Monthly Archives: June 2018

Detours & Interruptions

21-24 After Jesus crossed over by boat, a large crowd met him at the seaside. One of the meeting-place leaders named Jairus came. When he saw Jesus, he fell to his knees, beside himself as he begged, “My dear daughter is at death’s door. Come and lay hands on her so she will get well and live.” Jesus went with him, the whole crowd tagging along, pushing and jostling him.

25-29 A woman who had suffered a condition of hemorrhaging for twelve years—a long succession of physicians had treated her, and treated her badly, taking all her money and leaving her worse off than before—had heard about Jesus. She slipped in from behind and touched his robe. She was thinking to herself, “If I can put a finger on his robe, I can get well.” The moment she did it, the flow of blood dried up. She could feel the change and knew her plague was over and done with.

30 At the same moment, Jesus felt energy discharging from him. He turned around to the crowd and asked, “Who touched my robe?”

31 His disciples said, “What are you talking about? With this crowd pushing and jostling you, you’re asking, ‘Who touched me?’ Dozens have touched you!”

32-33 But he went on asking, looking around to see who had done it. The woman, knowing what had happened, knowing she was the one, stepped up in fear and trembling, knelt before him, and gave him the whole story.

34 Jesus said to her, “Daughter, you took a risk of faith, and now you’re healed and whole. Live well, live blessed! Be healed of your plague.”

35 While he was still talking, some people came from the leader’s house and told him, “Your daughter is dead. Why bother the Teacher any more?”

36 Jesus overheard what they were talking about and said to the leader, “Don’t listen to them; just trust me.”

37-40 He permitted no one to go in with him except Peter, James, and John. They entered the leader’s house and pushed their way through the gossips looking for a story and neighbors bringing in casseroles. Jesus was abrupt: “Why all this busybody grief and gossip? This child isn’t dead; she’s sleeping.” Provoked to sarcasm, they told him he didn’t know what he was talking about.

40-43 But when he had sent them all out, he took the child’s father and mother, along with his companions, and entered the child’s room. He clasped the girl’s hand and said, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Little girl, get up.” At that, she was up and walking around! This girl was twelve years of age. They, of course, were all beside themselves with joy. He gave them strict orders that no one was to know what had taken place in that room. Then he said, “Give her something to eat.”  (Mark 5:21-43. The Message  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson)

It had been an impossible week.  The pastor sat at her desk. pressed to get that sermon written.  It was Friday, the day she usually set aside for her sabbath day of rest.  But, this particular Friday found her in her office madly typing away on her computer.  She was behind due to no fault of her own; she’d officiated two funerals that week.  One funeral always takes its toll; more than one and you’re emotional toast.

Which is why she was sitting in her office behind a closed door working madly to get ready for Sunday.  A tap on the door startled her and the office administrator stepped inside.

“Pastor, someone is here to see you.  They need to talk to you.”

She lifted her eyes from the computer screen and snapped, “Can’t you see I’m busy!  Tell them to come back on Monday.”  And she returned her gaze to the monitor in front of her.  The administrator quietly closed the door and proceeded down the hall to deliver the message.

The minister sat back in her chair, removed her glasses and rubbed her tired eyes.  What’s wrong with this picture? she asked herself.  I’m writing a sermon on sympathy and compassion, for heaven’s sake.  She stood up, took a deep breath and headed down the hall to see her visitor.

Jesus is busy: preaching and teaching; healing; exorcising demons; calming storms at sea.  Sleep comes easily to him.  Yet, he must be worn out from the crowds desperate for healing; desperate to be made well so they can enter back into society.  As they return from Gentile territory across the Sea of Galilee, he sees the crowds arriving.  Barely out of the boat, he’s surrounded and begins teaching.

Jairus is a synagogue leader, probably well-to-do, respected by his peers.  Despite his stature in the local community, he can’t save his daughter from dying.  Having run out of ideas, he hears that Jesus has arrived.  Maybe he can help.  It’s their last chance; she’ll be dead by sundown.

