Year C; Proper 16; 8.25.2019

Luke 13:10-17


A few days ago I could not get my “smart” TV to turn on. I’ve had that happen with my “smart” computer, too. They just go dark and stop working.

Does anyone here know what the experts tell you to do to “trouble shoot” something like that? Or what your kid or grandkid tells you to do?

Unplug it. Wait a few seconds. Then plug it back in.

The majority of the time, that’s all you need to do to get the device to function again. And that’s what I did to get my TV to work. I think that’s probably good advice not only for electronic devices. It’s good advice for our bodies, our souls and even “mother earth.” Unplug. Give it a rest. Unplugging prevents the 24/7 constant running of all things from “burning out.”

Anne Lamott, one of my favorite Christian writers who is serious and funny counsels her readers about unplugging. She writes, “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you, because sometimes all that’s required is taking time to unplug.”

“Taking time to unplug.” That’s exactly what God did on the Seventh Day. In the book of Genesis, we learn that God worked non-stop for six days to create the earth and all that is in it. And he declared it good. Then, God made a point to take the seventh day off to rest from the tasks of creation and settle into holy, hallowed time.

This is how the Sabbath Law came to be. “You shall remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy” came from this passage in Genesis, “And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and rested on the seventh day from all the work he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it.” God set it aside for holy rest, for care and good stewardship. God set is aside as an example of not running ourselves into the ground and not running God’s creation on all cylinders until it is totally consumed.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel of the last century writes of the care and holiness of Sabbath time. “Six days a week we wrestle with the world, wringing profit from the earth; on the Sabbath we especially care for the seed of eternity planted in the soul. The Sabbath is a day for the sake of life. Man is not a beast of burden, and the Sabbath is not for the purpose of enhancing the efficiency of his work. Observance of the Seventh day is more than a technique of fulfilling a commandment. The Sabbath is the presence of God in the world, open to the soul of man. It is possible for the soul to respond in affection, to take into fellowship with the consecrated day.”

And so, in the gospel lesson from this morning, the ruler of the synagogue was protecting the Sabbath Law when he objected to Jesus curing the woman on the Sabbath. She had been bent over for her adult life – those 18 years. The only problem was that his protection of Sabbath Law had not much to do with “the soul responding with affection to the presence of God in the world.” His objection lacked compassion, love, mercy, redemption in it. He was defending the Sabbath Law to the letter, but not to the “soul”.

Jesus was teaching that day in the synagogue on the Sabbath. He might even have been teaching the people about Sabbath Law – that God set it aside for holy rest, that God hallowed it as a precious time for “the soul to respond to God’s creation with affection.” Jesus was not dishonoring the Sabbath. He wanted the synagogue ruler to see that he had lost the spirit of honoring and blessing the Sabbath time. By healing a woman who had not even asked for it, but had definitely come to the synagogue on the Sabbath for something, Jesus demonstrated that observing Sabbath Law could include a compassionate act and still be honoring the Sabbath hallowed time.

Jesus and the synagogue ruler were observing the Sabbath Law from two different sides of the same coin. What they had in common was observing the Sabbath and its holiness. My bible commentaries aren’t very complimentary of the synagogue ruler. But I think he and Jesus were closer together than it appears in Luke’s gospel. Sabbath observance is one of God’s most precious and important holy laws, and God’s people are called to observe it with reverence.

I do not know why Jesus called the synagogue ruler a hypocrite. Yes, the synagogue leader lacked compassion – right in FRONT of the woman he chastised Jesus and the crowds for healing her and told Jesus that she could have come any of the six other days for healing. He was saying all this to Jesus as if the woman wasn’t standing right there. I would not have blamed herif shehad interrupted and said, “I’m standing right here! I’m standing RIGHT HERE! I can hear what you are saying!” Maybe SHE should have called him the hypocrite!

Abraham Joshua Heschel writes more beautifully spiritual things about the Sabbath, “Judaism is the religion of time…the Sabbath is the Jewish cathedral… Spaces, precincts and domains are distributed according to power and possession, but time is the same for everyone. In the temple, heaven and earth touch, according to the archaic view. According to the Jewish view, in the Sabbath, eternity and time touch.”

Not only does rest one day of the week help us unplug and recharge, it is God’s way of calling us back to what is important; to really seeing a bent over suffering woman who we might have looked past in our rushing around to work and do our tasks. Or we might miss the gravity of fires burning in the Amazon rain forest, that some have reported were set in order to clear the land and expand, expand, expand cattle ranches and fields for growing soy crops. Or we might never hear that still, small voice of God’s Spirit trying to guide us toward the eternal beauty of God’s love.

There is a Jewish legend that relates the time when God was giving the Holy Laws to the people of Israel after they were set free from slavery in Egypt. “God said to the people of Israel, ‘My children! If you accept the Holy Laws, the Torah, and observe my commandments, I will give you for all eternity, a thing most precious that I have in my possession.’ God’s children asked, ‘What is that precious thing which you will give us if we obey your Holy Laws?’ God said, ‘I will give you the world to come.’ God’s children then said, ‘Show us in THIS world an example of the world to come.’ God answered, ‘OK. I’ll show you The Sabbath; the one hallowed day of the week. That is an example of the world to come.’”

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes.”

How will we “unplug” enough for one day each week to rest, hear God’s voice and honor God’s beauty, for our broken and run-down world needs our Sabbath rest and the hope of the ‘world to come.’