Last week we talked about having the courage to live into the word of God, the courage to do God’s work in our world. This week we continue to consider what God asks of all of us as people of faith. Now, I love watching the Olympics because it gives all people in our country no matter our background the opportunity to join together in national pride. But I also enjoy watching the shear talent of these young competitors who give their all to the sport and for their country. I have always been someone who enjoys watching the team volleyball matches. What struck me as I watched was just how often the ball went out of the lines and how many challenges there were this year surrounding calls of in or out of bounds. It reminded me how often in our lives we are all given certain guidelines and bounds that we are asked to observe.
As a child my brother and I would go round and round about the appropriate way to use a coloring book. My brother colored very neatly staying in the lines. His art to this day is so very neat and orderly. His artistic abilities and talents are something that I have come to admire him for. But as a child my coloring books were a mess to look at and ever since my art has been out of the lines, and seems to defy the basics of art concept. In other words, it is comical how bad my artistic skills are. When I play games like Pictionary inevitably my partner is perplexed by my attempts to draw words and concepts. But my question is: Is that always a bad thing?
Sometimes in life we all need to defy the rules and go out of bounds. Sometimes we need to disregard the rules in order to experience new depths to life and faith. There are some rules and regulations that are worth breaking. Sometimes God requires us to challenge the bounds to truly discover the freedom of his message. Our scriptures are two instances where God required just that. God spoke to Jeremiah asking him to enter into ministry, asking him to preach his word for the sake of others God needed to hear that message. And that unique message God needed to be shared could only come from the mouth of Jeremiah.
To Jeremiah this was a scary prospect. He was just a child. He had not finished his education. He had not come from a family of prophets. He came from a society that believed children needed to remain silent and that they were the property of their parents until that day they became an adult at 13 and prepared for a career or marriage if you were a girl. He was just a child. Who would hear his words? He was just a child. Who would take him seriously? He was just a child. In his culture and religion, he hadn’t the right to speak the word of God to his elders. So Jeremiah questioned God about these boundaries in our lesson today. Yet God promises that it is Jeremiah he needs and no one else. And God promises to support him in his risks and in his ministry. God promises the same thing to us when we follow his call and give him our all, our dedication. We are told that neither age, nor education level, nor life station matters when it comes to doing the life changing work of the Lord. Societal rules, our own misconceptions, cannot box in the message of the Lord.
God wants us to color out of the lines. He wants us to play outside the bounds because such action means that our minds are truly open to the possibilities of his call in life. Sometimes we close ourselves off to God. We set certain expectations and limitations upon ourselves and others in such a way that we can’t accept what we are being called to.
When Jesus healed that woman on the Sabbath the leaders of the Synagogue saw it as a sin because Jesus was “working” on the Sabbath which was a crime in their culture. The Sabbath was God’s day. But in their focus on human made rules and restrictions on the Sabbath it was no longer about what God asked of his followers and more about the rules. God was breaking the rules, God didn’t care that it was the Sabbath. Someone was in need and suffered the same on a Saturday as she did on a Thursday. And so God had Jesus answer her calls for help even in front of the authorities. It released her from her pain but also served as a lesson to all that God cannot and will not be box in by anyone’s rules and boundaries. God’s work must be done and will be done. God’s work offers to free each of us from all that binds us in this life.
We are called to see the needs of our world, of our communities, of our neighbors and to act as God calls us to act whether we are confident in our abilities or not, whether it falls within societal norms or not. Christ challenges us to reach out and care for one another. He calls us to pray for one another, offer a helping hand to one another, and to be a listening ear to each other. Remember what Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham who Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the Sabbath day?” We need to all be willing to live our lives like Jesus taking risks for the well being of another, caring for those who are suffering, and listening for how God calls us to his work whether or not it falls within the boundaries of what feels comfortable. Remember that God does not work by our rules, but does his work by his own and is willing to guide us if we have truly opened our hearts to him. We should go forth into this week seeking God’s guidance through prayer asking him to reveal to us how to live into his message opening our hearts to his possibilities no matter how they might challenge us. So go seek out God, do his work, and allow him to help you grow in faith and understanding.
 Luke 13: 15-16, NRSV.
(Jeremiah 1: 4-10 and Luke 13: 10-17)