He makes his way to the sea, pushing his way through the crowd.  An elbow stops him here while others give him dirty looks.  Finally, he faces Jesus and falls to his knees.  “My little daughter is dying.  Please come and lay your hands on her.  Please heal her!”  Tears fall down his face as he looks up into Jesus’ face.

Possibly mid-sentence in his talk, Jesus stops and allows the interruption to detour him.  He takes Jairus by the arm and together they head into town.  There’s no time to lose.

They pass by a woman.  Dirty, smelly.  She wasn’t always that way.  At one time she had wealth and respect.  But when the bleeding began she went to one doctor after another.  They took her money and did nothing to relieve her agony.  She’s ritually unclean; how she craves to enter the synagogue and worship like she used to!

Just then, Jesus strides by following Jairus closely so as not to lose him.  The crowds are following him and she is pushed aside, falling to the ground.  Looking at Jesus passing by she thinks, “If only…”

“All I need do is touch his clothing.  That wouldn’t make him unclean, would it?  Just a touch and I know I’ll be healed.”

She scrambles to her feet and rushes after him, slipping through the crowd.  She’ll never understand how she managed to get close enough to him, but she does.  She has to run to keep up with his long strides.  And then her opportunity comes and she carefully reaches out to touch his prayer shawl.

Miraculously it works!  She stops where she is and the crowds pass her by as she feels something happening in her body.  It’s happened!  It’s really happened!  She knows she’s healed.  It worked!

Jesus, on the way to heal a dying child stops.  A detour on the way to an interruption.

“Who touched me?”  He’s not angry.  He’s curious.  He felt power leave him.  He wants to know who received that power.

“Really?” his disciples ask him.  “The crowds are pushing and jostling us around.  How can you ask who touched you?”

With great faith and not a little fear and trembling, the now healed woman approaches and falls to her knees, much like Jairus had done earlier.  In short sentences filled with awe, she shares her story.  She gazes up into those eyes of his and sees, not derision or anger, but compassion and love.  Oh, how she has craved these for twelve years!

“Daughter,” Jesus says as he bends to touch her.  Daughter.  A child of God, belonging once again.  As the tears course down her face, Jesus says to her, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

Jesus has had two interruptions and has taken two detours.  His love and compassion continue unaltered.  As he turns to walk with Jairus, once again he sees what he assumes are friends and colleagues of Jairus.  “She’s gone, Jairus.  She died just a few minutes ago.  Come on home.  Let’s not trouble the teacher any further.”

Jesus gazes on Jairus’ weary face.  “Don’t fear. Only believe.”

Isn’t that what he said yesterday when the boats were being tossed around on the sea? Don’t fear.  Not because there’s nothing to be afraid of; there’s plenty and to spare.  Don’t fear, because God is never too busy to hear and respond to our fears.

Okay, I hear your question: what about all those who pray for healing and die, anyway.  Is that God’s will?  Does God help some people and not others?  Or perhaps they didn’t have enough faith.

I don’t know what God’s plan is.  I don’t know why some people die and others don’t.  Perhaps some of it is due to our modern miracle of medicine.  Yet, other times, people come through and survive the in-survivable.

With prayer, comes healing.  Not always in the form we desire and crave.  But, what I’ve seen are acts of faith that reach beyond physical healing.  I’ve seen intense anger replaced with peace and acceptance.  I’ve seen disappointment turned into a continuing awareness of God’s presence.  I’ve experienced grace in the midst of difficult times; grace that carried me until I could land on my feet again.

Prayer and mustard seed faith makes a difference, to all involved.  Healing occurs in so many ways.  Sometimes it comes through us.

And maybe you’ve been a part of the healing.  When you allowed a detour or an interruption to take hold of you and you found yourself in the grocery aisle visiting with a stranger.  Did you even realize that you had said just the right thing?  Or that time you were waiting for those new tires to be installed.  You and a stranger began sharing notes on that cancer surgery you survived.  You can’t remember how you got on that particular subject!  And you didn’t notice the man sitting quietly, apparently reading a magazine, but his complete focus and attention on your conversation.  His healing began in terms of peace as he faced that same surgery tomorrow.

