January 27, 2013

January 27, 2013

January 27, 2013 – First Baptist Church Edmonton – Rev. Dr. Ryan Sato

Title: “The Gentle Rule[r] of Sabbath”
Text: Luke 6:1-19, GodStory Part 21 of 37.

This week we continue on the early road with Jesus, let’s say…in the first 6 months of his ministry.

Let me pause and remind us of the audacity and “ridiculous-ness” of what is happening in the county of Jerusalem. This young upstart, rejected in his hometown and starting a traveling ministry where a carpenter’s son says he is God’s son.

Could I have a 30 year old stand up?

(invite a few volunteers, see if I can find 4 thirty-year olds in the congregation!)

This is Jesus. This is Peter. This is James, this is John.
[these guys are gonna change the world!]

Would you listen to these guys if they started telling you that the “dream/kingdom of God has come near?” If they started having little meetings in community league buildings around the city, talking about the “great reversal”. The high and mighty will be made low…. The poor, the needy, the homeless will be exalted.

What would we religious people think of all this?????
Or if they came to our church meetings and said things like:
“Behold we are doing new things! Old things are passing away, the new has come! We have new wine to put in new wine skins! Your old containers are no longer useful, no longer needed… the new has come! We’re talking about streams in the deserts, a way in the wilderness! Follow us!

I hope you’ll admit that if you’re over 30, you might feel a bit suspicious. We’ve been around the block enough to know that one ought to sniff this out a bit more… we like the rules and regulations that we’ve formed for ourselves over the past decades and we’re not about to throw it all away for a young adult who is coming up with some fanciful ideas about how to live the religious life. [I’ve seen THAT before!]

THIS is the context (headspace) that I’d like to suggest that we enter into as we join Jesus on the road in today’s gospel text. . .

Today we find Jesus moving across the county with a large group of disciples…he has not yet called the 12 specifically, instead there is this larger mass of people moving with him….and included in the masses, in the midst of the “commotion” that Jesus is causing with the common people, there is a growing amount of religious folk wanting to tag along, and these people are most often called the Scribes and the Pharisees.

The gospel writer shares with us 2 sabbath-day stories. . . these are not necessarily sequentially happening over a two week period, it’s quite possible that Luke has compiled and recollected these stories to summarize a point about what it means to put oneself under the rules of Jesus VS the rules of the synagogue or the religious rulers of the day. . . .

And so the challenge for us this morning as we dwell in the world of this text/story is this:

Can we see, imagine and encounter a gentle “rule” of Sabbath, and a gentle “ruler” of Sabbath? If so, we might discover anew the feeling of freedom & grace that comes with living under/with this ruler & rule:

On one of Jesus’ Sabbath-day walks we find him with his groupies (a group of 60 people, let’s say), travelling the edge of a grainfield. The followers are tired and hungry…. Groans of “are we there yet?” and “I’m starving!” abound. . . and Jesus tells them to “walk and eat”. . . quite literally he tells them to grab some “fast food on the run!” The followers are satisfied for now…but then there is an eery silence that descends upon the crowd. . . Jesus can feel the hair bristle on the back of his neck as he senses the glaring stares from the religious folks in the crowd. Ever had that feeling? You are in a social situation and you commit a major social “faux pas”? I remember the time I was with some of my Chinese friends in a upper class restaurant… [shocked in disbelief: we’ve never seen anyone do THAT before!]

Well, in this story, the religious folks aren’t as generous as my restaurant friends – – perhaps it’s because enough of them have seen what’s been going on in the past few months. Some of them might even have been in Nazareth in the synagogue on that Sunday when Jesus read the scroll of Isaiah and had the audacity to say that YHWH had sent HIM to proclaim freedom for prisoners, recovery of sight to the blind, usher in the year of the Lord’s favour.” Hmmph! Or maybe some of them had seen Jesus showing off his healing powers and wooing /wow-ing the crowds. Most recently, some of them had even seen and heard Jesus say to some gentiles: “Friend, your sins are forgiven” (see Luke 5:20). Jesus was self-describing as the “son of Man” and these Pharisees and Scribes were in no way about to be convinced of such blasphemy.

One of the Pharisees breaks the silence….he sneers and says:
“Why are you doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?”

Jesus replies and shares a story about David! Is Jesus now saying that he is the son of David too! Good grief!

Then JESUS says: “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”

The Pharisees murmur and grumble…. They are not impressed.

