Let us pray: Dear Lord this morning we come to you from a world were so many are imprisoned, where they are trapped and imprisoned by the snares of the devil. Lord we need to see the dangers the world has instore for us even as we seek you. Help us to be there for those in need and like your Son work to free them. Even as we do Lord help us to break out of whatever sin filled prison ensnaring us. Allow me Oh God this morning to proclaim freedom and healing to the captives using words that are not mine but yours. Allow this message to be one that will not touch the ear but go directly to the heart of the listener and set them on fire. All of this I pray in Jesus name. Amen
Today I want us to look at the concept of a prison. This is not on made up of walls or using guards. This prison is one that traps a person through a lack of faith so they are not able to receive God’s gift. So what makes this kind of prison? It is anything that will keep a person bound to this world, and keep God’s gifts out. This prison can be caused by addictions to alcohol, or drugs, a desire for money or things. Yet I can also be spiritual in nature anything that cause pain or anguish and takes a person’s focus off God and places it on worldly things. These can and will bind a person spiritually just as effectively as any guard or stone walled prison. This was what Jesus was trying to break through in our text this morning.
She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God. So for eighteen years this woman was bent over. For eighteen years she could only address a person’s feet, and could only see others from the waist down. Not able to see the stars or interact with others in a normal fashion. When Jesus came forward, He put His hands on her and said, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then immediately the chains that bound her fell away and suddenly she was able to straighten up. What was the first thing she did? She praised God and gave thanks to the Lord. Yet others did not.
Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.” So they were not in awe of his performing this remarkable deed. They were not celebrating that through the power of God, Jesus set a woman free who had for eighteen years been trapped with herself and in her anguish. Instead they were full of their self-righteousness they wanted to point out that Jesus had broken a spiritual law by healing on the Sabbath! Let’s never forget that this woman was a prisoner in her own body she was held captive to this infirmity for eighteen years. If we in deference to the Pharisees take out the Sabbath days that means all of these self-righteous souls who are so angry at Jesus who will rise up and convict Him had five thousand six hundred thirty four days, to help this poor woman, and after all this time, she was still bound by her infirmity so who are they to say anything or to be sitting in judgement!
They say Church people should be above all things, Should rise up not be baited.
Any time a person who is outside of the Church sees a person in the church doing or saying anything that they feel is non-Christian they say you call yourself a Christian. Yet at some point we need to take responsibility we need to rise up we need to call out our detractors and say yes I call myself a Christian just like the one I follow who at this point facing down the Pharisees He had enough! Jesus turns to his distractors and lets them have it.
The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? So if your animal is in need on the Sabbath these pillars of the faith will look the other way allowing you to care for them. So why are you being such hypocrites. Yet he was not done yet.
Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her? So why should a person who has been held in prison by Satan for eighteen long years not also be set free. What a way to celebrate the Sabbath to give praise to God by doing this righteous act on the Sabbath. This act should be done on a day made to praise God and here was this woman Not only set free of her infirmity but openly praising God. So after all of this what happened to all of Jesus critics?
“When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing. So the Pharisees may have been angry that Jesus broke their rules. Jesus on the other hand was following a higher law one that he learned from His Father and teaches to us. This was a teaching seen and understood by the people and they were delighted by all the wonderful things that Jesus was doing. Well in the same way I see this Church like this. This Church is full of good people with good hearts. It is full of people who want the best for our Church and our community. Yet it is also full of the belief that we are bound and imprisoned in so many ways that we are not able to do what we need to do. What is our prison? It is the fact that we are too old, or that we are too small or that the world outside does not consider the Church to be relevant or that the political machine is actively working to destroy the good things the Church can do. All of these are like the woman that Jesus healed. All of these are symptoms but are things that can be dealt with and overcome.
Are we an aging congregation? Yes! Yet so many have children and grandchildren that could attend, you see age ladies and gentlemen is nothing but a state of mind. And as I was reminded just last week during a funeral Normal is nothing but a setting on the washer. Do you realize that at least ten new families have moved into the area many of which have children?
Now is the time for Neighbor Fest, Now is the time for Trunk or Treat. Now is the time to get out and tell people what this church has to offer. Consider this what if we had a roast beef supper where we do not have to worry so much about the parking because people in the surrounding community walk to church to enjoy a meal.