When have you been interrupted?  When have you taken detours?

I don’t know why I headed to my favorite book store that day.  I was at loose ends and needed something to do.  An hour later I walked out the door with nothing and literally bumped into a friend I hadn’t seen in years.  We stood outside the store catching up on the years and I found myself sharing my worry and concern over my son’s poor decisions.  I don’t remember what she said, but for weeks and months after that her words stayed with me.  Every time the worry and angst made an appearance, her words put a stop to them and I could give it to God.  And when I shared that with her a few months later she said, “I think God directed me to that store that day, because I didn’t even bother going in.  After we finished talking I got in my car and drove away!”

Detours on the way to interruptions.  Jesus had them.  We all have them.  What’s important is what we do with them.

Or, as the song goes, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.”  People are watching and waiting.  And those you watch have a hurt or pain somewhere.  Maybe it’s in the past, but often it’s right this minute.  You can make a difference by noticing that they’re there.  It’s easy to see the Jairus’, but even easier to pass by the invisible woman with the hemorrhage.  Even Jesus didn’t notice her at first.

Who is God putting in your path?  Open your eyes.  Take the detour.  Allow the interruption.  Give God the credit.  Let God work through you.

All glory and honor be to God.

Amen.

 

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Fear Factor

35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37 A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”  (Mark 4:35-41 NRSV)

“Teacher, don’t you care…?”

We ask that question all too often.

“I’m sick of being sick.  Don’t you care?”

“Life holds no meaning for me. Don’t you care?”

“I can’t face another day of trying to make ends meet.  Don’t you care?”

“I’m dying.  Don’t you care?”

Life’s issues have the potential of leaving us breathless with fear and anxiety.  “Jesus, don’t you care?  Why are you asleep?”

Fear is the operative word here.  There’s plenty to fear in our life journey: illness, loneliness, job-related issues, rejection, money issues, failure, death.  Storms come and go just as they did on the Sea of Galilee.  They come up quickly, disturbing and frightening and agitating, only to pass on to some sort of peace and quiet.  Until the next big storm brews.

Fear is a much talked about subject in the Bible.  The phrase, “do not fear,” appears 58 times in the Bible.  There are no phrases that say, “nothing to be afraid of.”  That’s because there’s plenty to be afraid of.

Jesus knows all about fear.  He walked with us for a time, watching us cower from storms and lashing waves.  Jesus didn’t fear, though.  Notice he’s asleep in the stern.  It’s an almost comical scene: Jesus asleep on a cushion, smiling a bit as he rests up from a tiring day. The scene switches to the outside where the boat is being tossed about, the wind is howling, water is coming in the boat faster than the disciples can bail it out.  They shout instructions to each other and can’t be heard for the noise of the wind.

Finally, they get Jesus.  They could use another hand bailing out water.  And there they find him, sound asleep with not a worry in the world.  “Don’t you care?! We’re drowning out there!”

Jesus awakens and in a quick moment quiets the storm and hushes the wind.  Just like that.  As quickly as the storm arrived, it’s gone and peace settles on the motley boats.  Wet and dripping, the disciples’ mouths hang open and they stare at Jesus as if they’ve just met him for the first time.  And perhaps they have.  This man has power to heal sickness; he preaches and teaches with authority and eloquence.  There are others who can do that.  But, this particular man has power over creation.

“Who is this man?”

We can ask that question, as well.  Who is this man who came to earth as a fragile, baby?  Who is this man who defied Caesar and his minions?  Who is this man who brought common sense to God’s word?  Who is this man who preached the good news of God’s reign where there is no longer illness, death, lack of food, poverty or Caesars?  Who is this man who has power over storms?

The tree stood 55 to 60 feet tall.  It was way too tall for the yard and was showing signs of dying.  It was time to have it cut down before it came down on the houses nearby.  The only way to cut it down was with ropes and chain saws.  One man climbed the tree and three others were on the ground using ropes to guide the branches and limbs to safety.  Finally, the trunk was ready to cut.

