Written by Courtney McHill, United Methodist Pastor
Risk taking is biblical. We are called to take big risks when God calls us to take those leaps of faith. Biblical characters take risks over and over again. Sometimes they succeed and sometimes they fail miserably but in every risk God continues to claim us, propel us, transform us and teach us. At the CoOp we value taking risks. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail miserably. We learn from every risk that we are called into.
Today’s biblical readings show us the value of risk taking in our faith. We don’t know who wrote the book of Hebrews and really aren’t sure when it was written. We do know that it was probably written to a mixed group of folks, Jew and Gentile around Rome (some scholars actually say Jerusalem). The messages to this community of Hebrews are all about how to live into a new life with Christ. They are taking a risk in building a community of all sorts of Christians. They were no longer like the followers of God in the past (Mt.Sinai) but looking towards a new faith (Mt.Zion).
There are multiple characters taking a risk to enhance the kingdom of God in our gospel lesson. First of all, the unnamed woman comes after 18 years of being bent over just to see Jesus. She is an outcast, she is in pain and still she just appeared. She didn’t ask for healing but her risk made it worthwhile. Meanwhile, Jesus takes a huge risk by healing this woman. He is called out by authorities around him about healing on the Sabbath. Jesus has taken the risk of upsetting what could be a law but I have a feeling that Jesus thought it was all worth it. Originally the Sabbath law was put into place to free people from work. We were to take the day for rest and renewal. Somewhere along the way we got so caught up in the law we forgot what the meaning of the law was. Jesus literally sets a woman free from her bound state on the Sabbath. We are shocked into realizing that perhaps this is the true meaning of Sabbath…to be free from what binds us.
By taking risks, both Jesus and the woman have expanded what it means to be a follower of God and what the kingdom of God looks like. What if the risk wasn’t taken? Nothing would happen. We are more enriched by the risk. Today at the CoOp we celebrate healthy risk. We celebrate the one who hears the call of God and follows it through even though it may seem totally crazy. We celebrate those moments in our life when we say yes to working with Jesus. We live into the fact that sometimes we have to take a risk, ruffle a few feathers, and leap in order to bring the fullness of the kingdom of God to hear and now.
“A ship is always safe at the shore – but that is NOT what it is built for.” ― Albert Einstein
“There is no discovery without risk and what you risk reveals what you value.” ― Jeanette Winterson
“When you take risks you learn that there will be times when you succeed and there will be times when you fail, and both are equally important. It’s hard to understand failure when you’re going through it, but in the grand scheme of things it’s good to fall down—not because you’re drunk and not near stairs.” ― Ellen DeGeneres
Hebrews 12:18-29 (Message) Unlike your ancestors, you didn’t come to Mount Sinai—all that volcanic blaze and earthshaking rumble—to hear God speak. The earsplitting words and soul-shaking message terrified them and they begged him to stop. When they heard the words—“If an animal touches the Mountain, it’s as good as dead”—they were afraid to move. Even Moses was terrified. No, that’s not your experience at all. You’ve come to MountZion, the city where the living God resides. The invisible Jerusalem is populated by throngs of festive angels and Christian citizens. It is the city where God is Judge, with judgments that make us just. You’ve come to Jesus, who presents us with a new covenant, a fresh charter from God. He is the Mediator of this covenant. The murder of Jesus, unlike Abel’s—a homicide that cried out for vengeance—became a proclamation of grace.
So don’t turn a deaf ear to these gracious words. If those who ignored earthly warnings didn’t get away with it, what will happen to us if we turn our backs on heavenly warnings? His voice that time shook the earth to its foundations; this time—he’s told us this quite plainly—he’ll also rock the heavens: “One last shaking, from top to bottom, stem to stern.” The phrase “one last shaking” means a thorough housecleaning, getting rid of all the historical and religious junk so that the unshakable essentials stand clear and uncluttered. Do you see what we’ve got? An unshakable kingdom! And do you see how thankful we must be? Not only thankful, but brimming with worship, deeply reverent before God. For God is not an indifferent bystander. He’s actively cleaning house, torching all that needs to burn, and he won’t quit until it’s all cleansed. God himself is Fire!
Luke 13:10-17 (NRSV) Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the Sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the Sabbath day.” But the Lord answered him and said, “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 whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the Sabbath day?” When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.
Questions for the Week
When was the last time you took a risk? What happened?
Do you believe God is calling you to something now? Is it risky?
Where have you seen God shock and amaze you?