About Me

My photo
Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Luke 13:10-17 Healing of the Woman
James McTyre
Lake Hills Presbyterian Church
Sunday, September 26, 2004

School has started back. Which means the cold and flu season is about to start for those of you who go to school. The cold & flu season is about to start for those of you who have kids in school, and for those of you who teach school, and for anyone who even drives past a school. If you have to drive past a school, it’s really best to roll up your windows and hold your breath. We tell the kids, “Wash your hands, use your Kleenex, and if you have to touch anyone, wear these rubber gloves.”

Back in my high school biology class, our teacher had us scrape cultures from a bar of soap from the school bathroom. We put the shavings in a Petrie dish, and put the dish in a warm, dark cabinet. About a week later, we opened the cabinet, and the dish was covered in these yukky, green moldy boil-looking growths. Some of them had teeth.

The germs are more concentrated at school. But they're everywhere. Even the most obsessive germaphobics can't stay away from them. Sooner or later, you're going to catch something that'll make you feel like a leaky truck has been driven up your nostrils.

So, we get used to it. We figure getting sick is just a part of life. We spend untold billions on medicine (at least our family seems to), and even the best of these drugs can't stop the dripping and sneezing; they just make us not mind it as much.

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.

Here was a woman who, somewhere along the way, eighteen years ago, had caught something. Probably caught it from her first-grader and didn't get rid of it until he graduated college. She was bent over and unable to stand up straight. Jesus sets her free from her ailment. He lays hands on her, and immediately, she stands up straight and begins praising God.

Would that all our sickness was so easily cured. If only Jesus were here to “shout it out,” or lift us up so that we could be germ and symptom-free. But he is here, we believe. Do we have sick bodies and/or sick spirits because our faith isn't strong enough to form a protective shield? Is it our fault? Or are our problems the side effect of walking into any room with any other people? Is illness just a part of life? Both and all are true. Jesus is here. AND the stuff of other people rubs off on us as soon as they walk in the door.

How do we find the healing that the woman in this scripture found? How do we get Jesus to do the same thing for us? And if, by some miracle, we get what we want, what happens then?


“Asylum” is what people seek when they’re trying to escape the madness in a foreign country. An asylum is also where we used to send people to escape their madness, to keep it hidden away. Originally, the word meant “sanctuary.” It meant an inviolable place of refuge. Likewise, a “sanctuary” originally meant a place of protection and immunity. Healing and worship have always gone hand in hand. It wasn’t all that long ago that if you wanted to get well, you didn’t go to a doctor; you went to your priest.

A big reason we have places like this sanctuary is because people get injured over the course of a year, or a month, or a week. Some of our bruises and breaks -- breakups and breakdownssome of the marks are visible. People rub up against us, rub us the wrong way, and before we know it we're bent over. Spiritually (or emotionally) we’re unable to stand up straight. Or we hang with the wrong people and we lose track of which way is up, which way is right and which is wrong. And sometimes – maybe more often than not – we make ourselves physically sick. We swallow antacids and chase away the symptoms. We don’t get better, but we don’t mind as much. Basically, stress is a part of life in 2004, you know. If you can't get with the program, get out of the way, or get a good cardiologist.

I wonder if for eighteen years, that's what the woman at the synagogue had been told. “Sorry, sister. That's the breaks. We don't blame you for your problems, but we can't solve them, either. “We're good listeners, we'll help you get a nice cane. But beyond that, well….”

And then Jesus came as the guest preacher one weekend. And he healed her. We know exactly what she did next. Immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. She may have even done a little dance, raised the roof, so to speak. She was healed. She was “set free.” She was standing tall and proud and glorifying her Lord. Amen, sister! Somebody shout!

Even among decent and orderly Presbyterians, there is a spirit longing to be set free. Maybe the spirit has been silenced by physical problems. Maybe spiritual. Maybe emotional. Maybe the economic burdens on our shoulders have bent our backs. It’s usually some combination of the above. Whatever the reason, the #1 symptom of someone whose back is bent is that she only looks down. She only sees earthly dirt, and earthly paths, and earthly grounds for decision. What she needs is someone to tell her she's set free to see. She needs someone to tell her there's heaven above and glory around. She needs eyes to look into and arms to fall around her – none of which can happen with a back bent low. No matter what shape we're in, we all need Christ to set us free.

We all need God's hope, and God's help, and God's healing touch. We all need to hear those words shouted out of the crowd in our direction, “Woman – Man – You are set free from your ailment. “You are more than a doctor's report. “You are more than your bank account. “You are more than your kids or your parents say you are. “You are more than the earth you stare at could ever have produced. “You belong to God. You are free.”

