This sermon will be short and sweet! I have two quick messages to bring up, and then we can get on with our community worship service together—our prayers for the world, our leaders, our community and each other; our greetings to each other at the Peace; our offerings to God’s work thru us; and our communion where we will remember the risen Christ. After worship today we will have a short annual meeting to affirm/find some new folks to serve on our Bishop’s Committee and as Delegates to Convention, and review our great 2011 year, while looking ahead to our future. And, we will have our seminarian Sarah Monroe tell us about her education and ministry in progress at Episcopal Divinity School in her second year.
Our readings from 2 Kings and Mark today tell us about two stories of healing from leprosy, several hundred years apart. The stories are about as different as can be. One was the commander of an army—the other a poor man rejected by society because of his illness. The commander had an in with the king and a prophet to ask for healing from God—the poor man could only beg to Jesus directly for help. And the commander had the gall to complain that the prophet did not call on his God specifically and with fanfare to heal him—while the poor man was glad to do whatever he was told to be healed. In the end, though, both men did as they were told and were completely healed.
God used that power then, with others, to heal those in need, and God has that same power now! At St. Mark’s we have had several people who have needed healing prayers for that healing from God, and we have seen this healing power come forth. We continue to pray for and lay hands directly on or for others for this healing from God—for Natalea, Wanda, Brad, Jeff, Corby, Brandon, Chris, and all those we have on our prayer list throughout the week and in our community prayers of the people each Sunday. Our prayers for healing do work!
I have liked this 1 Corinthians reading for a really long time! Being the crazed sports fan that I am, and as a kid wanting to excel in every sport I tried, these words gave me the encouragement to try my best in whatever I played, and I hope to see that same effort when I watch others too. It turned out that most of the teams I played on were never very good (most were actually bad!), but I felt good about my own efforts. There were very few “prizes” for my efforts, but that was ok as I mostly enjoyed it and contributed to making the team better.
As an almost 60 year old you could not tell it now (as I weigh about 215 pounds), but in my 30s I was an over-the-top avid runner for about 4 years—at about 160 pounds, competing in races at all lengths from 5k up to marathons and finishing in about the top 10% of all runners for all age groups in these races. However, I did this at the expense of being a solid part of my family at times, and I finally had Bonnie tell me that it was not fun to be a “runner’s widow” on Sundays at church at St. John’s, Kirkland while I ran in races on those days. So, I agreed that others than for a few marathons I took Sundays off, and I eventually accomplished what I wanted and moved on to other things.
I have done that in many efforts in my life, for both good and bad. An all-out, forgot other important things effort at church activities, bowling, golf, work, or whatever has shown itself in my life several times. What I do know, and hope to someday learn, is what Paul is trying to tell us here. We are to do as we are led by the Spirit to do—to live the life of a devoted Christian leader with a purpose, to win others for Christ. But we are to do this in a controlled and disciplined and thoughtful way so that we will show by our fully lived (not ultra-focused!) lives how it can be to be a loving Christian.
It’s not about crazily yelling at people with shallow and not well-thought out messages on street corners or in meetings or in the newspaper, or on Facebook that those who don’t do as we say are doomed to hell. It’s not about living a sheltered life with our families away from the world because we might be “tainted’ with the scary culture that is around us. It is about living as we believe Jesus Christ showed us and would want us to—to help others (including our own families, friends and other dear ones!), and those in our community with money and our time and efforts to make the world a better place for everyone we meet. To me that is what Paul means by, “Run in such a way that you may win!”
At Cursillo retreat and renewal weekends we learn the word, "Ultreya", a Spanish word, derived from the original Latin, meaning Onward! It was in common use by early pilgrims in Spain to greet and to encourage one another along the way of their pilgrimage. So, to close this talk today, I say to you all--“Ultreya!”