Tuesday, January 27th

One Sabbath while Jesus was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked some heads of grain, rubbed them in their hands, and ate them. But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” Jesus answered, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and gave some to his companions?” Then he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.”  On another sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees watched him to see whether he would cure on the sabbath, so that they might find an accusation against him. Even though he knew what they were thinking, he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come and stand here.” He got up and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?” After looking around at all of them, he said to him, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was restored. But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.  Luke 6:1-11


What do you think of when you hear the word “Sabbath”?  Maybe you think of rest, the story of God taking a day off after the six days of vacation.  Maybe you think of worship, the Sabbath day being a day set aside to free us for worship.  What you probably don’t associate with “Sabbath” are “rules and regulations.”  At least consciously that is not where your mind goes.


Luke puts two Sabbath stories together in the above verses.  Both times, Jesus appears to be breaking the rules.


He allows his disciples to glean grain as they walk along on a Sabbath day. Then he heals a man with a withered hand.  Feeding the hungry and healing the broken – both seem like godly activities and very Sabbath-worthy things to do…but not to the Pharisees who see only the Sabbath rules being broken.


The irony in the story is that the Pharisees are spending their Sabbath day watching Jesus and his disciples like hawks.  I doubt that is the purpose of the day.  I doubt even the Pharisees themselves would admit that such obsessive spying belongs on a Sabbath day.  But, when you reduce that holy time down to tradition then it becomes laden with rules and regulations and the original purpose is lost.  Hungry people stay hungry and broken people stay broken.


We had a worship service yesterday to open our theological conference.  It was clear that the planning committee worked very hard in preparation for the service.  They had a full altar table set up in front, complete with paraments and altar furnishings and candles and communion ware.  The worship leaders were dressed in liturgical finery.  They had several musicians including a percussionist, a guitar and a real live organ that someone went to great trouble to bring in and set up.  They had a little half sheet printed with the worship order for the service – very traditional liturgy using Setting #6 of Evangelical Lutheran Worship.  (If you don’t understand what that means, it helps me make my point.)  And they had instructed us all ahead of time to bring our own hymnals for the worship services this week.  Lots of effort went into planning and leading that service.  And they clearly followed all of the rules and regulations of traditional Lutheran worship.


The service began.  The pastor to my left forgot to bring her hymnal so she looked on with mine.  Neither of us had ever heard Setting #6 used in worship – that they interrupted the flow of the service to teach us on the spot how to sing the Kyrie hardly helped.  Neither of us could follow the Hymn of Praise though we made a valiant effort.  We both messed up on the psalm.  We seldom turned the pages quickly enough to be ready when the worship leader got there.  It felt to me like a liturgical wrestling match and we lost every round.  And, between the two of us, we have over 40 years of experience leading worship!  The person to my right didn’t bring a hymnal either…he didn’t even try.  He just stood there and left early.


And that might be one of the problems with our way of doing the Christian life.  Our Sabbath time, at least our Sabbath worship time, has become so much about the rules and regulations and right way of doing the rites that helping people worship has become a by-product rather than a goal.


Meanwhile, I’m thinking at least a few of those 400 pastors are probably a bit discouraged these days and grateful to worship in community with one another.  I can’t help but think that more than a few of them came away still hungry and broken.


Let us pray:  Dear Jesus, how did it happen?  How did we who bear your name in the world fall prey to the temptation to act and think like those who got rid of you, or at least tried do?  Forgive us for the boxes we stuff you into, blind to the hunger and brokenness that you would heal.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.


One Response to “Tuesday, January 27th”

  1. Kim Says:

    Thanks for the courage to go there today. I’m talking about it on my blog today too. Any other bloggers want to come along?


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