Now you say but we are too small, or we do not have the energy to support what we want to do. Well I will tell you who has energy, Luke stand up, Bob and Josh Coye would you please stand up. All three of these have something in common and let’s see Bob Shepard would you also join them. Now what do these four men have in common? Scouting! Josh is an eagle Scout, Bob a scout a scout master and new contact with troop 157 and Pitcher Hill, Luke a Venture Scout, and Bob Shepard is a former scout of 157. Gentlemen, please sit down. These four will attest to the energy that young men can do and will possess. So how about having a dozen extra hands serving, or what about having them put on extra meals for fundraisers along with the Church. There is a pool of energy that we have not tapped but if we do we will find it endless.
This last week we have taken the time to turn off the Olympics and watch some of the faith based movies I have shared with this Church. One night we watched the Wrestling Saint, On another we watched God is not dead and God is not dead two. Then on Friday we watched “Facing the Giants.” Now I do not know how many times I have seen this movie I do know I have used it as a reference in sermons at least four times. Now the illustration I am about to make I want one thing clear. I am not the coach I am not the Assistant coach heck I would be glad to be the water boy on the team.
So to conclude I want to use this movie once again. The coach is in a world of hurt because he is trying to get the team to believe in the unbelievable, that they will be able to win. So he takes one of his players who has a very negative attitude and asks for his help. He takes one player and asks if he can do a death crawl with another player on his back for fifty yards. He then asks him to do it blindfolded. Now why? Simple he does not want the person to set a goal and say that is as far as I can go and no farther. Instead He wants the person to give every ounce of drive they have to achieving a goal.
Well it starts off with him going twenty yards. Then he makes it fifty yards but has no idea how far he has gone. Then with the urging and encouragement of the coach he makes it another twenty yards. The couch keeps saying only another twenty steps then another ten steps then finally tells him to stop and take off his blindfold. The boy thinks he is at the fifty but instead he is in the end zone. He went 100 yards carrying a 160 pound boy on his back. He achieved two to five times more than he dreamed he could achieve but cause he was not focusing on a goal but on the words of encouragement that through the pain told him just a little farther.
I am no pollyanist I am no believer that just because you say something it can occur. What I am is a realist who like that coach see the potential in this team. I believe that if we stop looking at where we think we need to go if we put on a spiritual blindfold and listen we also will go just a little farther. We will move forward to a place that is twice or five or ten times farther than we ever hoped to. To do this we need ever member of Pitcher Hill. I don’t care what self-imposed limits we see we need to block them out and become people who do not walk by sight but by faith listening for the voice of our coach God and allowing Him to encourage us to move forward just one more step.
We need to support our Marketing committee to get the good word out of what is in this Church. We need to support our Sunday school program. Some say whoa is us we do not have kids. Well first we need the teachers and we need to show what we can do the kids will follow.
We need to do a face to face meeting with our neighborhoods as well as our families. How many have family members who are lost for one reason or another have you tried inviting them to Church? Well I beg you put on the spiritual blinder and talk to them. Give God one more yard give God that last ounce of spiritual strength to reach out to them and make a difference. One that will score much more than a touchdown but will score life eternal!
Today we need to not see the limits but the unlimited potential that this Church has. After the sermon will be a time for people to come forth and pray with the elders. They are your team. They are here for you and I apologize to Wayne for creating extra duty. I pray that every person in the Church who has a joy or a concern will come forward I pray that they will be busy answering calls and calling on God for ten or fifteen minutes. This is the time for a revival not only is it in our hands but in our hearts.
We need to give it all to God and not leave anything out on the field. We need to become a missional Church where service does not end with the clapping for the fantastic recessional that Wayne plays but we as a people come to know that this is when service begins.
As we walk out those doors we walk into his mission field. What will we plant what will we help grow and what will we harvest for the Lord? He and He alone knows, but let me tell you this what He will do for this body and this Church is far, far, far more than we could ever dream possible.
Let us pray God of peace and power make us your people. Help us to put on spiritual blinders to keep from seeing what we can do and do what you know we can. God take this small body and fire it up with a holy revival. Let it start with this here but let the effect be felt across Syracuse, New York, America, and the World. God the people here are good and you have a mission and plan for each one of us. Make this mission one that you bless and grow to fruition. Lord Jesus be our coach encouraging us to go just a little more. Make us victorious not because of who we are but because we have hearts to follow you. Lord humble us and allow us to be worthy of this call. In the blood of Jesus wash away all of our Sins and makes us clean this I pray. Amen