Skip to main content

God's Sabbath

This is the sermon I preached on 8/21 at St. Timothy and St. Mark Lutheran churches. The text is Luke 13:10-17.


Some people are noticed wherever they go. You can’t miss them. But then, some of us are barely seen because of our stature or lack thereof. When you’re short, it is hard to get noticed in a crowd of much taller people. I will never forget a conversation that I had with one of the clerks at Microtel in Olean when I came for my interview with the church council of my first call. The clerk asked the Council president how he would recognize me.  The president's response was, “She’s very short!”
In today’s gospel, Jesus was not teaching in the temple in Jerusalem, rather he was in a small town synagogue. The bent-over woman was likely well known in her village and people were so used to her that they no longer paid any attention to her and her ailment. After 18 years of being this way, she was invisible to other villagers.
But Jesus saw her, not because she arrived after he had started teaching. Jesus was not giving her the evil eye. because her arrival was disruptive to his teaching. Jesus saw who she was and what her need was. From the outset, Jesus took the initiative.
Once again, Jesus is doing what he does best. He is turning the world upside down. He is loving and healing those whom many consider marginal at best, which is what the coming of the reign of God is all about.
In other gospel stories the sick call out to Jesus or seek him out. From what Luke tells us, this woman came for no other reason but to worship on the sabbath. She was not out to make a spectacle of herself or to draw attention to herself in any way. The bent over woman was simply a worshipper with a need, so Jesus healed her.
After Jesus touched the woman, she stood up straight. The Greek word anortho means to stand up. It is also used for the rebuilding and restoring of a fallen structure. By healing the woman, Jesus lifted her up and restored her to her rightful place as a daughter of Abraham. She was reestablished in her community. She was freed from the painful grip of the devil. When Jesus heals, he heals the whole person, which involves far more than just physical restoration.
Because Jesus healed the woman on the sabbath, he stirred up all kinds of trouble. The sabbath was meant to be a day of rest and worship. Observing the sabbath had become an important way of nourishing and maintaining Jewish identity. The issue was not that Jesus healed, but when he healed.
The role of the leader of the synagogue was to make sure that everything happened in good order. He was to maintain the reading and faithful teaching of the law. The leader ensured that those on his watch behaved properly.
Because healing was seen as work, it would have been prohibited. From Jesus’ perspective, the sabbath rules, which were supposed to refresh and renew the soul, were not doing what God had intended for them to do.
Can we imagine how much work it must have been for the bent over woman to get up and get dressed and walk to the synagogue? Can we imagine how difficult each step must have been?
The synagogue leader could not see what God wanted to accomplish. He couched his objections in the language of “ought.” Since he was the synagogue leader, he knew the divine will of God. He did not address Jesus directly, but rather scolded him by addressing the crowd, assuming they would agree with him. The woman’s condition was not life-threatening. She had survived like this for 18 years. What difference would a day make?
But Jesus the Lord had his own divine ought which motivated him to demonstrate the triumph of mercy over rules.  The synagogue leader was quoting from Deuteronomy that one should not work on the sabbath. However, the custom had become that one could untie an animal so it could drink.
So Jesus’ argument was:
If an animal can be untied, how much more a daughter of Abraham, who has been bound by Satan for 18 years?
If you can loose the bonds of an animal on the sabbath as well as the rest of the week, how much more necessary is it for God to free this woman on the sabbath?
Jesus was pointing out that what would be done for an animal would not be allowed for a tormented human being!
That’s why Jesus referred to the synagogue ruler and his ilk as hypocrites. Their interpretation of scripture and God’s law totally missed the divine purpose and spirit of bringing deliverance and setting the captives free. 
Once again, lines are drawn and Jesus brings division. There were two distinct reactions to Jesus’ argument. Jesus’ opponents were shamed while the crowd rejoiced and praised God for his wonderful works. 
The lesson that God is teaching us today is that when we are hurting, God sees us too. Jesus lifts us up, makes us whole in the waters of baptism and restores us to the beauty of being temples of the Holy Spirit.
We are nourished by Jesus’ body and blood at the Eucharist. We are nourished by God’s Word and we are nourished by our fellowship together as God’s people.
As children of God who have been redeemed and made new by Christ how do we see those around us? Do we see the homeless, the foreigner, the hungry and the forgotten as Jesus saw the bent over woman or do we simply ignore them like the villagers?
God did not do all the incredible things he has done for us because we were such wonderful people. When we were dirty, sinful, and outside of the kingdom of God, God rescued and restored us.
In the tension between the rules and human need, between human and divine oughts, Jesus brought God’s dominion into the present reality of a suffering woman. As we leave this place, will we bring God’s reign into the present reality of those with whom we come in contact or will we simply walk past them?
Amen.

Google Image

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

If and If and If

This is the sermon I preached on Sunday, 10/1/17 at St. Timothy Lutheran Church and St. Mark Lutheran Church. The scripture text is Philippians 2:1-13

Paul’s letter to the Philippians is one of my favorites. It is full of positive, uplifting theology, like “RejoiceintheLordalways; again I will say, Rejoice (Phil. 4:4 ). It’s a feel-good kind of letter. Today’s passage from Philippians is chock full of great stuff and I could get at least 10 sermons out of

I'm Back & Giving Thanks

Sunday, 9/17, was my first Sunday back in the pulpit after 7 months. I am not completely healed from February's back surgery, but am mostly there. The doctor is letting me work only part time until our next visit. This is the sermon from Sunday, 9/17, preached at St. Timothy Lutheran Church and St. Mark Lutheran Church.  based on Psalm 103 1:-13.
When I read today’s lessons, I couldn’t take my eyes of of Psalm 103. This psalm is an individual psalm of one who was struggling in a desperate situation, who called out to God and God delivered him.This is my story too.
As most of you know, I had back surgery in Feb. and I too, received God’s deliverance. Following the back surgery, I contracted an Ecoli infection that nearly killed me. I am here today to declare with the psalmist: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits…”
The odd thing about this psalm is that it isn’t a prayer. It is not ad…

Flying Rebukes

This is the sermon I preached on Sunday, 2/25/18 at St. Timothy. Lutheran Church. The text was Mark 8:31-38. 


Immediately before today’s gospel reading, Jesus had asked his disciples who people say that he is. This is where the light went on for Peter and he made the confession, “You are the Messiah” (Mark 8:29). Peter certainly gave the right answer and was likely thinking of the attributes given to whoever would be the Messiah. The Messiah, people thought, would deliver them from the crushing rule of the Romans. The Messiah would fight their enemies. Basically, the Messiah was a strong king-like figure.
But, now Jesus fleshes out for Peter and others what that is going to look like. They were completely unprepared for the reality.
“Jesus began to teach them” (v. 31). Hadn’t he been teaching the disciples all along? Maybe, but this was different. This wasn’t teaching about miracles and healing. This is the turning point in Mark’s gospel, marking a new beginning.
“Jesus began to teach the…