We find healing like that through faith. It's faith healing, but not the kind the people on TV practice. Instead of faith healing, it's more like healing faith. And you get it because it rubs off on you. Just by being around Jesus. Just by being around scripture. Just by knowing that a greater world is around you – a greater world than the one beneath your feet. The woman might only have been passing by the synagogue that day, but faith found her, and gave her the strength to look up. And be free.


But here's the problem, for any of us who might experience this redeeming, freeing love of Christ. The grumpy leaders of the synagogue got mad about it. “Six days to do your healing, Jesus. Six days to do your healing and you have to go and do it on the one day we say not to. Harumph!”

The earth truly is magnetic. It wants to pull our eyes back down again. It wants us to see only what it shows us. Herds of people like people who go with the herd. Herds fight against free spirits who dance, then, wherever they may be. So if God does set your soul free from whatever ailment might be upon you, you'd better keep it to yourself. You'd better keep quiet about it if you don't want some grumpy person cursing you in God's name, or cursing God in yours.

Or, you can dance. The devil may care, but who cares about that? If you’ve experienced the healing love of Jesus Christ, and you want to tell the world, go for it, sister. Healing and worship go hand in hand, arm in arm, soul in soul, and you’d have to be crazy not to want to tell the world. If the woman who was healed was one of those people who catch every germ that comes her way, you have to wonder what she did. Maybe she holed up and never came out again.

Or maybe she just went another way. Jesus offers us all another way to go. Jesus offers all of us healing that's different from earthly healing, because our ailments are different from earthly ailments. Jesus sets us free. Jesus calls our spirits to be set free. Jesus calls us to look up, look around, look in different places for life.

There's the old joke, “Doctor it hurts when I do this.” “Well, then,” says the doctor, “don't do that.” The problem is, most of us don't know what else to do than whatever it is we always do. And still we wonder why we don't feel any better, or feel any happier than last year. Do something different. Look toward Jesus. Look up toward God. Look around at a wonderful, mystical world that's so much more than the ground beneath your feet. Dance. Stand up straight and begin praising God. And God will find you. And set you free.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Luke 16 01-13 Dishonest Manager
James McTyre
Lake Hills Presbyterian Church
Sunday, September 19, 2004

“Omarosa – you’re a disaster. You mishandled the Jessica Simpson concert and cost Kwame success. You lied over dinner, lied repeatedly, and neglected your duties to your team. You’ve been in the boardroom more times than I can count. But, Omarosa – You knew you were in trouble. You called up your corporate sponsors and got attractive endorsement deals. You courted a talk show producer. Somebody’s going to pay you to write a book. You’ve minimized your liabilities and leveraged your future success. And so, Omarosa – I’m going to make you my Apprentice. And to Bill and Kwame and all the other Apprentice wannabes, I have to say, ‘You’re fired.’”

There’s a new season of The Apprentice going. Donald Trump is making a mint off of his weekly game show-slash-soap opera. And if you didn’t get all the references in the previous little monologue, you’re obviously not with the program. Literally. It would take too long to explain the heights and depths of Omarosa’s incompetence, The Donald’s arrogance, and the show’s strange appeal. But what doesn’t take explanation is that there’s something fascinating about watching even dishonest businesspeople maximize potential and pull victory out of failure.

So, Jesus tells the parable of a First Century apprentice. There’s a scoundrel of a manager who steals from his boss’s bank account. He’s a weasel. The boss investigates and uncovers the swindling. Does the boss tell him, “You’re fired?” No. He gives him a corner office and the key to the executive washroom.

Somewhere in a minimum security prison this morning, there’s a former captain of industry who’s reading this same passage in his Gideon Bible and thinking – “Why couldn’t my lawyer have read this to the jury?” But you and I know Jesus would never encourage anyone to swindle their way into success. Jesus wasn’t teaching at business school. Jesus was teaching life school. The moral to the story isn’t that opportunists get the fatted calf and the golden parachute. No. The moral to the story is that the court of God’s justice is always open. God doesn’t slam the cell door before we have another chance. There may come a day when God looks at the record of our humanity and says, “You’re fired.” But a far more likely scenario is that we slam the door shut on ourselves by giving up too soon. “Look how wily and determined the scoundrels are,” Jesus says. “Why can’t God’s people be at least as determined in the direction of God?”

So, here in Jesus’ story of praise for a dishonest person, is a stealth indictment of honest, churchgoing people. How dare we let the scoundrels exercise all the creativity while we sit on our hands waiting for God to do something! Why can’t the people of God be at least an equal and opposite force, rivaling sin with wily and imaginative good?


