Luke  13:10-17

Who’s Rules?

August 21, 2016

 We’ve splashed our rules all over the sanctuary walls …

So many rules that we don’t have time for dancing …

Our graffiti defiling the house of God.

God’s graffiti is different: God writes love upon our hearts.

Some night, let’s sneak into the sanctuary and paint all over the rules

And write God’s graffiti all over the walls —

Love. Love. Love. Love. (Weems. Kneeling In Jerusalem  p. 32)

            So writes the Presbyterian minister and poet Ann Weems in a poem entitled “God’s Graffiti.” For me, this poem captures the essence of our passage before us today from Luke 13:10-17. Here we have Jesus in a Synagogue, the Sanctuary for this group of Hebrew worshippers.  It’s the Sabbath day, the day for worship.  We are not told what text is read on this particular Sabbath, but maybe it was one of those beautiful passages from Hebrew scripture that dealt with God’s love and care for all people, or maybe a passage that dealt with how the Messiah would bring in an age of healing, love, compassion, and peace. Jesus looks and sees a woman who has a severe spinal disorder, a spinal disorder so severe that she was not able to stand up straight.  She had been bent over, unable to stand straight, for 18 years.  Jesus looks at her. She may have not been able to see his eyes because she was so stooped, but then Jesus speaks: “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.”

“You are set free from your ailment.”

            What gracious, loving, compassionate words. Can you imagine what these words must have meant to this woman? For 18 long years she had been unable to stand up straight. For 18 long years she had not been able to see the world around her. For 18 long years she had not been able to look people in the eye or truly be a part of the community.  For 18 long years she had been living with being bent over.  How depressing this must have been!

            And now Jesus says to her: “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.”

            What does she do? What would you have done had you been her? She stands  and gives praise to God. God’s love and God’s will had indeed come to her in a new and glorious way!

            She could stand! She could see the world around her again! She could stand! She could look people in the eye again! She could stand! She could truly become a part of the community again! She could stand! She was no longer in pain! She could stand! Praise God, she could stand! Indeed, she began praising God, and you probably would have also had you been her.

            But did everyone join her in praising God that day? Did everyone rejoice that she could see the world around her again? Did everyone rejoice that she could look people in the eye again? Did everyone rejoice that she could become a part of the community again? Did everyone rejoice that she was free of pain? Did everyone rejoice that this woman was healed? You would think so.  Especially in the Synagogue where God’s love for all people and will for healing was spoken of and God’s Kingdom of love, compassion, and healing was prayed for.  And particularly on the Sabbath, the one day in the week set aside for thinking about and praying for God’s will.  You would think that everyone would have joined this woman in her praise of God.

            But do they? No.  The leader of the Synagogue becomes indignant.  It seemed that, in his mind, Jesus had picked the wrong time to heal. Healing, you see, was considered work, and work was not allowed on the Sabbath. What the Synagogue leader seemed to be saying was that Jesus’ actions may have been good, but His timing lousy! The Sabbath was not the time for such things! It was against the rules!

Everyone knew the rules! The rules made life easier and more predictable! Everyone knew what to expect, and what was expected of them! Things just went more smoothly if everyone followed the rules!

And then along comes Jesus, breaking the rules, challenging the rules, and confusing the order of things by healing on the Sabbath.

            Why did He do it? What’s Jesus trying to say in healing on the Sabbath? What’s Jesus’ message to the people gathered in the Synagogue on that day, and to us, gathered in this place of worship on this day? 

Maybe Jesus is trying to say that rules are good, that rules do bring order to our lives, but can not be allowed to take over the most important rule of all, God’s rule, the rule of love.

Love. That’s God’s rule. God’s rule of love wills that love and compassion be shown to all people at all times.  God’s rule of love knows no limits of time or place. God’s rule of love should never be limited by our rules.

            We all certainly need to learn the value of rules,  but the most important rule we need to learn is God’s rule of love. Maybe we need to pay attention to and listen to God’s rule more than our rules.

God’s rule that demands love for all people at all times instead of our rules that may try to limit the people we can show love to or the times we can show love. God’s rule that says we must love and forgive each other instead of our rules that bind each other with suspicion and a lack of trust. God’s rule that says we must unite and work together to bring the Kingdom of God into the world instead of our rules that sometimes divide us into factions and keep us from truly showing God’s love and God’s Kingdom to each other and to others. God’s rule that says to love all instead of our rules that have a tendency to pick and choose who we will love and who we won’t.

            Yes, we must follow the rules. But do we follow God’s rules or ours? Who’s rules to we follow? Let’s follow God’s rule! Let’s follow the rule of love. Let’s follow the rule of forgiveness. Let’s follow the rule of healing. Let’s follow the rule of working together to show God’s love to the world. Let’s follow God’s rule. Let’s follow the rule of love.

            Love. That’s God’s rule.  Let’s let the love of God be our rule. Maybe it would not be that bad of an idea to do as Weems writes:

Some night, let’s sneak into the sanctuary and paint all over the rules

And write God’s graffiti all over the walls —

Love. Love. Love. Love. (Weems. Kneeling In Jerusalem  p. 32)

 

Love.  It’s God’s rule — and it should be ours. Amen.