10 Now Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 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. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, "Woman, you are set free from your ailment." 13 When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. 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." 15 But the Lord answered him and said, "You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath set free his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? 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?" 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.
The Gospel of the Lord
Did you see that woman? The bent over one. Jesus is calling to her. How did he even see her in this place? I don’t know… but she’s coming to Jesus. Look! Jesus is placing his hands on her. She’s standing up straight! How can it be? Praise the Lord!
That’s what I would have expected the conversation would be after Jesus healed the woman who had been bent over for 18 years. But the leader of the synagogue wasn’t happy. He wasn’t praising the Lord. And the problem? Jesus broke the law. Sabbath law. No work on the Sabbath – and apparently the leader of the synagogue considered healing to be work.
Sabbath laws were strong in Jesus’ day. But it wasn’t that long ago that we had so called “blue laws” in this country too and lots of other “sabbath rules.” I remember one Sunday afternoon – I must have been 6 or 8. I was just learning to knit and so I brought my knitting project to show off to my grandmother and her sisters. I expected they would be glad. Instead, Great Aunt Trina sniffed, “We don’t do work on Sunday.”
In Jesus’ day that was the rule too. We don’t DO WORK on the Sabbath. But… exceptions were made…of course. People needed to eat and animals needed to be brought to water. And so, it was permitted to untie your donkey or ox and bring it to the water.
In Greek, the word that is translated as “untie” is the same word that is translated earlier as “set free.” Jesus makes his point, using a play on words, arguing, “If you untie – that is - set free -your donkey – why not set free this woman from the bondage she has suffered for 18 years? And then he does something else – Jesus claims her – a handicapped woman, a person who would have had less status in the day – as part of God’s covenant, calling her a “daughter of Abraham.” Jesus sees her – and sets her free!
Imagine – this woman – claimed by Christ as part of God’s covenant has now been raised up to see and engage in the world around her. She was set free so that she could live life fully. But not only that – she is not only free from whatever bound her, she is also free FOR serving and engaging in the world.
Jesus has set us free too. Jesus has set us free from all that binds us and Jesus has set us free for love and service. As Jesus reminds the synagogue leader --and us -- the purpose of the Sabbath is for blessing.
That’s why Jesus “broke” the man-made rules about the Sabbath. There was a child of God before him who was in need of healing. Jesus wanted to bless that Daughter of Abraham.
This is why God gave us the Sabbath. It was given not as an obligation but as a gift, to bless us in the very beginning of Creation. The Sabbath is for rest, renewal, and regeneration, for taking time for worshipping God and for remembering our relationship to our Creator. These are all things that we need. We need rest. We need renewal. We need to build up our resilience. Taking Sabbath time is caring for your soul. And, at the same time, when we worship God, we are remembering that God is God. And we are not. Sabbath is a time for our relationship with our creator.
As a time for renewal, it readies us and helps make us resilient enough to go back out into the world, strengthened for service. Because the world needs you, as Isaiah says, to feed the hungry, care for the afflicted. The world needs you to stand up for the broken hearted. And the world needs you and me to be citizens of our world.
I have to admit that this year’s election rhetoric wearies me. It is so negative. It is tempting to disengage from the whole process.
But Jesus calls us to love God and love our neighbor. That means: we are called, by Jesus, to be engaged in this world. And so, as citizens of this community, state and country, we live out our love of our neighbor by being involved in its governance – by voting, by writing or speaking to our legislators, by working to make sure that we and our neighbors have clean water, good schools, and safe neighborhoods. As Martin Luther says in the Small Catechism, in addition to food and clothing, “good government” is one of our daily needs that we pray for every time we say, “Give us this day our daily bread.”
So…despite the election rhetoric and the pundits and all of the negativity this campaign season, or maybe because of it, I will not disengage. Instead, I’ll be praying, engaging in my community and voting.
I’m going to be praying extra this year for our electoral process. I’ll also be participating in a special worship service for Lutherans and our friends and neighbors that our Synod is sponsoring on Sept 8th. You’re invited too. We will be coming together as a synod community to remember our role as citizens this election season and to reclaim the hope we share in the risen Christ. It will be non-partisan – of course. And my hope is that it will inspire and embolden us to be willing to speak up and to speak out when our leaders need to hear our voices. Some of the rhetoric that has been spouted by candidates needs a response from the faith community. We will stay non-partisan but we may not stay silent when our brothers and sisters are attacked. I will also continue to be engaging in the community in my small role on the Chamber of Commerce, as a police chaplain and as a volunteer. There are many needs in our community. I will continue to step up to serve – and to vote and I hope that you will too.
I know that many of you are very involved in our community and in a variety of ways. Some are active in programs to feed the hungry, bring dinner at your door to shut-ins and caring for the needs of the poor. Some tutor children. Others knit or crochet prayers and mittens. Others support ministry with funds. And all of us can pray. The needs of God’s people are great and there is much that God calls us to do for our neighbor.
It is because Jesus has set us free that we can engage in all of these ways to care for the neighbor. We do not need to be afraid because we know the end of the story. Jesus has won the final victory. It is because of this that we can dare to act. Jesus has freed us to engage in the world and to live lives worth living.
And that is also why we need the gift of Sabbath. We need renewal, regeneration and a time to worship God – and spend time on our relationship with our creator. I’m really glad that you are here. Receive God’s blessing:
May this time, this Sabbath time, this hour, be a gift to you. Let this time bless you and feed you and fill you with both resilience and energy for the week to come. May this Sabbath time fill you with joy and delight so that you may be blessed and in turn, be a blessing to others. In Jesus’ name. Amen.