For as long as I can remember,
heaven has had an enchanted image in my mind.
Not the “streets of gold” image of Revelation,
just a wonder about a place that was utterly differently
than the orb we currently occupy.
And I have long wondered why,
given the choice to live in heaven versus any other locale,
why someone would write it off.
Turns out, this is a common experience.
The writing off part.
The reading from Hebrews on Sunday is trying to tap into this idea.
It calls out to us to garner attention about the tangible and intangible aspects of life and our reality.
We are creatures of habit who routinely choose the readily accessible over the better choice. We look for the “shiny things” in life to pursue: power, money, security, comfort and the like.
When we do this, we miss the bigger picture.
Like the leaders in the Gospel reading from Luke this week.
There is a woman who has been contracted for some 18 years;
The realities of this medical conditions have taken life away from her.
Jesus heals her.
Which would normally not be a problem,
Except it was the Sabbath.
He’s not supposed to do things on the Sabbath.
Like the commandment says,
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”Exodus 20:8-11
But, somewhere along the line,
this commandment got interpreted to be about what is what not.
The commandment about the Sabbath is a call to faith and relationship.
This is foreign to us in our time and day,
so let me try to explain.
If you lived hand to mouth in the truest sense of that word,
Meaning you were a hunter/gather who relied on the land around you to support you, then every day is a chore for existence.
When harvests come, you work until they are done.
When it is time for the slaughter, this is seen to its completion.
Every day that you can work, you are able to “get ahead.”
Now imagine that a God you worship asks you to give up nearly 15% of your available work hours and not do anything during that time.
1 day a week to not take advantage of the daylight hours to get things done and provide for your family, possibly even storing up supplies for another time.
This is what the commandment was calling them into.
Essentially, God is asking for them to be in this trust relationship.
And God is saying that they will be taken care of during this “down time.”
It is counterintuitive.
Why would I not work to provide more for my family?
Why would I give up valuable time that could help me advance?
Why would I not store away as much as possible for a later time?
Because the God of the universe is asking for your trust in this relationship of faith. It is the rendering of self that says, “I am my own ruler and can take care of myself” and exchanging it for, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want.”
Tough sell, I know.
But, this is the life of faith.
Going beyond the tangible
And seeing the intangible.
Now back to the Gospel reading
and Jesus’ healing of the woman on the Sabbath.
Jesus’ healing caused a stir among the Jewish leaders.
So much so that the leader felt the need to address the crowd after this act of compassion.
But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, ‘There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.’”
The leader felt threatened.
Both internally, because he wanted to be “right or righteous.”
And externally, because he wanted to be “in charge and keep his power.”
If the people around him quit following the rules that had been set up,
How long would it be before they quit listening to him?
This was his perspective and position.
Only it misses the point of life and a deep faith.
To ignore the plight of that woman before Him,
Jesus would have had to ignore who He was.
1 John 4: 8 says,
Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
Jesus is God.
God cannot not know Himself (I know…it’s a double negative).
Love motivated Jesus to have compassion
and to remember an important passage for the people of Israel,
He has told you, O mortal, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8
If Jesus was the manifestation of God and alos God’s intention for us, then this act of kindness shown in the Gospel reading is warranted, as is the reworking of the understanding of this commandment about the Sabbath for those present with Jesus.
The beautiful thing about this scene is that it shows God’s intention.
It shows what the reality of God’s kingdom practices can do.
And we are reminded of our place as the beloved,
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; for indeed our God is a consuming fire.”
The love of the God of the universe will seek all means to lavish this love on the creation.