Fr. Dave’s Homily for June 3rd Proper 4

PROPER #4..Series B

Saint Andrew’s Episcopal (June 3rd, 2018)

Title: Couldn’t it wait until Sunday??

Text: Mark 2: 23-3:6

Our Gospel for this 2nd Sunday after the great feast of Pentecost records a nasty verbal confrontation between Jesus of Nazareth and the Pharisees (the religious “know-it-alls” of Jesus day).  The issue in dispute that Saturday morning was one of the most sacred traditions of the Jewish faith…the “KEEPING” of the Sabbath Day…the 4th of God’s Ten Commandments: “Remember the Sabbath Day and Keep it Holy…Six days you shall labor and do all your work but the seventh day(the last day of the week; Saturday) is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; in it you shall not do ANY work”.

Now, to us living in the 21st Century America…a totally secular culture, this dispute may seem trivial and outdated (like the Blue Laws which regulated human behavior on Sundays in a by-gone era in this country) but believe me, it was anything but a trivial matter to the religious folks of Jesus’ day…it was urgently important. And Jesus’ behavior that Saturday morning…his decision to heal a man with a withered hand…was an unambiguous violation of God’s Holy Law…it was extremely offensive  to God-fearing and Law-abiding Jews, and make no mistake about it…it is one of the reasons (not the only reason, but one of the reasons)  the Jewish religious establishment  came to the inescapable conclusion that Jesus of Nazareth posed a significant threat to some of their most sacred religious traditions, and that, ultimately, he would have to be silenced…Jesus would have to die.

So, here is the question that has been rattling around in my brain this week:  Why couldn’t Jesus have waited until SundayWhy did he have to straighten the man’s hand on Saturday??  After all, this man (who hadn’t even asked Jesus to heal him) wasn’t facing a “life or death” situation…I’m sure another couple of hours wouldn’t make all that much difference.  I wonder why Jesus didn’t quietly and unobtrusively approach the man and whisper, “My heart goes out to you and I feel your pain (I really do)…and I want to help (and I will help)…but, at this stage in my public ministry,  I just can’t risk alienating the religious leaders by healing you this morning…but, if you will meet me here at sundown (after the Sabbath is over) then I will be pleased to heal you hand and put an end to your suffering.

Why couldn’t Jesus have waited until Sunday???  If he waited he could have accomplished the same end…the healing of this unfortunate man, and avoided a messy and unpleasant religious controversy.  That’s the question I would like for us to ponder for a few moments this morning: WHY…why didn’t Jesus wait until Sunday to bring healing/wholeness to this Son of Abraham…this man with a withered hand? Here is what I think:

I think Jesus didn’t wait until Sunday because there are some things that are more important than maintaining peace/harmony/tranquility in the religious community.

PROPER #4..Series B

Saint Andrew’s Episcopal (June 3rd, 2018)

Title: Couldn’t it wait until Sunday??

Text: Mark 2: 23-3:6

Our Gospel for this 2nd Sunday after the great feast of Pentecost records a nasty verbal confrontation between Jesus of Nazareth and the Pharisees (the religious “know-it-alls” of Jesus day).  The issue in dispute that Saturday morning was one of the most sacred traditions of the Jewish faith…the “KEEPING” of the Sabbath Day…the 4th of God’s Ten Commandments: “Remember the Sabbath Day and Keep it Holy…Six days you shall labor and do all your work but the seventh day(the last day of the week; Saturday) is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; in it you shall not do ANY work”.

Now, to us living in the 21st Century America…a totally secular culture, this dispute may seem trivial and outdated (like the Blue Laws which regulated human behavior on Sundays in a by-gone era in this country) but believe me, it was anything but a trivial matter to the religious folks of Jesus’ day…it was urgently important. And Jesus’ behavior that Saturday morning…his decision to heal a man with a withered hand…was an unambiguous violation of God’s Holy Law…it was extremely offensive  to God-fearing and Law-abiding Jews, and make no mistake about it…it is one of the reasons (not the only reason, but one of the reasons)  the Jewish religious establishment  came to the inescapable conclusion that Jesus of Nazareth posed a significant threat to some of their most sacred religious traditions, and that, ultimately, he would have to be silenced…Jesus would have to die.

So, here is the question that has been rattling around in my brain this week:  Why couldn’t Jesus have waited until SundayWhy did he have to straighten the man’s hand on Saturday??  After all, this man (who hadn’t even asked Jesus to heal him) wasn’t facing a “life or death” situation…I’m sure another couple of hours wouldn’t make all that much difference.  I wonder why Jesus didn’t quietly and unobtrusively approach the man and whisper, “My heart goes out to you and I feel your pain (I really do)…and I want to help (and I will help)…but, at this stage in my public ministry,  I just can’t risk alienating the religious leaders by healing you this morning…but, if you will meet me here at sundown (after the Sabbath is over) then I will be pleased to heal you hand and put an end to your suffering.

Why couldn’t Jesus have waited until Sunday???  If he waited he could have accomplished the same end…the healing of this unfortunate man, and avoided a messy and unpleasant religious controversy.  That’s the question I would like for us to ponder for a few moments this morning: WHY…why didn’t Jesus wait until Sunday to bring healing/wholeness to this Son of Abraham…this man with a withered hand? Here is what I think:

I think Jesus didn’t wait until Sunday because there are some things that are more important than maintaining peace/harmony/tranquility in the religious community.

I think he did it…he healed the man on Saturday to make the point that “the Sabbath was made for humanity”…and not the other way around and to expose the hypocrisy of anyone who chose to be offended when healing and salvation had come to a child of God and a fellow human being, no matter what day of the week it occurred.

But most of all, I think Jesus didn’t wait until Sunday…he healed the man with the withered hand on Saturday to challenge the conventional religious wisdom of the day…the teaching and practice of the Scribes/Pharisees/Teachers of the Law… that believed and taught that you “Keep the Sabbath” by scrupulously avoiding anything that might be interpreted as work (like plowing a field or carrying a burden or healing a man with a withered hand)…Jesus disagreed…he totally rejected that way of thinking…that practice of religion!  Jesus believed that the heart and soul of God’s Law was justice and mercy and compassion, and to bring healing and wholeness and life to a Child of God is exactly what Keeping the Sabbath was really all about..

Friends, here is the point of the story…the point where the story intersects with our lives in the real world…here is the “inconvenient truth”: if your practice of religion does not move you to respond to the suffering and brokenness of your neighbor the way that Jesus responded to the man with the withered hand in the Gospel for today… if your practice of religion results in your separating yourself…closing your eyes/ears/hearts to the brokenness and suffering of your neighbor rather than responding as Jesus responded… if your practice of religion does not move you and inspire you to love your neighbor as much as you love yourself…than I need to tell you that you may be practicing religion, but it certainly isn’t the religion of Jesus that you are practicing!

It is true…Jesus didn’t have to heal the man with the withered hand on Saturday…the Sabbath day…but he did…of course, Jesus could have easily waited until Sunday.,.but he didn’t wait…(and that is the point of the story) Divine mercy refused to wait another day…another hour… another minute to bring healing…wholeness…salvation…life to a son of Abraham…a child of God. And my prayer for myself and for all of us this morning is that God the Holy Spirit would grant us the courage/confidence/commitment so that our practice of religion would be authentically Christian…so that the religion we practice would be the religion of Jesus…the savior and redeemer of us all…

Amen+ 

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