On the next Sabbath-day walk, Jesus is with another group of 50 and they end up at a local synagogue in the city of Jerusalem. As he was in the habit of doing in this early season of his traveling ministry, when the regular synagogue services were done, he would “set up shop” so to speak, and start teaching about the “good news of the kingdom.” So many people were intrigued by his strange but hopeful message:

JESUS would say things like – – “you on the margins! You who are weeping, poor, insulted. . . rejoice! Leap for joy now! And leap for joy later too…for great is your reward in heaven!” and in the midst of this message of joy, there was also a message of woe: “BUT woe to you rich, those who are full of food and laughter now… those who act like smug & false prophet, you’ll get what you deserve in the end.”

And then Jesus always seemed to conclude his lessons with a lesson in love. And he would get ridiculous with his love statements: “Love your enemies. Love those who curse you! If you love people who love you what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.”

“Yes, love your enemies, do good to them….Then your reward will be great, and YOU will be children of the Most High, because he is kind & compassionate. . .
Do to others as you would have them do to you….be merciful just as your Father is merciful…”

And it was right in the midst of that closing sentence, that on this Sabbath day, a middle-aged man with a withered right hand cried out to Jesus.

“Son of the Most High, please do good to me! Have mercy on me! Heal me!”

And in that moment, that same eery, Pharisee-induced, shaming silence came upon the synagogue.

The hair on Jesus’ neck was bristling again. He looked at the disabled man and said:


And standing with this disfigured man at the front of synagogue with the riff-raff and the religious folk staring and holding their breath, Jesus asked:

“You….you speak of doing good…. Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath? To save life or destroy it?”

Nobody said a word. A minute goes by and it feels like an hour.

Jesus looks around at every person’s face in the room. And then he looks at the disabled man and says:

“Stretch out your hand.”

And to his surprise and to the surprise of all in the synagogue this man’s hand is made well. . . his life, his future, his vocation – – is saved! The poor man’s friends and family start to gather around him…thrilled, stunned, amazed…

One of the Pharisees, filled with fury and rage, screams at the top of his lungs “ENOUGH!”
Another Pharisee points his finger at Jesus and yells: “WHY ARE YOU doing what is NOT LAWFUL on the Sabbath?”

Jesus says not a word. He leaves the synagogue. The prophetic words of Isaiah ring in the hearts and minds of some of the onlookers: “As a sheep before its shearers is silent…so he did not open his mouth” (see Isaiah 53:7).

We leave this Sabbath day setting and in the final movement of today’s passage, Jesus goes away to pray.
When things get tough, intense and crazy, Jesus develops a rebuttal. . . . what? No! He goes to a solitary place, a mountain top, a deserted place and he prays. Hmmmm.

As we sit with today’s Jesus encounters and find ourselves amongst those in the crowd… let us pray and respond to what God is revealing to us in these stories. . .

Last week, I suggested that in this season of Epiphany, Lent, & Easter…as we journey with Jesus in the gospel of Luke, that we allow these “Jesus stories” to NOT just change our minds…but truly change our hearts….transform us from the inside-out.

That we, as the Apostle Paul put it, might allow ourselves to be “formed in Christ.”
(see Galatians 4)

Q: As Christ is being formed in us in this season of Epiphany, how might we submit to the gentle “rule” and “ruler” of Sabbath?

There are a few directions for us as we “move out” from today’s story:

  • We can “move out” as those who are being healed (by Jesus’ word. . . he didn’t even touch the man!)
  • We can “move out” as those who are amazed and perplexed
  • We can “move out” like a Pharisee (we read that they are “filled with fury, discussing what they might do to Jesus”)
  • We can “move out” like Jesus…to a solitary place for prayer, for wisdom of who, when, where to go next….who will he choose to be his inner circle of disciples? Who will we choose to companion with in these days?

No matter how we move . . I hope that we’ll move with “malleable” hearts…hearts that are open to be challenged & changed by the presence of Jesus.
As we close, I’d invite you to consider verse 17 as we join the crowd of disciples again. . .

Gather at the feet of Jesus. . . gather with the crowd who want to encounter the living Christ. . . who recognize that power and healing come from his presence, his name, his touch, his word.

Oh, Jesus, son of the most high, son of David, enable us to have the kind of faith where we stretch out our lives, our hands, our hearts…
Where we long to be saved, to be healed, to be loved.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayers.