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Sermon for Ordinary 21 - Proper 16 - Year C
Luke 13:10-17
"Called Personally"
by Rev. David Jagger

READING:  Luke 13:10-17
SERMON :  "Called Personally"

Rev. David Jagger
Ordinary 21-C 

    The Rev. David Jagger is a United Church of Canada 
    clergy person who has shared several sermons with us 
    over the years, especially during those summer weeks 
    when we have been on holidays.  The following Sermon 
    was written in 1995 and is reproduced with permission.

You know, there are two ways that I could talk to you today.  First, I
could speak to you, plural.  To all of you at the same time.  I could say
things like, "God loves you."  "Jesus died for you."  This is your church."

Those statements are true.  That way of speaking works.  By talking to you
-plural, I can get my message across and you will hear it.  Speaking to all
of you at once is also safe.  There is only so much detailed information
that I can give to a group of this size.  When dealing with groups of
people we tend to speak in generalities.  Each week, I tend to lay out
before you concepts drawn from scripture and hope and pray that you will
latch on to them and apply them in your own situations.  That tends to be
how sermons work.  It is only through the grace and interaction of God that
my message becomes your message, at which point it has become God's

Now the other way I could talk to you today is one on one.  I could speak
to you -singular.  To Bill, to Marg, to Ellen, to Deb and so on.  Instead
of speaking in generalities, I could speak with you about specifics.  "God
loves you, [name]."  "Jesus died for you, [name]."  "This is your church,
[name]."  These now become personal statements.  By speaking to you as
individuals, we break below the surface generalities into the real "stuff"
of faith.  "God loves you."  How do you know?  How does that effect you,
personally?  What does it mean to you to acknowledge that Jesus died for

Speaking one to one like that is much more risky that speaking in great
sweeping statements.  Speaking one on one involves relationships and trust
and honesty.  You can't hide in face to face; soul to soul communication.

I think Jesus knew this all too well.  In today's gospel story we find him
in the synagogue on the Sabbath.  He is teaching a bunch of people, not
unlike what is going on here today.  Then suddenly there appears a woman. 
One person out of that crowd who had a need different from the rest.  Jesus
stops his sermon teaching and calls her over to him.  A general group
message just became personal.  

     He said,  "Woman, you are set free from your ailment."  And he 
     laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and 
     began praising God.

I believe that's the way Jesus works best.  One on one; face to face; soul
to soul.  I believe that's the way Jesus knows he has our full attention. 
He calls us out from the group and deals with only us; one at a time.  He
calls us by name.  Imagine that!  Out of the billions of people on the
earth, Jesus calls you, calls me, by name.  He knows us that well.  

A well known hymn begins,
     "Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,
     calling for you and for me."

In fact, he knows us so well, that he is able to look at us and see just
what we need, where we need straightening, so to speak.  Perhaps physically
straightened, as the woman in the story.  Perhaps spiritually straightened,
if we are heading astray.  Perhaps emotionally, or psychologically
straightened.  Jesus wants us to be whole.  Jesus wants us to know him, one
on one.  As much as he did die for us (plural), he also died for us
(individually).  For you, for me.  For each one of us.  He cares that much
for each of us.

It is also, therefore, as individuals that we need to respond to Jesus. 
Jesus calls us by name. Great!  But we must respond to that call for a
relationship to exist.  It was entirely possible that the woman in the
story could have chosen to ignore Jesus.  She could have just turned and
walked away.  After all, she had lived with her infirmity for 18 years. 
I'd guess she was pretty used to it.  She could probably work around it. 
She might have had family to help her.  It probably earned her a fair bit
of sympathy.  Being healed would dramatically change the way she lived her
life.  And not just physically!  Emotionally, spiritually as well.  After
all, God had allowed this infirmity to happen to her, right?  So where was
God?  Why should she believe in a loving caring God, in the midst of her
pain and suffering?  Why didn't God make her well again?  Those are strong
emotions and hard theological questions.  To be healed, especially
instantly, means letting go of the anger and self pity.  Again, ways she
had probably gotten used to feeling.  Being healed meant having to change
the way she thought about God.  It meant believing in a living active
healing God.  She was well within her rights to just turn and walk away.

Yet, consider what she would have lost.  Health, real wholeness, inside and
out.  The ability to praise God again.  Yes, there would be change.  She
could no longer be who she was before.  But who would want to be, in the
face of who she is now?  In response to being called personally, she
responded personally.

There is a model here for us.  When Jesus calls us by name, as I believe he
does, we too have the choice whether to respond or not.  Whether to hold on
to who we are now and the ways we have become accustomed to living, or
whether we will be willing to risk losing them for new ways, God ways,
Kingdom ways.  Choosing to turn our backs on Jesus and walk away, or stand
before him face to face, in relationship.

You see, it was easy for the crowd in that synagogue to cheer on Jesus. 
There was very little risk involved.  Just as it's easy to walk out the
door here today, shake my hand, smile and go home unchanged.  It's not easy
to break out of that group mentality and respond to Jesus as a single
person.  The preacher says God loves you.  Everyone nods yes.  But when
Jesus says to you, "I died for you, what do you think of that?" it's not so
easy anymore is it?  When the preacher says, "love your neighbour."  Again,
the nods.  But when Jesus makes it personal with something like, "What
about old Mr. so and so that you ignored the other day in the store?  I
love him too you know!" then things gets messy.  Then our sin starts to
show through.  Then we have to be honest about old Mr. so and so and admit
that we don't love him, or even like him.  Then we have to admit our need
for Jesus' forgiveness and grace.  But then we are dealing one on one with
Jesus.  Then we have a real relationship with our saviour.  Then we are
being our real self.

So having said all that, I guess I have a challenge for you today.  The
next time you feel Jesus speaking to you, be willing to risk responding in
a personal way.  Don't just pretend it isn't him speaking.  Don't ignore
his voice.  Don't choose to turn away.  Say, "Yes!" face to face, person to
person, soul to soul.

"Jesus loves me, this I know."  Because he calls me individually.  Because
he knows what I really need.  Because he offers it to me freely if I am
willing to accept it.

Pushing Ahead:
     Consider the challenge.  The next time you feel Jesus speaking to you,
     respond with your personal "Yes."

     Think back about sermons that have been meaningful to you.  What made
     them stand out from the rest?  Were they "group" oriented, or was the
     message "personal" for you?

     In your praying this week, pray with a personal Saviour.  Instead of
     "Lord" or "God" use "Jesus" or "friend."  See how that changes the way
     you pray.


copyright - Rev. David Jagger, 1995, 1998, 2001, 2004
            Page by Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 1998 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.

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