"Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” — Mother Teresa
You probably remember that we dealt with Luke 13 during Lent this year. We considered the end of the chapter and a week later read the beginning. Then I made the observation that the chapter is the outworking of Pharisaic animosity toward Jesus who has told a number of parables against them and made some harsh pronouncements about them. (11:37ff, 12:1ff, etc)
As is customary with Jesus, word and action go together. Not only does he point out that the Pharisees are just plain wrong, he will prove it in todays lesson of the healing on the Sabbath.
The authorities condemn themselves via the synagogue leader who views a miracle and pronounces it shameful because it happened on a Sabbath and not on an ordinary day. His words are: “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.” What an absolutely soul numbing, idiotic, pile of spiritual soft stool this sentence is. So: there is no healing, no comfort, no wholeness on the holiest day of the week. On the day that commemorates that one was set free from slavery, a day that celebrates the victory of the Almighty over Israel’s slavery (Dt 5:14-15, cf13:16) one is not to expect such victory over the slaveries of evil? “No,” says the leader of the Synagogue.
More than that, she cannot raise her face to the heavens, this daughter of Abraham. An evil spirit has taken hold of her and it keeps her eyes solidly earthbound — a terribly fate to be so earthly bound and tied that one cannot at least contemplate heaven or dare do so. Yet, is not Sabbath and Synagogue precisely the time and place where that heavenly gaze ought to be expected? Is not Sabbath and Synagogue — and church or that matter — that time and that place that ought to facilitate that gaze to heaven? And if one cannot cast that gaze, should not Synagogue and Church be just the place that will do any and all things to allow for that gaze, that foretaste of the realm of God? The Synagogue cannot pull it off, it would appear. Synagogue has been bent over for many years itself. Can the church accomplish what the Synagogue under the Pharisees could or would not?
Yet, the ruler of this world (Jn 12:31, 16:11) likes it that we look down and down only. The ruler of this world would love for Abraham to get busy counting the stars when he should be listening in awe to the quiet voice speaking the covenant: “So numerous shall your decedents be.” (Gn 15) The ruler of this world likes it when Esau values food for his hungry frame more than his place in carrying on life under the promise God made to his great grandfather. The ruler of this world would prefer that Jesus concentrate on his own hunger, fame, and worldly power. (Lk 4:1-13) The ruler of this world cheered when the thief on the left reviled Jesus saying: “Aren’t you the Messiah, save yourself and us.” The ruler of this world was defeated when the thief on the right pleaded: “Remember me when you com into your kingdom.” In that moment someone had looked into heaven, had dared to see the Almighty in the form on the cross next to him, and had found that image more precious than life itself and counted paradise gained far more valuable than earth lost. In doing that, the thief rendered all the kingdoms of this world valueless. (Lk 4:4-6)
According to Ex 35:1-2 one is to be put to death for working on the Sabbath. Never mind that the work was a liberation from bondage to the adversary of God. Work on Sabbath had an earthly penalty and one had to insist on it. This was the religious case against Jesus the night he was betrayed and judged by the religious authorities. He was “perverting our faith.”
Yet, it was the authorities who were the ones bent over and could not see heaven or the almighty in human vestiture. Their gaze was below so they were blind while the thief on the cross saw and worse, their healing stood in front of them in Jesus. It therefore was they who perverted the faith for they could not recognize the very Messiah they were waiting on.
My Nazarene friend has a unique way of gaging attendance at his church. It is not how many belong, it is not how many show up that suggests to him that the place is healthy. It is the answer to the question: “How many come expecting,” that day. “To come expecting,” it turns out, is the conviction that one will most certainly meet with the God of heaven and earth that morning in that church one is going to.
So, do you? Come expecting, I mean. For that matter, do you “live expecting?” The ruler of this world would like you to think that this is all there is or that at least God is absent, far off hardly paying attention at all, and rally not involved. The contemplative in me rises every morning — at my best — in pray that this day Jesus Christ might consent to meet me on the road.