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[Sermon] A Revolution: Healing as Liberation

Updated: Apr 22

Pastor Hector Garfias-Toledo + April 21, 2024 + Second Sunday of Easter



In his sermon for the Fourth Sunday of Easter, Pastor Hector invites us to reimagine healing as a revolutionary force that disrupts oppressive systems and restores dignity and agency to the marginalized. Drawing from biblical narratives and social justice movements, Pastor Hector challenges us to see ourselves as agents of healing and wholeness, empowered to go against the tide of injustice and embody a vision of liberation grounded in love and compassion.



Transcript

From automatically generated captions via YouTube, with punctuation and paragraphs added by ChatGPT.


Grace to you and peace from God our creator and the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord and Shepherd. And we said amen. Well, good morning again, everyone. As I said a few Sundays ago, a couple Sundays ago, it's always a joy to be with you when we are gathered in this place. And always, my regret is that I never had an opportunity to speak with each one of you when we are either coming in or going out. But always in my heart, when I see you talking with others or coming in or going out to home, I always wonder how you are doing today. And my prayer is that the gathering of the church will be a gathering that will bring to you what you need in this moment in your life. So I ask you, how are you doing? And my prayer is that you are finding strength, that you are finding wisdom and peace in your heart as we continue walking this journey together.


Last Sunday, we had Pastor Kylo remember, for those of you who were here, and he was in a wonderful message. He reminded us of some aspects of our daily life as disciples, as sheep of the Lord Jesus. But he was pointing out to this situation in which we tend to create groups and we try to ignore or dismiss other groups that are different. The name that he used for that is ingrouping. And in this tendency of ingrouping, what we do is dehumanize people and we get into an attitude of self-righteousness in which we feel that we are better and everybody else needs to conform to our ways, to our understandings, to our beliefs. And that attitude prevents us from experiencing the fullness of God's New Order of life.


In the book of Acts, or as Justo González, a theologian, Cuban theologian says, he says that it is the acts of the Holy Spirit, not the Acts of the Apostles. But in this passage that we read in the book of Acts has been used also to exclude people and to dehumanize people. Because if you remember the words of Peter in the passage that Allan read for us today, he talks about that there is no other name given to people in which a person or a people can be saved. And that has been used to say that we Christians have the only way, and that we exclude those who do not conform to our belief.


Now, this is a conversation that can be longer and deeper. However, we are not going to go there because we will need to spend the rest of the day here, and I don't think that we have the time and the will, and the Sun is again shining outside there like last Sunday. So, it's calling me to go out. I brought watermelon in my office last in the last few weeks, especially during Lent.


We were talking about Jesus and Peter, and in one of the passages that we read, remember that we have Jesus and Peter talking when Jesus resurrected and he encounters the disciples at the beach and prepares lunch, I mean, breakfast for them. And if you remember that day when Jesus is talking to Peter, Jesus tells Peter, "Tend my right, feed my sheep, my lamb." Remember that we had that conversation? And you remember that I showed you these videos in which I said that maybe they have a little different idea what tending the sheep was about. So maybe Peter in this first short video was thinking of the little lamb. Just a reminder of how maybe Peter was thinking about taking care of the little lamb. And he said, "Of course, Lord, I will take care of you, tiny little cute sheep." Yes, Lord. However, in the mind of Jesus, as he was able to see in Jesus's wisdom, what humanity is about, maybe Jesus was maybe thinking of Peter taking care of sheeps like this one, this next video. Maybe Peter never realized that it was going to be a little more complicated and it will take more time and energy.


The message that Peter and the disciples bring to the people shook the structures of power. If you notice, the question that the leaders, the religious leaders asked was not so much about what they have done or how they have done what they did, which was to heal this man who was at the door, they're beautiful. The question that they asked was, "By what power and in whose name have you done this?" So, what was the question about? What was the essence of their question? Authority. Who's in charge? It was about Authority. And would you agree with me that it was probably about power? The healing that they, I wouldn't say perform, but the healing that happened through them in the name of Jesus evokes opposite responses. On the one hand, among the common people, what is the response? Excitement and wonder. Yeah. And among the religious leaders, what is the emotion going on there? Suspicion, fear, and some degree, some rage within them.


