Today's sermon (February 14, 2010) plays with the idea of "hitting bottom" - of reaching the painful point where we can't help but admit to having fallen down, so we can get on with being raised up.
"Hitting bottom" is an idea best known from Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-Step recovery programs. Today, one of our parishioners is being honored by the State of South Dakota for her dedicated work in helping others "hit bottom" in admission of addiction so they could rise up in new found sanity and freedom.
Today's Gospel reading from Luke tells of people "hitting bottom." It starts out with some of Jesus' followers seeing a mountain top vision of the glorious Christ of Heaven. But this gives way to their very different reality, because "the next day, when they had come down," they came way, way down.
Down the mountain, Jesus' followers can't perform an exorcism to help a tormented boy and his pleading father. Jesus, disgusted, steps in to set the boy free. As we see in other reports of this incident, the disciples must "hit bottom" and confront their own failure: they lack faith in God but maintain high opinions of themselves, expecting to work wonders without putting in the work of prayer.
If we extend our reading of Luke just a bit, we find that Jesus' followers continued to fall down, with loud splats of denial, egotism and intolerance.
What strikes me in these verses is the evidence that groups must hit bottom just as much as individuals. Jesus' followers fail as a group, and he criticizes them as a group. Only by allowing them to experience their distance from God can he bring them closer to God. They must fall down to be lifted up.
This Lent, I am challenging my parish to
- Seek God's glorious vision of what Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls is meant to be;
- "Hit bottom" with an honest admission of ways in which we fall far from that vision and
- Ask God to show us how to help one another fulfill the vision.
Your prayers for our parish are a welcome blessing - hitting bottom always hurts and your prayers will help heal and encourage us as we reach out to Christ to lift us up.