Monday, August 26, 2013


          Have you ever been held captive? I mean, have you ever been held down by someone or something for so long that, with tears in your eyes, you begged them or it or God to give you some relief?
          If you haven’t, then you probably never had an older brother or sister or cousin or a bully at school who liked to hear you beg for mercy.
          Maybe you haven’t ever been physically restrained but have you been enslaved by a job you hated or a physical ailment that restricted you or an emotional trauma that had you in its clutches or maybe you’ve not been allowed to do something you desired to do because of some prohibition by the laws of our country.
          If you’ve experienced any of these restraints then you may have some idea how this crippled woman in today’s gospel felt.
          These restraints, these restrictions are about us not being able or allowed to do something that we really wanted to do, and believed, was our right to be able to do.
          We understand all that but what if this parable was about more than the things which bind us physically, mentally, and emotionally? What if it was about unbinding, releasing the Sabbath?
          You’re probably asking, “How can the Sabbath be bound?” That’s a valid question. How could the Sabbath be restricted or bound?
          In the gospel lesson for today Luke tells first about the women who had come to the Temple who had been suffering from this arthritic condition for 18 years. For 18 years she hadn’t been able to stand up straight and look people squarely in the face.
          But on this day Jesus changed all that when he said, “Woman, you’re free!” She straightened up immediately. She was able to stand tall and all she could do was give God all the glory and praise.
          But there were those in the Temple who weren’t celebrating her freedom. There were rules for what people could do on the Sabbath and being healed was one of the things that were allowed, apparently. After all there were six other days of the week that she could have come to the Temple and Jesus could have healed here without causing the Temple religious folks any grief. At least that’s what they’d have us believe.
          But, Jesus didn’t interpret the law that way. If anyone could untie their donkey or ox and lead them to feed and water on the Sabbath then, in his eyes, this woman could also be released of her bonds on the Sabbath. Wasn’t she of more worth than these beasts of burden?
          So, how do we have the Sabbath bound? Do we have rules, written and unwritten, that put restrictions on our Sabbath?
          Maybe we should ask, “Why is the Sabbath so sacred that the religious leaders of Jesus’ day were upset when he healed this woman?” Why did they hold the Sabbath as a holy day? What made it so special?
          We first hear about the Sabbath in Exodus 20:8 when the Israelites were told to keep it holy because in six days God created the heavens and the earth and on the seventh he rested. The other OT passage that explains the Sabbath is found in Deuteronomy as it recalls the story of the Exodus from Egypt and their release from slavery by God. In chapter 6:20 Moses says to the people, “When your children ask you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the decrees and the statutes and the ordinances that the Lord our God has commanded you?’ then you are to say to your children, “We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. The Lord displayed before our eyes great and awesome signs and wonders against Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his household. He brought us out from there in order to bring us in, to give us the land that he promised on oath to our ancestors. Then the Lord commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our lasting good, so as to keep us alive, as is now the case. If we diligently observe this entire commandment before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, we will be in the right.”
          I believe this is what Jesus was referring to when he is telling the Pharisees that it’s right to release this woman from her bondage on the Sabbath. Jesus reminds them that they untie and lead their livestock to feed and water and wouldn’t think twice about it. Therefore isn’t humanity of greater importance than cattle and donkeys?
          So, the question for us is why is the Sabbath sacred or important for us? Who may come to worship or who may we encounter on the Sabbath that might need our help to be released from their bondage?
          Now, some of you may be remembering back to the days when there were more restrictions on Sunday activities. Stores were closed. There weren’t very many gas stations open. People went to worship and then spent time with their families and maybe even went back to church for Sunday evening study and worship.
          I read this week about play ground equipment that was padlocked so that the children couldn’t play on it until Monday. Do our Sunday’s feel like that today?
          Doesn’t it sound like Jesus is granting us the freedom and liberty to look for those who desperately need to freed and liberated from their bonds?
          Every Sunday we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, every Sunday is a little Easter celebration, a reminder of how God has liberated us from the bonds of death and given us a new life in Jesus Christ. Is this how you feel every Sunday?
          Let’s, this week, look for opportunities to help someone be free. Let’s see if we can cut the ropes that are binding them and keeping them from experiencing the joy of being released from their burdens. This is the good news that needs to be proclaimed throughout the whole world.

          Thanks be to God for grace. Amen.

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