They wrapped their ropes around it, the chain saws went to work and the trunk was ready to be laid down on the ground.  Suddenly a rope began to give.  One of the men yelled, “RUN!” and the foreman ran.  The tree missed him by inches.  On the ground lay a six-foot trunk some 36″ in diameter, weighing not 100’s but 1,000’s of pounds.  It lay across the fire pit and a hedge, both utterly destroyed.  It missed the house by inches.

The men, so used to trees and the unpredictability of cutting them down, simply stared.  They couldn’t move for a long time.  Fear set in at what could have happened.  The foreman missed injury and possible death; the workers also remained uninjured; the house was in tact.  The owner sent them home for the day, telling them not to return for a few days.  They needed time and some simple jobs to get through this experience.

That moment of fear was palpable.  It was real.  Someone could have died.  They will dream about it for a long time.  This isn’t a time to say, “There’s nothing to be afraid of.”  Because there is plenty to fear.

Our faith speaks to fear.  It acknowledges that there’s plenty to fear, but it doesn’t have the final word.  We don’t have to succumb to fear’s power.

When the angels met the shepherds with news of the Messiah’s birth, they said, “Fear not.”  Emmanuel, “God with Us” had come to earth.  When the women were met at the empty tomb, the message wasn’t, “There’s nothing to be afraid of.”  Fearsome issues weren’t going to disappear.  But, Emmanuel, “God with Us” had conquered death.

The storms are out there and some of them have your name on them.  “Do not be afraid.”  The sea will get rough and toss us about.  “Do not be afraid.”  God is with us.

I’m reminded of Job who complained to God for many long chapters.  Finally, God spoke.  Out of a whirlwind, no less.  “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” (Job 38:2) And I’m put in my place as a human speaking with the all powerful God and I’m ready to listen.

I listen to Isaiah’s message from God:

But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.  (Isaiah 43:1-2a)

Isaiah clearly acknowledges that we pass through high waters and rivers and baptisms by fire.  The message is: “I am with you, a calming and peace-filled presence.  I will not dessert you.”

I listen to Paul’s words from his Letter to the Romans, one of his last as he faced execution:

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.  (Romans 5:1-5  Italics mine)

“…suffering produces endurance…produces character…produces hope…”

Be not afraid, for Jesus has your back.

No matter what.

All glory and honor be to God.

Amen.


Hide & Seek

26 He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27 and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28 The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”

30 He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; 34 he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

I have a very nice garden.  It’s not of my doing.  The former owner of my home did a wonderful job of planting trees and shrubs in my front and back yards.  Gazing on them brings joy to my heart.

Until I see those weeds.  I think it’s called ground ivy.  It grows quickly.  Once a week I go through the gardens, pulling out ivy.  It grows out of the ground and wraps itself around the branches of the Rose of Sharon and the Crepe Myrtles.  The following week they return, larger than ever.  This time peeking up through the middle of the azalea bushes.  Just when I think I’ve gotten it all, I turn a corner and discover them growing up the chain link fence.

They haunt my dreams.  Their leaves wave in the wind as if to taunt me.  I’ve spray them with a homemade, non-toxic weed killer.  They grow back bigger and stronger.  I gave up and used a popular toxic weed killer.  They grow back bigger and stronger.

They are truly amazing plants, not just because of the speed of their growth.  They wrap themselves around branches and it’s hard to tell where the ivy ends and the branch begins.  They’re equally amazing in how they sneak up on me.  I think I’ve gotten everything pulled, only to discover a big one I totally missed.

At first, I compared them to Jesus’ mention in John, “I am the vine, you are the branches.”  Theologically, it fits.  In our best moments, it’s hard to see where we end and Jesus begins.

But, really, isn’t this a kingdom metaphor?

A farmer throws some seed in the ground.  A bit of water, a dose of sun and up they come.  The farmer sleeps and awakens to growth.  He has no idea about the chemical process of growth.  He doesn’t know about photosynthesis.  He only knows that if he throws the seeds in the ground, the seeds will grow.  Eventually, the crop will be ready for the harvest and he’ll take a sickle to it.

