8/21/2016 Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost The text is Luke 13:10-17.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
It wasn’t until the early summer of his first year that Jason Court felt really fed up with his new school. Until then he’d rather enjoyed it, even with all its rules and regulations, but in the unexpected heatwave of early summer, his patience cracked. The school rules clearly stated that school blazers must be worn at all times, unless permission was given to remove them, by a member of staff. One day, when all the classroom windows were open but the temperature was nearing 80 degrees, Jason took off his blazer and hung it carefully on the back of his chair. It was unfortunate that he chose Mr. Hobbs’ lesson. “Court!” thundered Mr. Hobbs. “What do you think you’re doing? Put that blazer on immediately!” “But Sir,” protested Jason, “it’s so hot. I’m afraid I might faint if I keep it on.” The class tittered appreciatively, but Mr. Hobbs was not amused. His face turned very red. He stood over Jason, very close to him, and hissed at him, “Don’t you cheek me, boy! Get that blazer on. How dare you break the school rules!” Jason wasn’t sure what made him do it, but he said loudly and clearly, “No.” The class gasped, and waited in excited anticipation to see what would happen next. Mr. Hobbs seethed. “Get out, and take your blazer with you. I’ll see you after school for an hour’s detention. We’ll see if that’ll cool you down.” Jason got out, and lay on the school field in the sun until break, when half the school crowded around him clearly regarding him as something of a hero. He was determined not to wear his blazer again that day. But as it happened, it was so hot that the rest of the staff invited all the class to remove their blazers anyway. (Jason’s Stand – Children’s story/sermon by Janice Scott based on Luke 13:10-17 from The Village Shepherd)
By this time, you may be wondering if I chose to share with you a children’s story entitled Jason’s Stand to begin my sermon as an invitation for you to get more comfortable in the heat of this summer. But, then, I know I don’t need to give you permission to dress down – common sense tells you what to do – just like common sense tells Jason what to do, and the same common sense, tempered by love, tells Jesus what to do when a crippled woman who is unable to stand straight, enters the synagogue on the Sabbath.
Now the Sabbath is a day of rest and there are rules regarding the Sabbath, rules that don’t seem to apply to us today. Those rules can be condensed into two basic regulations – worship is in; work is out. And rules are rules. Good and faithful Jews obey the Sabbath law whether those rules make common sense or not, or whether everyone, including the leaders of synagogue, live strictly by them or not. Rules are rules, and if they are broken, they are not broken in a public place like the synagogue. But when Jesus notices the crippled woman entering the synagogue and has compassion for her, this goes out the window.
Upfront and unashamedly, Jesus speaks, lays hands on the woman and she is made free from her ailment. In her new found freedom, the woman stands upright and praises the God who does not ignore her in her distress, but who touches her with the power of compassion and grace.
Of course, by healing the woman, Jesus breaks the rule of thou shalt not do work on the Sabbath – for, healing someone is considered work. So, the leaders of the synagogue complain mightily for they do not understand that the law of love trumps Sabbath restrictions. They do not understand that the Sabbath is a gift of God’s grace. It is meant to help us to remember who we are and to enable us to give praise to God. For we have a God who is known by his love and compassion, his mercy and grace. So, all the commandments can be condensed to loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself. That’s how Jesus sums them up. Love is the key…for it does no wrong. Love takes precedence over rules and regulations.
The Sabbath is part of the love commandment and as such there is no excuse for ignoring the needs of those who suffer on this or any day. Some rules need to be challenged and Jesus does just that. Doing the will of his Father on every day of the week and not turning a blind eye to suffering in order to follow the rules that fly in the face of common sense, that is what Jesus is all about. Jesus shows us what love is for us and what it means for us in our lives.
So while the story of Jason and the story of Jesus are very different, they do have something in common in that they challenge rules that fly in the face of common sense. Of course, the Jason story deals with a minor infraction doesn’t end the same way as the story of Jesus. Why I don’t even know if Jason has to do an hour’s detention for his disobedience. But, I do know that Jesus’ stretching of the rules so angers and threatens those in leadership that they want him dead. And true to his calling to love and care for the people, Jesus accepts the consequences of his actions and takes our sin with him to the cross in order to free us to be the people that God created us to be.
So, like the woman whom Jesus heals on the Sabbath, we have a lot to be thankful for. We are to give praise and thanksgiving to the Lord of our salvation, knowing that Jesus goes the extra mile for us, even if it means challenging well-worn rules and regulations. Jesus will always be there for the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. The Sabbath is God’s gift to us who need to find our rest in Christ.
So enjoy today, my friends, and may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.