Saturday, September 28, 2013

You Are Free Sermon given at United Church of Beloit Aug 11, 2013

You are Free
Isaiah 58:9b-14
58:9b If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,

58:10 if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.

58:11 The LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.

58:12 Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.

58:13 If you refrain from trampling the sabbath, from pursuing your own interests on my holy day; if you call the sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs;

58:14 then you shall take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Jacob, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Luke 13:10-17
13:10 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath.
13:11 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.
13:12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, "Woman, you are set free from your ailment."
13:13 When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God.
13:14 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."
13:15 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 away to give it water?
13:16 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?"
13:17 When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.

(opening humor)
A parishioner called his minister, very angry on a Monday morning. "Pastor" He said "I tried to get you on Friday, but you weren't in." 
"It was my day off," the pastor replied.
"Day off?" the parishioner stormed. "The Devil never takes a day off."
"Well, if I didn't have a day off," the pastor rejoined, "I'd be just like him!"

This text from the Prophet Isaiah reminds the people to care for one another and to honor the Sabbath.

In our Gospel lesson, from Luke, we see Jesus teaching on the Sabbath, and some of the leaders getting upset with him, (again..) this time for performing a healing on the Sabbath!


Jesus broke with another tradition here. In the synagogues, men and women were in different areas. (today in this country, mostly that is not the case any more) So Jesus called this woman forward, most likely into the “men's area”. Can you imagine how that might have felt, to have everyone staring as you make your forward? But she went! And Jesus said to her, You Are Free.

Remember in the Ten Commandments, the 4th is “Remember the Sabbath  day by keeping it holy.” this is part of the instructions to the Hebrew people to honor God, whom they called Yahweh. The sabbath is a day of rest because after the 6 days of creation, whatever time period each of those 'days' encompassed, after all that work God rested. And people should too. God made a provision that we rest, right in with Honoring God, honor your parents, do not murder and do not covet thy neighbor's stuff.

In Jesus' time, in the Hebrew tradition, the sabbath was a Big Deal. The sabbath began at sunset Friday and went until sunset Saturday. There was to be NO work done. All the cooking had to be finished before sundown. You had a special meal, (eating is not work!) with special sabbath prayers and songs, and enjoyed a restful day on Saturday. Then at sundown, you would be renewed for a new week. In this era, the rules for this observance were followed very strictly. No work of any kind, was to be done. So the synagogue leaders complain to Jesus that he was “working” by healing this woman. And blamed her, telling her she should have come to be healed on a different day.

Jesus' response is interesting, isn't it? He calls them hypocrites, and a hypocrite is literally an actor wearing a mask, a false face. He says you hypocrites, you will untie your work animals and lead them to water on the Sabbath, that's part of your definition of work...but you care for your animals enough to break this rule. Surely this woman, a child of Abraham, is worthy of healing, no matter what day it is!

(Abraham, with whom God made the very first covenant...all Hebrew people are considered children of Abraham. (and Muslims and Christians) so he is saying, she is a child of Abraham, JUST like you... how dare YOU deny her this?

Jesus seems to be saying that care and compassion are at least as important as honoring the rules of the Sabbath. That someone who needs help is important.

I don't think he is saying 'rules are made to be broken'. I think he is saying think big picture here.

You see in this time the Hebrew people had not heard from a genuine prophet of God in 400 years. They were yearning to hear from their Yahweh, yearning to be freed from the taxation and even oppression of the Roman empire. The common belief was that they had not heard from a prophet and were struggling so because they weren't being “Good enough” So there were all these rules and regulations to follow and people eager to call you out if you slipped up just the tiniest bit! It's as if one person untying an ox on the sabbath was the SOLE reason that God was silent. And the Sabbath rules, well to disobey those is directly dishonoring God. So people became very legalistic and regimented about all the rules in their scriptures. We aren't talking just the 10 commandments, here. there are over 600 rules in the old testament, the Hebrew scriptures.

And Jesus poked holes in their legalism. Their legalist ideals are getting in the way of care and compassion for one another! For a child of Abraham! One of their very own.

He seems to be saying YOU are the ones who can only see just a little bit around you. Your focus on minutia is inhibiting your ability to look up and look around! You are ones who are bent over.

Sometimes we are all a little bit bent over. We don't look around and see the needs of others close by. We don't always remember to look at the big picture of the way Jesus lived and cared for people no matter. We forget that we are Free to look up―to Jesus.

This is one of the stories from the Gospel of Luke from Jesus' final journey to Jerusalem. He journies along, healing folks, telling many stories and talking about the Kingdom of God. And encountering leaders of that society that challenge him. There are other examples of Jesus healing on the Sabbath and talking to people over and over for their failure to put God first.

In these times, author NT Wright says,
The sabbath was the day when human time and God’s time met, when the day-to-day succession of tasks and sorrows was set aside and one entered a different sort of time, celebrating the original sabbath (when God rested) and looking forward to the ultimate one. (When we are all together in heaven-the New Jerusalem!)

The ideal for the Sabbath is the meeting point of God's time and ours. Jesus is the meeting point of God and humans. Fully human, fully divine, Jesus is where WE can begin to grasp, the infinite, omnicient, ever was, is now and ever shall be God of the universe! and we, finite, limited humans can get a sense of God's perfect love, compassion and Shalom.
Thru Jesus, God knows exactly what it's like to live in a human body, what it's like to be tired, hungry, what it feels like to hold a baby, or to slam one's thumb with a hammer. How good it feels to have someone care for you, washing your feet after a long day's journey, and how it feels to care for your friends, washing their feet.

Jesus was on his way to his destiny. To the earthly meeting point of Humankind and Creator―the Cross. On the way, he worked to convey the incredible love and compassion of God and to help us learn to follow, to honor God by sharing love and compassion to others. We are Free to do so!

Whenever we help another we are following Jesus. This is our calling! Individually and as a church. When we serve, giving a drink of water, meals, shelter, a loving ear and a shoulder to cry on, we are following Jesus. When we help with VBS, Project 16:49, Hands of Faith, Caritas, Book bag bash, when we support any local or international mission group, we are following Jesus. If we do not, we are bent over, not like the daughter of Abraham, but like those who scolded Jesus because they refused to look up to see His loving compassion.

Martin Luther King, Jr was quoted as saying, “Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” 

Jesus lived Love. We are called to do so also. The One who journeyed to the cross, did so freely. He did it so we could be free too. You are Free to choose!

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