Sabbath is not simply about rest, although that is a huge part. Sabbath is about bringing about God’s Peaceable Kingdom here on Earth.
August 21, 2022
“Lessons From the Gospel of Luke”
Luke 13: 10-17
Rev. Dr. Heather: W. McColl
Luke 13: 10-17
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. But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the Sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured and not on the Sabbath day.”
But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it to water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the Sabbath day?” When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame, and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things being done by him.e.
Set Free Luke 13: 10-17
We continue our journey through the Gospel of Luke. It seems like for the past few weeks, the cost of discipleship is becoming heavier and heavier. With each passage Luke tells, we feel our backs stooping over just a little more.
Over the last several weeks, we have heard Jesus tell us as his disciples that we are to love as God loves and we feel the weight of these words on our shoulders. We have heard Jesus tell us as his disciples that we are to see our neighbors as our brothers and sisters and once again, we feel the weight of these words on our shoulders. We have heard Jesus tell us as his disciples that we are to trust in God, not our possessions and we feel the weight, the reality of what discipleship really is, just a little more as we continue to discern what it means for us to follow a risen Savior.
Over the last several weeks, Jesus has reminded us that we are called to live out our lives grounded in the knowledge that the Kingdom is happening now. Jesus has reminded us that we are in the process of transformation of becoming the people God created and called us to be. Jesus has reminded us that this process of transformation is uncomfortable, this process is unnerving. Jesus has reminded us that this process of becoming brings changes, it brings division, it brings fire to cleanse and renew. Over the last several weeks, Jesus has reminded us that it is not enough to simply say we are his disciples but rather we are called to show this radical transformation to one and all through our words, through our actions, through everything we do.
Over the last several weeks, Jesus has tried to prepare us for the reality of what it means to pray the prayer, to hope for, to strive for God’s Kingdom coming to fruition here on Earth just as it is in heaven.
And I have to tell, that after the last several weeks, the reality of discipleship, the reality of embracing our call as Jesus’ disciples is feeling pretty heavy now. But not only that…I am also feeling, we are also feeling pretty weighed down now the realities of our world right now. From the “what is next” questions we as a community of faith are engaging in at this moment to everything going on in our world, in our nation, in our state, in our communities, it is all weighing heavy upon us. The Floods, Poverty, Inflation, Hunger Issues, Back to school worries, Job loss, hiring frustrations, loss, grief, fear, worries…All of it is weighing heavy on our hearts right now, weighing heavy on our souls right now. It is almost as if we are going around in a constant state of tension. Our shoulders are up around our ears in a protective stance. Our arms are clutched in near our cores, ready for fight or flight. It is almost as if we are being pressed down by it all. And with each passing moment, we are becoming more and more stooped over, to the point where our foreheads are touching our knees. We are curled up in a ball, unable to process any more.
Then we come upon today’s Scripture. It is almost as if Luke understood how we were feeling. It is almost as if Luke realized we were buckling under the pressure, buckling under the burdens we carry. It is almost as if Luke knew the weight we are carrying emotionally, spiritually, physically, mentally is crushing us.
It is almost as if Luke knew we needed to be reminded that as Beloved Children of God, we have been set free, that we are called to rejoice with all the people of God, recognizing that God is walking beside us, carrying the weight of our worries and fears. It is almost as if Luke knew we needed to be reminded that as disciples, we are called to experience the joy of liberation which can only be experienced through the love and grace of God.
Or let me say it this way…We hear in our Scripture today that Jesus is teaching in the synagogue. He takes notice of this woman, calls her over and heals her. Nothing unusual or dramatic here. This is not the first time nor is it the last time that Jesus heals, nor is it the first or last time that he heals in a synagogue. So why does Luke share this story when no other Gospel does? Where’s the drama? What makes this story so special? And to answer these questions, we have to understand that the concern, the drama, the uproar comes not because Jesus healed but because Jesus healed on the Sabbath, a sacred day, a day of rest.
The leadership of the church is in an uproar. “Jesus, you can’t do that. Don’t you know it is the Sabbath, a day of rest? Don’t you know that there are rules? Jesus, come back tomorrow and heal her then she’ll be in the same condition tomorrow. Tomorrow is a better day. She waited eighteen years to be healed. What’s one day more?”
Jesus responds by saying, “The Kingdom of God doesn’t work that way. The Kingdom of God doesn’t take a day of rest. The Kingdom of God doesn’t care about the rules or regulations. All the Kingdom of God cares about is that a child of God is hurting and in need of care.” The Kingdom of God will not wait because there is no better time than right now for the Good News, there is no better time than right now for this child of God to be healed, there is no better time than right now for this child of God to be made whole.
You see, God’s Kingdom isn’t about rules and regulations. God’s kingdom is about being freed right here, right now, at this moment to experience God’s love and God’s graces. There is no proper or improper time for this because it is always the right time for the freeing news of the Kingdom of God.
Through this woman’s healing and restoring her ability to stand straight again after eighteen years, Jesus is challenging us to think outside the box. He is challenging us to let go of the things that prevent us from becoming the people that God created us to be for those are things that truly weigh us down. Jesus is challenging us to see that we have created a system that has become burdensome rather than life-giving and life-renewing. Jesus is challenging us to open our eyes and see that the Kingdom of God is about freeing all of God’s people from the things that bind them, that oppress them. It is about removing the things that prevent us from becoming the people that God created us to be. God’s Kingdom is not about rules and regulations. It is about making God’s children whole and letting them experience God’s grace and God’s love.
In our Scripture today, Jesus is inviting us “to break the bonds of our rules and regulations, to break the bonds of our empty obligations so that we might become authentic proclaimers of the Good News and truly experience the freedom, release and recovery of God’s Kingdom here on earth.
When Jesus heals this woman, she becomes an example of someone who truly lives as a freed child of God. She rejoices. She is made whole. She finds peace. She is restored. She is renewed. She celebrates that she is a Beloved Child of God. She remembers that God is with her all the time, holding her in the palm of God’s hand, that God made her whole.
And that is the Good News for all of us. We are free and God has made us whole. We are free, free to rejoice, free to share the Good News, free to say we worship our God, we serve our community, we love our neighbors as God loves because God has made us whole. We can proclaim that the faith we live out is not filled with empty rules and regulations. We can proclaim that the faith we live out is not a religious obligation. We can proclaim that we do all these things as people because we have experienced, we have known, we have been transformed by a God who loves us so much that God sent God’s only son so that we might live.
This day and all days, as people of faith, we can proclaim that this world with all its brokenness, with all its pain, with all its hurt, with all its violence, with all its injustice does not have the last word. We can proclaim that weight which is made up from the problems of this world will not break us because we know that our God is still at work in our lives, bringing us healing, bringing us hope, bringing us wholeness so that all may know the grace and love of God.
See also: Theology Tuesday for Sunday, August 21, 2022 – Set Free Luke 13: 10-17.
This sermon is also available as a podcast.