Then we have the mustard seed.  I’m told that the mustard is a bush, not a tree.  It grows to be huge, it’s branches all over the place.  But, animals find homes in its branches.

I’m not all that familiar with mustard and I’m not a farmer.  But, I know about ground ivy and here’s what I’ve observed.  It grows so quickly I barely notice it.  It grows so quickly I can’t keep up with it.  It’s fragile and strong.  It won’t be stopped.  Nothing gets in its way; it simply wraps itself around the obstacle and continues growing.

Its leaves are small to begin with, but the more it grows the bigger they get.  This hearty ivy grows well after a good rain, but drought won’t stop it.  It gets in the way of my other trees and bushes’ growth.  It makes everything look different and messy.

Meanwhile, the birds of the air set up their nests and the squirrels love to play in the branches which are surrounded completely by ivy.

For all the fighting I do with it, I admire it.  Nothing stops it.  I’m absolutely convinced that if we suffer a nuclear holocaust, the cockroach will survive side by side with the ground ivy.

And maybe that’s what the kingdom of God is about.  It grows while we’re busy doing “important” work.  It grows whether we like or not, whether we care or not.  When evil attempts to uproot it, it starts over, growing intrepidly.  Nothing can stop it completely.  When it runs into obstacles, it wraps itself around it and moves on.

The kingdom isn’t the least intimidated by the powers of modern day Caesars.  It’s seen power come and go for thousands of years.  God’s kingdom is in the business of taking over the Caesars of history.

The kingdom is hidden, grows like a ground ivy or mustard bush.

The kingdom hosts the nations of the world in its boughs.  They find shelter in the kingdom.  It grows automatically.  God does the work, despite humanity’s best efforts to kill it.

Most of all, the kingdom is close by.  It’s a certain thing in our lives of uncertainty.  The kingdom continues to grow, and will come to fruition some day.  In the meantime, we spend our days seeing it and not seeing it all at the same time.

The kingdom is a certain thing in our lives.  And we wait, with our hands on the plowshares, workers for God.

I will continue my battle with ground ivy and with little success.  But, I will give thanks that as I pull and yank at it, I can also be grateful for what it represents:  patience, hope, care, effort, preparedness of the kingdom.  It is both comforting and discomfiting.  It’s growth may be imperceptible, but the results are right there in front of us, if we have eyes to see.

Most of all, that intrepid ivy represents grace.

Unconditional, undeserved, misunderstood.

Grace.

All glory and honor be to God.

Amen.


Choose Life

23 One sabbath he was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” 25 And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? 26 He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.” 27 Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; 28 so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.” Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him. (Mark 2:23-3:6 NRSV)

Jesus has just begun his ministry and he’s in trouble already.  I suppose that’s what Savior’s are for, aren’t they?  He understands the journey he’s taken on and time is of the essence in Mark’s Gospel.  Jesus wastes no time: there’s ministry to be done and a message to spread.  It’s going to upset the status quo.  So be it.

There’s a lot in these few verses: politics and culture vs. sabbath rest.

Someone came to see me in my office a few years ago.  It seems that she was considering entering seminary but she was concerned about something: church politics.  Politics exists no matter where you are.  It’s what makes the world go ’round.  You can use your political expertise for good or for evil.

Jesus is making his way through a grainfield.  He’s having to work at it: that’s unlawful on the Sabbath.  His disciples pick a few grains to munch on as they move through it: that’s unlawful on the Sabbath.  There are men of God watching Jesus’ every move.  Don’t you wonder what they’ve left behind in the office or the mission field?  It seems that the most important thing they have to do is follow Jesus and trap him.

They’ve taken the law from a gift from God to a legalism used to trap and punish the offenders.  Torah is a living document, much like our U.S. Constitution.  It’s meant to be read within the context of the culture so that humanity can follow God and live well.  These particular religious leaders are hanging on to the status quo for dear life.  That is their idol.  Any change from what is being done must be stopped at all costs.

