Luke 6:6-11

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 6:6-11

Let’s begin by reminding ourselves why there is a synagogue (which actually refers to people gathered for worship, not a physical building), and why it is that people actually gather together on a particular day of the week? To answer that, we have to go back to the very beginning.

In the beginning, Genesis tells us, God creates the natural world, including human beings. God doesn’t build buildings. God creates interconnected relationships which mirror the interconnected relationship that is God (Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer or however you wish to describe the Trinity.) From a human point of view, those interconnected relationships include our relationship with God, with one another, and with the world around us.

And there is a godly intention behind each of those relationships. We are created to obey God, to live in harmony with other people, and to be caretakers of the world (which, in turn, takes care of us.)

And then, after a busy six days of activity, God takes a day off. The Sabbath day. A day of rest. Which always looks in both directions – back with gratitude for what has happened in the past week, and forward with determination to re-enter life focused on living within God’s intentions for life. It isn’t as simplistic as saying that Jews worship on the last day of the week to remember creation, and Christians worship on the first day of the week to remember the resurrection…but it is close.

So there they are. The people of God in a small village. Gathered around Jesus who has taken his place as a teacher of the faith. In that gathering there is a guy with a withered right hand. We don’t know if he was born with that condition or if it was the result of some tragic accident in his life. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that he suffered from a withered hand.

And in that same holy space, the religious leaders are watching like hawks to catch Jesus in the act of doing something they can hold against him. 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.

You know where this is going. The man’s hand is restored and the Pharisees, rather than rejoicing at the miracle they just witnessed, want to get rid of Jesus. So it goes.

Every day of our lives, we all suffer from the brokenness of creation. Sin drives us to disobedience toward God, disharmony among people, and wanton disregard for the care of the world around us. We are all, always, both perpetuators and victims of sin. We know it. We sense it. We see it. And some of us heed God’s invitation to gather weekly to remember that. To confess that. To acknowledge that. To be forgiven of that. God intends worship to be both a resolution of the past and a resolve to do better next time.

The Pharisees are stuck in the past. They are stuck in a worldview where they are special, they are chosen, they are at the top of the food chain, and they have the power to enforce the rules which keep it that way. If that means opposing Jesus at every step of the way, even to taking his life, they will do it.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, until we see how we are withered, we don’t see our own need of healing. May we always bring what is broken before you, open to your healing touch. And may we fight against the temptation to put ourselves in your place, to cast our faith in concrete rather than in radical openness to being constantly surprised by your grace. May we remember the Sabbath and keep it holy, as our gathering around you, who make us whole. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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