Sabbath Work…reflections on service
August 27, 2017
Scripture: Luke 13:10-17
10Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. 12When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” 13When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. 14But 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.” 15But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? 16And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the Sabbath day?” 17When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.
Today’s passage is about setting people free…free from bondage and injustice, free to live the fullness of life God intended for each one of us…affirming that there is no ‘wrong’ time to serve and no time where we may refrain from doing so because it may not be comfortable or convenient…this passage forces us to weigh our own willingness to reach out in love towards the very real human need we see all around us.
If you go back and look you will find that the origin of Sabbath was tied in very closely to justice, and in particular with making sure that the least among us would get some measure of rest…we see in Exodus chapter 20 that the Sabbath was instituted in part in order to give servants and slaves some time off so they would not be worked continuously, seven days a week, worked unto exhaustion or worse. Over the long history of the Jewish faith however the notion of Sabbath was legislated and parsed into numerous laws and regulations so that by Jesus’ time it was virtually impossible to follow or observe. It was this complexity regarding Sabbath which Jesus objected to…complexity and legalism which made the real meaning of Sabbath so out of reach.
And in some ways those rules and laws have survived unto this day in how we view our own work, and our own need for time off. In some ways even we might be found guilty of hiding behind the Sabbath on occasion in order to avoid doing something we do not want to do, or helping someone we really have little regard for…we often tend to hold up the Sabbath as “our time’…as time when we are entitled to do whatever we want, with no one else interfering…and Jesus I imagine has a bit of a problem with that idea as well…
You see, Jesus and the Spirit tend to ‘get in the way’ or at least ‘in our way’ over and over again. The call of God upon our hearts seems to have no regard for ‘our’ schedule, as it insists on first showing us a need, and then placing a call to fill that need deep in our soul…calling us out of our comfort and into holy ‘work’! For in truth it is ‘work’ to serve, it is ‘work’ to live a life willing to serve whenever we may be asked. If in fact we do not find that it is ‘work’ to serve our Lord then we may need to look closely at what is motivating us to serve, just to be sure we are not seeking solely to bolster our own reputation or soothe our own ego. If serving is not “work” then we may not be giving truly from the heart or serving as Jesus did…with love, and without condition.
The Sabbath is ‘given-to-God’ time, and it is only holy in its surrender…the Young Adult Volunteers who are here with us today have made a decision to live and to undertake a Sabbath journey…to give their lives over to God in complete openness and surrender for the next year, trusting that the Lord will lead them into depth of purpose and newness of life. They have chosen to give each day over into the service of our Lord, to walk and to work under the guidance of the Holy Spirit…even in times when they feel they have been asked to serve far above and beyond their ability…but God will provide…God always makes a way…
For you see, we give because it is who we are in Christ! Not for any other reason…quite simply, it is our bound responsibility as followers and disciples of Christ to journey in service.