When have you been a legalistic Pharisee?  Not all of them were that way.  In fact, some were friends of Jesus.  Legalistic keepers of the law often need compassion.  They’re hanging on to the past unable to adapt to change.  Change can be scary and it moves far more quickly today than it did 200 years ago.  Or even 50 years ago.

Traditions get lost in change.  Routines that were once life-giving and life-enhancing often become life-taking.  Churches suffer over this.  “We’ve always done it this way” are the deadly words of the church.  Leaders must ask often, “why are we doing it this way?  Is it life-giving or soul-sucking?”

As we age, we watch our friends and colleagues pass away.  That is the ultimate change, because we’ll never see them again in this life.  We grieve their presence and missed opportunities.  Young people come along taking what we call change as normal and making it work.  It annoys us because, “these young people don’t know the traditions.”

Legalistic Pharisees hang on to the status quo for another reason: holding on to their own privileged status.  It’s pretty cool being at the top of the mountain.  And when climbers get too close, we push them down and keep them down because we refuse to imagine a life sharing the top with others.

Jesus loved the law.  He made it clear that he didn’t come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.  He understood Torah (Law) to be a gift of God for the people of God.  It was meant to enhance life and to set apart the worshipers of God as an example of how to live right.

His indictment of legalism was direct and straight-forward.  In this text, he was criticized for traveling and gleaning and healing on the Sabbath.  He points to David, who used the holy bread set aside for the priests to feed himself and his companions.  No, his disciples weren’t starving.  But, they would have been if they hadn’t taken some of the grain to eat.

What really upsets Jesus, though, is the scene in the synagogue.  A man with a withered hand can’t work or take care of his family, if he has one.  He’s a drain on society rather than a contributor to it.  Yes, he could have waited a few hours until sunset to heal the man.  But, his question rings true today: “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath?”

Healing that man in the synagogue in the presence of God was a sacred moment.  A time to respect humanity, to affirm life through healing, to hold life before God.

But, when we’re upset and can’t see compassion for what it is, we get angry and we want to hurt.  Jesus has barely begun his ministry and already the legalists are plotting with their political enemies, the Herodians, to destroy him.  It’s a shame.

What these law-abiding Pharisees need is a day off.  A complete and total sabbath rest.

What does Sabbath rest mean to you?  Perhaps a nap, or enjoying a hobby.  Lunch with friends and family.  A day to relax: read, listen to music, take a long walk.  Good start!  (Especially the nap!)

It occurred to me this week that Adam and Eve were created and immediately had a Sabbath rest.  Hm.  That’s significant.  But, that’s only the beginning. We read in two different places in the Old Testament about God’s insistence on us taking Sabbath rest.

First, because God rested after six days of creation.  God rested from work to enjoy what God had created.  Sabbath rest is a holy time that we take to remember God’s creative activity and to enjoy it.  That walk you take is a reminder of that creative activity and an opportunity to enjoy it and honor it and preserve it.

Second, it was to be a reminder that we were slaves in Egypt where we worked seven days a week with no rest.  Sabbath rest is meant for everyone: slave and free, man and woman, children and even work animals.  When we take Sabbath rest, we are reminded of our own liberation from captivity and slavery.

Slavery to jobs or the almighty dollar.  Slavery to idols that get between us and God.  Slavery to the false prophets who announce what is wrong with the world and how they’re going to fix it.

In this text, Jesus is reminding everyone who is listening, including you and I, that the Sabbath is meant for liberation and restoration.  Watching how others treat the Sabbath is just as unlawful as not honoring the Sabbath at all.

What do you need?  A nap? Rest? How about time alone with Jesus?  Time with scripture.  Prayer time.

What do you need?  How do you care for yourself on your Sabbath rest day?  How can you return thanks to God for all God has done for you?

First step: take a nap!  Rest.  Enjoy the fact that you’re alive.  Revel in doing nothing or doing something that you don’t do the rest of the week.

Second step: give the legalists some compassion.  They’re all tied up.  Invite them for a rest from everything.  Invite them to relax.

All glory and honor be to God.

Amen.

 


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