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08.25.19 Persistence of Faith Luke 13.10-17 Sermon Summary

by on August 26, 2019

There are three ways people approach their spiritual life within a faith community. They’re known as Three R’s.

The first R is exemplified by the Leader of the Synagogue when Jesus was teaching on the Sabbath. The Leader is preoccupied with Rules. Rules are useful in that they help us manage large amounts of information, expedite complex processes, offer guidance, and provide protection. And leaders are responsible for enforcing rules to the benefit of people and organizations.

The second R is exemplified by the Bound Woman, and it is the practice of Religion. Sabbath after Sabbath, this woman has come to religious services. For eighteen years she has been afflicted, yet she had persistent faith in religion.

On this Sabbath, I wonder what Jesus might have been teaching? If it was not ON the Sabbath, it was DURING the Sabbath, and so Sabbath would have been on his mind. It’s not hard to imagine that on the Sabbath Jesus would have Isaiah 58:13-14 in his mind.

“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; then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth.”

What is the point of the Sabbath? Is it just a Rule? Is it just a practice of Religion? Or is it more? From the two places where the Sabbath is commanded we learn the two primary reasons for it. One is to cease working, and the other is attending to the Kingdom of God.

Jesus came to offer insight into the Kingdom of God. He showed us that it is a place of sharing resources and responsibility among the people. In the Kingdom forgiveness replaces aggression. Peoples identity  is centered in God instead of wealth, achievement, or appearance. From Jesus’ perspective, the law of love replaces the books of laws. And people are free from bondage to power of sin.

This is what Sabbath meant to Jesus, to cease the compulsions of this World and to attend to the Kingdom of God. And here is Jesus, teaching during the Sabbath, and he sees the Bound Woman. Perhaps an earlier verse in Isaiah 58 came to his mind: “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?” (verse 6)

So Jesus offers his favorite interpretation of the prophets: “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” It’s fulfilled in our hearing because Jesus is present. He proclaims the good news of the Kingdom of God to the Bound Woman: “You are set free from your ailment.” And then he touches her.

Suddenly, after eighteen years, she is UNbound! She is unbound from Satan, which is the Bible’s shorthand way of referring to everything that opposes God. Unbound from brokenness and suffering. Unbound from religion (the root word of which means to bind).

She praises God because beyond Rules, beyond Religion, she has found Relationship with God—the third R. She has a new relationship with God thanks to Jesus Christ.

Well the Leader doesn’t like it. Citing the rules, he goes through the crowd and reminds them that there are six other days they can come to be healed. The Sabbath isn’t one of them. He saw only rules and religion, not relationship. He didn’t see a daughter of Abraham, or a mission. He saw only a problem.

And who could blame him? After eighteen years he would have recognized this woman. He could see the impact on Sabbath worship this kind of activity could have. How could they be done in an hour and beat the Baptists to brunch if Jesus heals all these people on the Sabbath? After eighteen years, what’s one more day?

Jesus’ response to all church leaders who think this way is “You are hypocrites! You don’t recognize the Kingdom of God when it comes to you.”

Today we sometimes don’t see children of God or opportunities for mission. We only see rules and religion. We don’t see families desperate for peace and prosperity; we see immigration laws. We don’t see parents grieving for their slain children, or people grieving for their lost limbs; we see our constitutional right to own assault rifles and high capacity magazines. We don’t see the disproportionate rates of incarceration or suicide among some segments of our society; we think the law is blind with regards to skin color or sexual identity.

When say we follow Jesus but live in rules and religion instead of relationship we are hypocrites also. And like the Leader of the Synagogue we are put to shame by those who actually live according to Jesus’ example.

Jesus isn’t anti rules or religion. He observed Sabbath, after all. But when rules and religion get in the way of relationship, Jesus has to find another path to the ones he wants to save—a path that goes around our rules and religion.

May we be more like the crowds that day who recognized what Jesus was doing and rejoiced. May we be less like the Leader, citing rules to maintain our religion. May we be more like the Woman who was persistent in faith until she experienced her liberation.

Jesus didn’t always touch the people he healed, but he touched this woman. Maybe she was hesitant to stand straight after eighteen years of being hunched over, after eighteen years of delayed answer to prayer. So he touches her and helps her straighten up. He made his proclamation of the Kingdom real.

By touching her he restored her back to community. He provided communion with God and with the people of God. And he still touches us today, making real the proclamation of the Kingdom, and providing this same communion. He comes to us in the bread and cup of the Lord’s Table. Come to the Table with whatever heaviness is weighing you down—even eighteen years’ worth—and receive the grace of the Kingdom to help you.

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