May 23, 2016

I found Pastor Naw San Dee KD’s sermon from Sunday to be be most insightful. Thus, I share it with you, readers of  the Midweek Message.

“A Call to be Repairers and Restorers”
Texts: Jeremiah 8:22, 33:6; Isaiah 58: 6(9) -12; Hosea 10:12; Psalms 85

Recovery is an experience that gives us feelings of being anew and hopeful after we walked through the valleys of life. It is a desired condition of well-being we strive to achieve, and hope to experience in our life. In a biblical sense, the word ’recovery” means “to bring back to a condition of wholeness” and even more so, “to become as it is intended.” The prophet Hosea powerfully portrays a recovery as “breaking up of a fallow ground” in order for the soil to produce as it is intended. (Hosea 10:12) Therefore, a recovery in the Bible is always about a restoration of the right condition as God intended. It is more than merely regaining of the former state of health or status. As a restored ground would produce plants, and then harvest, a recovery is happened in us to flourish as God intended.

Thus, according to the Bible, the road to recovery involves restoration, discovery, and transformation in both physical and spiritual aspects. We know too well from our own experience that this exuberant experience of recovery does not last long. Sooner or later we find ourselves back in the square one! When we look at the Bible, one can interpret the Israelites as a people who are constantly on the road to recovery.

Among many other temptations, the Israelites continually struggled to overcome their habitual or compulsive devotion, or better understood as their addiction to false idols. In its efforts to overcome idolatory, the Israelites often found themselves in a position one step forward and two steps backward. However, in all their shortcomings and relapses, the stories of Israelites repeatedly remind us of their willingness and resilience in the pursuit of recovery, and God’s exceptional patience toward the struggling people. On their bumpy roads to recovery, the Israelites discovered time after time what is meant to be a people of God – a people who keep on trying!

Burma where most of our members came from is one of the largest opium-producers in the world. I can say with confidence that everyone in our congregation is effected by the epidemic of opium related drugs. There have been many concerted efforts to overcome this debilitating pandemic for generations but it still poses as an uphill battle against the Kachin people. Some of us left the country hoping to escape and recover from its powerful grip. However, we found ourselves that more variety of drugs are even more accessible here in the streets of San Francisco and Oakland, than Burma. Those who are severely impacted by drugs are also those who are gravely disenfranchised in our community.

When we look at the beneficiaries and casualties of drug production and usage in Burma and around the world, addiction is not an individual problem, but a systemic and communal issue involving everyoneas stakeholders in the community. At times, both God and the people are willing and able for recovery. However, the road to recovery is often a very slow and long one.

Prophet Jeremiah anguished over the lack of recovery asking; “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored?” (Jer. 8:22) One can find possible answer to this agonizing question in the message of another prophet, Isaiah. In Isaiah 58:8, God declared the recovery of the people will come as the “light of the dawn,” and “shall spring up quickly.” But there is a catch! It will come on a condition! There are expectations God has for the people who are living in a community with one another. This spectacular recovery will occur only on the condition that when the people loosen the bond of injustice and work for freedom for those who are oppressed. Only when the bread shared, the homeless housed, and the naked clothed. (58:6-7) It is a portrait of a community being responsible for and working together for one another’s recovery and well-being.

Prophet Isaiah’s message is relevant here that only when, we as a community take responsibility and care for those who are at the receiving ends of our society, the light of recovery will rise, ruins will be rebuilt and many generations will follow. And then we will “be called the repairer of the breach,and the restorer of streets.” (58:12) The people who work toward recovery in a community are given this new title. In looking around the world and its needs for recovery, we might despair at the needs and be inclined to call out as Jeremiah did “why then has the health of my poor people not been restored?”

Perhaps we are called out into the world to do the work of recovery. Let’s face it. A constant need to strive for recovery is exhausting and difficult. Israelites, therefore, again and again had to redraw their strength to move forward from God who brought and promised recovery in the past (Jer. 33:6). In Psalm 85, while confessing Israelites’ inability to recover, the psalmist recalls the way God worked so wonderfully in the past, saying: “..O LORD; you have restored the fortunes of Jacob..…therefore…. Restore us again O God our Savior.” Remembering our past experience of recovery with God, along with the psalmist, we can ask and be convinced that the work of recovery is possible.

In light of the Israelites’ experience in the Bible, we are instructed with three factors that stand out on the road to recovery. First, a resiliency to keep on trying in an effort for recovery is the key here, since the journey itself is as important as the destination. Second, as the psalmist, there must be an honest expression of one’s powerlessness and dependence on God’s ability in the face of seemingly impossible challenge. And third, a kind of recovery God has in mind can only take place in and through a communal awareness and effort to seek justice and welfare in a society. Importantly, the Bible encourages us that if the Israelites could recover, we also can!

Prayers of the Congregation

  • Louis Greer (Summit Hospital)
  • Anthony Marshall (Kaiser Acute Recovery Hospital)
  • Paul Keener (Surgery on Thursday)
  • Cecil White for his sister, Caroline
  • John and Jo Giles as they mourn the death of John’s brother
  • Marie Johnson for her family and for her co-workers
  • Thanksgiving with Carol and Wil Ash on the birth of granddaughter, Emelia
  • All who are working for justice in Burma
  • All who are wrestling with addiction and working toward recovery
  • Geetha Thaker for her dad (surgery on Wednesday)
  • Thanksgiving for the work of City Team Ministries
  • Carolyn Persons
  • The grieving and stunned of Manchester, England
  • Skip Keller (recuperating from surgery)
  • All who requested prayer but did not want to be listed in the MWM
  • The churches of our Evergreen Baptist Association
  • All who are preparing for the summer ministries of LABC
  • Sheila Sims as she represents us at Food Advocacy Day in Sacramento on May 24

2017 is the year  for the Personnel Committee to complete a review of Pastor Tanner’s work as our Minister of Christian Formation. Please contact Marie Johnson for an online evaluation form or complete a form following worship on Sunday. Your church staff is appreciative of your feedback.