So, I was thinking of the last Sunday when David brought the yarn and they were passing it around and we were having fun and we were talking about the acts of kindness that everybody has done. But the truth is that some acts of kindness in the name of Jesus sometimes are not well-received. Have you experienced that? Have you seen that? Have you heard about that? Well, we are hearing about one here in this passage. The authority of the Temple leaders was challenged that day. Why? The two things that I see that is happening here is and one, the message that the disciples are bringing subverted their Authority. They had, if you remember, the religious leaders were given some sort of Authority, or they were charged with keeping peace, the Pax Romana. And as we have heard before, the Pax Romana was the Imperial power that will crush anyone who would oppose or not recognize the authority and the power of the emperor. So, the religious leaders were given almost like a concession. You will be able to leave your religion as long as, with your religion, you control those people, the poor little people, to conform to what the emperor wants. So, imagine when the disciples come and say, "In the name of Jesus, I ask you to stand up." What is meant when they say, "In the name of Jesus"?


Let's make a break, and I'm going to say a few things that maybe, maybe uncomfortable or for some of us, but it's the truth. We know that there is a message with a name. Think of a name in general, and think of what comes with that name. If I say Luther, what do you think? Martin Luther, reform, right? If I say Martin Luther King, right? I mean, you see, we say names. What if I say Romero, that we read today? What if I say Mother Teresa? If I say Trump, can't say that in church. Well, I am saying it, and I don't care, because the truth, let's focus on the truth. When we see that name, there is a message with that. We think, we see, we fear, or we celebrate, whatever. When we say Obama, same thing, right? When we say Castro. Then, in the name of Jesus, when they say that, they are not just saying Jesus. They are saying, basically, by the authority of Jesus and under the authority of Jesus. So, if the religious leaders hearing in that way, what are what are the disciples actually saying in terms of the Empire? What authority do they follow? Who do they follow? The emperor? The religious leaders? Who? And how does that make the religious leaders feel, right?


So, it is about fear or losing control and power. They were annoyed because the disciples are teaching the people. And when I say the people, it's the people in general, the people who should be listening and following the directions of the religious leaders to keep the peace that the Romans have asked them to keep. They are keeping the people poor, frightened, and despair, victimized, and in some way, make them dependent or codependent. And we know about that because we are going through a year where authorities in our country, where the media, with the people in power, are doing exactly the same thing. And if you dare to say something that is against of the people in power right now, where do you end up? How do you end up? So, the question is, what good can come out from such a situation?


God remains faithful. God refuses to let human rejection have the last word. God raises the rejected and crucified. If Jesus from the dead and God lifts up the disabled and destitute. The word in Greek in the passage that we read for the people who was ill or sick or paralytic, it is astheneia (ἀσθένεια), which means lacking power. So, it was not just a man who was paralytic or couldn't move. It implies that this person had no power or presence or dignity among the people in the community. And then this man is healed. And the word in Greek for healed, sozo (σῴζω), conveys three ideas: to be saved, to be healed, and the one I like is to be liberated. A man with a power is liberated by the name of Jesus from receiving a few arms at the corner where they used to put him to receive money, money that came to him maybe as the result of some people who felt pity or guilt or maybe some self-righteousness. The name of Jesus now liberates him, brings him healing from the ailments of the old order that will try to keep things under control so that people cannot grow into what God called them to be.


God in Jesus brings the hope that the structures have no power and will be dismantled by the power of love. As Martin Luther King said, "If they hate you, love them. If they hurt you, love them. If they slap you, love them. Because love and love and love will break them until the day that they will not be your enemies anymore, but your friends." Or as we read with Oscar Romero, "Let us not forget that we are a Pilgrim Church, subject to misunderstanding, to persecution, but a church that walks therein because it bears the force of Love Resurrection as Revolution, my siblings in Christ, is a transformative power in a spiritual dimension manifested in the material world, making a pivotal turnaround from Death To Life, despair to hope for the entirety of humanity and, as a matter of fact, for the entire creation."


The power of the Resurrection people was and is that in proclaiming Jesus's name, we are also declaring the limitations of the authority of the powerful today and ever. It began with an empty tomb signaling that life as we know it is forever changed. Liberation from humans, we experience. The liberation from the human systems that perpetuate the lack of power, the need to be part of the system, and the fear of losing the privilege that this system grants us. Resurrection is about to be liberated, to be the resurrection people, the revolution people that change how we look at our existence and coexistence with others. Moreover, to be able to see the interconnectedness as a movement of people. Death, once a dread finality, is now just a transition. We no longer are bound by the fear of the end because in Jesus, the end is just the beginning of something that is far more beautiful.


The resurrection people movement are called to be agents of healing, wholeness, and in order to do that, sometimes we need to go against the tide. And for that, we thank God because that is the force of love. That even though we are a pilgrim church, we are entrusted to bear the force of love as the reign of God continues to transform all creation.


Amen.

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