Proper 16, Year C
Prayer: Gracious God guide my words and be in our hearts so that we may be drawn to you. Amen.
What are your thoughts or experiences of Sabbath?
The topic of Sabbath is wide and deep and will only be touched upon in this sermon. We’ve probably heard this word and know that it is one of the Ten Commandments. Two books in the Old Testament (Pentateuch), Genesis and Exodus, describe the Sabbath as a day of rest and no work. God modeled this when God rested on the seventh day, after working-creating.
In a world with demanding workloads and no time to stop, the Sabbath is a needed gift. A gift of quiet, rest, and time with God. (Genesis 2:2-3 and Exodus 20:8-11).
In addition to those things, Sabbath is more than just resting. There is a tradition and depth to Sabbath that could benefit us, one another and most importantly our relationship with God, if we routinely observe the Sabbath.
Just a few months ago I was in my last few weeks of seminary. I was scrambling to
-attend my last classes
-go to meetings
-fill out paperwork
-transition to summer and ordination, starting work and being back in Ohio.
This was a very full time in my life, difficult to stop… We’ve all probably had times where we’ve felt this “full.”
For graduation our Dean of Chapel and Dean of Students gave the two graduating senior sacristans a book. It is titled sabbath as resistance by Walter Bruggeman.
“Great! This is so helpful!” I thought. “I’ve been meaning to learn more about Sabbath and actually incorporating this spiritual discipline into my life.”
I was excited about this book and wanted to make a point of reading it, especially before I started work. Well, I started it, got through the preface and that was it…
Sabbath is important to talk and learn about because: 1. It’s rootedness in Jewish tradition and culture also influences our Christian tradition, 2. there is a very fast pace in our American society that leaves little time for rest and quiet; 3. We are called to live lives that follow Jesus’ teachings.
I’ve tried to take a Sabbath, or at least incorporate weekly Sabbath time into my schedule but am not always successful. It seems that things come up and it’s difficult not to respond to the tugging’s of my cell phone, email, errands, and work.
To learn more about what Sabbath meant in a Jewish context, I called and talked with a friend who is Jewish and did a little reading.
He shared some of his experiences with me. My friend grew up in the reform Jewish tradition, where for him and his family, the Sabbath was an important time of the week where they would gather as a family and eat dinner together. Their shared meal included prayers and traditional items: candles and challah (braided bread). Family was the focus.
My friend helped me understand that Sabbath is a time of intentionality. Intentionally spending time with God: many Jews would go to synagogue to pray, hear a Torah passage and welcome the Sabbath.
Intentionally spending time with family.
In the Gospel story we get an insight into what was important to Jesus on the Sabbath and how He was intentional.
Jesus went to synagogue, with the community and intentionally spent time with God. In addition, He also healed. The healing was the most radical part of this particular Sabbath day, because it was not the “norm.”
The healing was controversial because the leader of the synagogue’s understanding of Sabbath, and probably others, was that doing any work on the Sabbath was a break in following the commandment. And Jesus’ healing of the woman was considered work to him, which he voiced aloud publically trying to shame Jesus for breaking a commandment. (David Schnasa Jacobson, a teacher at Luther Seminary. https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2956).
To defend and support his actions, Jesus pointed out aloud, that just like people would untie their donkeys or oxes from being tied up all week on the Sabbath, the woman, a daughter of Abraham, a member of the Jewish family, who had been bound by Satan for 18 years should definitely be set free. What better day to free her and give her rest, than on the Sabbath? And she seemed to exemplify the purpose of the Sabbath, to praise God!
In this encounter Jesus’ actions were radical because he turned the tables on the person who initially called Him out.
He helped a woman stand up straight, freed from her ailment and as a result she began to praise God. By healing her He drastically changed her perspective in life. She could now physically see the world in a different way. She stood upright by Jesus’ merciful hand. I’m guessing she was changed spiritually as well.
He didn’t do it to “pursue his own interests or affairs” like the prophet Isaiah (58:13) warns but healed because she needed unbound. It wasn’t about him, but about seeing and recognizing a need and attending to it. Jesus did things that were jarring to the society of the day, and by this encounter I wonder who else was made upright and could now see and praise God for God’s mercy and goodness from witnessing this encounter.
Our observance of the Sabbath needs to be inspired by Jesus’ observance. If and when we intentionally spend time with God and call the Sabbath a delight then we “take delight in the Lord, and will ride upon the heights of the earth and we will be fed.” Isaiah (58:14). We may also be challenged and called to be radical in what we do on the Sabbath. Like Jesus maybe we will be serving and helping those who need unbound and freed.
Last week Fr. Bargetzi preached about reconciliation and how we should figure out ways to be reconcilers in the world. In order to figure that out we need to spend time in prayer and study. One way we can do that is taking a Sabbath, spend time with God. That is separating ourselves from the busy-ness of the world, and intentionally focusing on God. It will produce good outcomes.
Just as the woman was freed from her ailment, we too can be set free, looking upright, and living in the world differently than we once did when the weight of burdens in our lives held us down, kept our focus down and not on God.
Hear these words as an invitation to accept the gift of Sabbath. It’s not another thing we need to take on, but a lifestyle that we only need to welcome. It’s already been given. Be healed. Help others be healed.
How can you honor a Sabbath in your life? What will you do?