or Money?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

March 2019


March 31 "Grace Forgotten" by Rev. Don Wahlig

March 17, 2019 "The Love that Won't Quit" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

February 2019


February 17, 2019 "The Kingdom Vision" by Rev. Don Wahlig

February 10, 2019 "Fishing Tips for Amateur Anglers" by Rev. Don Wahlig

February 3, 2019 "Grace Unlimited" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

January 2019


January 13, 2019 "The Promise of Baptism" by Rev. Don Wahlig

January 6, 2019 "The Message of the Magi" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

December 2018


Christmas Eve, 2018 "Self-giving Love" by Rev. Don Wahlig

December 23, 2018 "Sing Along" by Rev. Don Wahlig

December 2, 2018 “Living in Between" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

November 2018


November 18, 2018 “Persistent Witness" by Rev. Don Wahlig

November 11, 2018 “Everyday Foxhole Faith" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

October 2018


October 28, 2018 “True Discipleship" by Rev. Don Wahlig

October 21, 2018 “How the Truly Great Get that Way" by Rev. Don Wahlig

October 14, 2018 “The Cost of Discipleship" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

September 2018


September 30, 2018 “Holding It All Together" by Rev. Don Wahlig

September 23, 2018 “Gentle Wisdom" by Rev. Don Wahlig

September 16, 2018 “Finding the Right Words" by Rev. Don Wahlig

September 9, 2018 “Jesus: Savior...and Lord?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

Click here for previous sermons

 

 

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