“O naïve little preacher-boy. Doest thou have no common sense? How simple and ignorant thou art.” Idealism. I mean, the thought that God’s people might eradicate evil by practicing group hugs. Silly man.

It’s the echoes of the Pharisees. In the verse right after the passage we read, it says, “The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all this, and they ridiculed him.” “Poor Amish Jesus isn’t living in the real world,” they think. “Dude, if you’re going to compete in a global market, you have to pay the pipers.” I’m not precisely sure what they meant, but I think Jesus means this: We fire ourselves a whole lot faster than God fires us. We have a naïve and simple view of God if we think God’s limited by our choices.

Choices. You and I have almost infinite choices compared with people in many parts of the world. Lexus, Mercedes, or Ford? McDonalds, Mexican, or Chinese food? Louis Vuitton or Wal-Mart? This land of opportunity has turned into a land of choice.

What we lack is the same thing the Pharisees lacked: not choices; alternatives. What alternatives are there to the mainstream ways of operating? Where is the un-common sense to help us wade through the thick sludge of choices that paralyze us right out of hope? The alternative to the real world’s ways of doing business and doing life are in the same place they were for his disciples, way back when. The alternative to the real world is the realer world. The alternative to hopelessness was – the alternative to sleaziness is – the alternative to evil always will be: the cross.

The cross speaks its word of alternatives – whether we’re addicted to choices or if we have very few. I wonder what people in, say, rural India think a wealth of choices would be? Clean drinking water? A job? A home? What word of hope do we say to them? If we’re people of Christ, it’d better be more creative than Hollywood slogans and a handful of outsourced jobs. What word of hope do we say to ourselves when we see through the maze of meaningless choices that change nothing? The only alternative is Christ. The only alternative to the world’s ways lead us to the cross. If you, or I, people of great choice – or people of no choice – if we want success, we have to get an alternative definition of success than the one the world feeds us.

And that’s what Christ is preaching in his parable of the crooked manager. The story’s not about this-worldly right & wrong. It’s nowhere near that limited. The story’s about the alternative. “Do not love the world or the things in the world,” says the Apostle John. [1 John 2:15-17] Set your sights on another master, a loving master. Set your sights NOT on the master of Wall Street, but on the master of All Streets. If victory over death can come from a cross, then hope can come from hopelessness, life can come from lifelessness, and a whole different perspective can come to people who can’t see past the end of their noses.


You’ve got a lot of choices facing you this week. If you’re a kid, you’ve got choices. You’ve got to choose if you’re going to sneak a peek at the quiz answers of the kid next to you. You’ve got to choose if you’re going to try to steal someone else’s boyfriend, or tell your parents where you really went.

If you’re an adult, you’ve pretty much got the same choices, just on a bigger scale. Your choices involve family, co-workers, income – lawyers. “Thou shalt not steal,” “Thou shalt not gain influence by spreading vicious gossip, even if it’s true, and really, really good,” – you know the rules. If any of your choices direct you into the footsteps of the dishonest manager, stop and ask yourself, “Is this really the way I want to get ahead?” God put a conscience into your head, and it’s usually pretty accurate.

But God is not hosting a game show-slash-soap opera. God’s not playing a game, and God doesn’t want you to play games. God presents us an alternative to this world’s games, an alternative to this world’s shows.

The cross of Jesus doesn’t say, “You’re fired.” The cross of Jesus tells us we’re all working for God – and God is working for us. You are a child of God and there is nothing you can do to downsize your status.

But being a child of God, there is something you can do. You can proclaim that your choices, your money, your life – all of it is put into service for God, because all of it belongs to God in the first place. That may sound simple, but it’s a life-changing, earth-changing alternative. Any two year-old can scream, “Mine!” and most of them do. It takes a person of maturity to get beyond what’s mine, beyond what’s yours and say, “It’s all God’s.” All of it. Everything.

Yes, you’ve got a lot of choices in front of you this week. Choice A, Choice B. Maybe even all the way down to Choice Double Z. You’ve got a lot of choices in front of you; God’s challenge is to put your choices behind you. Put your choices behind you, knowing that 99% of them are trivial – and put the cross before you. Your life will change the minute you realize your life isn’t yours in the first place. Be who God intends you to be. Be a loving child, be a loving parent, be a loving co-worker. Be a loving enemy if you have to. Be NOT conformed by the ways of this world, but be transformed by the ways of Jesus Christ. [Rom 12:2, parap.]

No, you’re not fired. You’re not hired.

You’re not an apprentice. You’re a disciple.

And you’ve already got the job.