How To Screw Up Worship
Proper 16 (year c)
Psalm 71.1-6, Jeremiah 1.4-10, Luke 13.10-17, & Hebrews 12.18-29:
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." Luke 13.13-14
Meditation: "Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; for indeed our God is a consuming fire." (Hebrews 12 .28 & 29)
Reflection: The reign that God proclaims and that we receive "cannot be shaken." Whatever we may or may not see, whatever we may or may not accomplish, this promise is true. We can trust it.
"Jesus heals a crippled woman, provoking criticism from Pharisees who, perhaps threatened by Jesus' growing popularity and power, accuse him of breaking Sabbath rules. Jesus' response is quick and severe; he exposes their hardness of heart by asking, 'ought not this woman ... be set free from this bondage on the Sabbath day?' Jesus rejects the rigid interpretation of the law and insists instead on the spirit of the law - that the Sabbath provides liberation and renewal for all." - Freed from Bondage
Consider: Shaken, NOT Stirred? As we look at this woman, bound in sickness-"crippled for eighteen years," the religious authority may well have marked her as undeserving of kindness, through an embellished purity code system. First, she was a woman-property, and of little more worth, and a long sickness might have been believed to be God's just judgment on her in their eyes. So, Jesus affirms her as a "daughter of Abraham" and exposes their hypocrisy-they would rather take care of cattle, instead of a child of God.
Jesus points them to the Sabbath-the true meaning, and spirit of Sabbath. Remember him speaking on another occasion, "I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?" (Luke 6.9). The words he uses after freeing her, connotes the idea of obligation under the law. They surely understood his rebuke to be lawfully endorsed.
Prophets "pluck up" and "pull down." They "destroy" and "overthrow" (Jeremiah 1.10). His prophetic words and actions, reprimand the religious leaders of the day, for placing legalistic, and oppressive regulations-business as usual-ahead of the weightier matters of the law-like justice and mercy. Ultimately, prophesy is "to build and to plant," redirecting and renewing a vision with true compassion, as a worshipful reflection of God and his merciful order.
Today, the church seems to have things organized in such a way that this worshipful reflection finds its place in the margins of "normal" church life. The "business" of church, seems to have superseded the true "work" of the church. I wonder what will remain when our shaking begins.
Lord, let the shaking begin...