The 14th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 16C (8/25/2013)

Lessons:Isaiah 58:9b-14 Psalm 103:1-8 (4) Hebrews 12:18-29 St. Luke 13:10-17

Semicontinuous Series: Jeremiah 1:4-10 Psalm 71:1-6 (6)

Prayer of the Day: O God, mighty and immortal, you know that as fragile creatures surrounded by great dangers, we cannot by ourselves stand upright. Give us strength of mind and body, so that even when we suffer because of human sin, we may rise victorious through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

13:10 Now [Jesus] was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 11 And 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.” 13 When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. 14 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.” 15 But 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? 16 And 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?” 17 When 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.


St. Luke 13:10-17. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

It Is Necessary

What is necessary? We live in a bottom-line society. Many of us have bottom-line jobs. We set policies based on how they affect the company’s bottom line. We join organizations where there are bottom-line expectations, and if we fail to fulfill them we lose our place in the group. We sign up for degree programs or certification courses, all with minimum requirements. We join the congregation’s Catechism program, and want to know how many meetings we are allowed to skip. We are a bottom-line society, and whether we are making business decisions, purchasing merchandise, or joining organizations we want to know what the bottom line is. What is necessary?

There is a small little word that plays a profound role in the Greek New Testament. The word is δεῖ (“dei”), and it is often translated: “it is necessary” or “it must be.” This word appears throughout the New Testament:

  • Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?
  • It is necessary that the Son of Man be crucified, and die, and rise from death.
  • The good news must first be proclaimed to all nations.
  • Today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.

What is necessary for God’s will to be done? What is necessary for Christ’s mission to be complete? The word δεῖ appears twice in this week’s Gospel. The synagogue leader knows that rules are rules. He knows there is a bottom line when it comes to being God’s people. He knows that it is necessary (δεῖ) for the Sabbath to be preserved. And so he speaks out against Jesus.

In his response, Jesus also uses that little word δεῖ. The same little word that is used for the necessity of his death and resurrection is used for this healing action. There is no way around it. Jesus has to heal on the Sabbath. It is “necessary.” Because just as the Sabbath stands at the center of ancient Israel’s worship life, it will now come to stand at the center of the movement which will eventually take Jesus’ name. Only Jesus hasn’t come to make a few minor adjustments to the way God’s people honor the Sabbath. He has come to set it on its ear, and recreate it in an entirely new form. From now on, Sabbath will no longer have to do with living under the kinds of restrictions that keep you from what you want to do. Instead, Sabbath will have to do with being set free: set free from the bonds that hinder us; set free from the sin that plagues us; set free from desperate attempts to earn God’s pleasure; set free from the old, which puts us to death; and set free for the new, which brings us to life.

So what is necessary? What is the bottom line for those of us who believe in Christ? It is necessary that we not allow ourselves to be bound by the conventions of the past in a way that causes us to miss out on the life-giving hope and grace of God’s future. It is necessary that the Sabbath might be for us, as it was for her, an experience that sets us free for new life, in the shadow of the cross. It is necessary that we, as God’s people, proclaim to the whole world that Christ has defeated death and all that puts us to death, and has called us into the freedom of the good news.

Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Why did the leader in the synagogue feel compelled to oppose Jesus?
  2. How were Jesus’ actions on the Sabbath a threat to the existing religious systems of the day?
  3. What did his healing of the woman say to those who witnessed it?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. In what ways am I bound by my old understandings of what is “right” or “true”?
  2. When is it difficult for me to embrace God’s life-giving hope and grace?
  3. How might I discipline myself to be aware of how God’s life-giving hope and grace is working something new in our day?