Archive for August, 2022

Keeping Sabbath

Luke 14

1 On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely.

2 Just then, in front of him, there was a man who had dropsy.

3 And Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees, “Is it lawful to cure people on the sabbath, or not?”

4 But they were silent. So Jesus took him and healed him, and sent him away.

5 Then he said to them, “If one of you has a child or an ox that has fallen into a well, will you not immediately pull it out on a sabbath day?”

6 And they could not reply to this.

7 When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable.

8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; 9 and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, “Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, “Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you.

11 For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

12 He said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.

14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” [NRSA]

15 One of the dinner guests, on hearing this, said to him, “Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!”

They were watching him… 

The scene for this healing and subsequent parable is the home of a prestigious leader’s home. A strange gathering of political and religious folks, Jesus, and man with an extreme case of swelling, edema. No doubt the man who was likely in obvious pain and discomfort was seated next to Jesus. 

Not only was this a test, a setup, to entrap Jesus. It was not likely the man with the swelling was family or friends with any of the invited guests. 

Have you been to a dinner party where name tags are placed at each table. It is typically a great deal of work to prepare such an occasion. There are honored guests that are seated near the front progressing to those who are lesser known or are invited for reasons of being polite and respectful of the occasion. Jesus has a favored place with a less honorable guest. It is a great scene for a Jesus conversation.

We have a collection of parables that Jesus will share throughout the dinner party, but they are all center around the honor, respect, and approval.

For the majority of those gathered there were many preparations made for the gathering. What to wear? Who to bring as their plus one? Anticipating who would be at the gathering and what conversations might lead to possibilities in the marketplace and in the social standing of the community

This was a Sabbath power dinner. And the community leaders want to see how Jesus would react. And so also, Jesus is watching and listening. Perceiving the trap that was being set, Jesus’s first action is to heal the man who was ill and send him on his way. Jesus had been healing and teaching and God’s power had been making the establishment look bad and threatened their power in the community. Jesus was a problem. The healing on the Sabbath was the evidence needed to call for the “Levitical Bureau of Investigation” to complete their dossier on this troublemaker out of their way.

The commandment that to keep the Sabbath holy was simple and over time 39 categories of defined to help explain what keeping the Sabbath meant: 

The practice of “Keeping the Sabbath” had shifted from what we do to honor God into a prohibition of what dishonor’s God.

Jesus askes those who have prepared the setup, power lunch on the Sabbath: Is there a law against doing good on the Sabbath? Is it better to do good or do evil on the Sabbath? Is it lawful to cure someone on the Sabbath? The tennis ball is volleyed into their court. 

Jesus returns the serve first by healing the man and removing the key evidence from the table by sending the man home, made well.

Jesus also asks for the affirmation of his actions from those who have placed him on trial. How can they say it’s acceptable to do evil, much less on the Sabbath? 

Jesus shares the first parable in his question about the ox in the ditch. Who of you would leave you ox in the ditch until after sundown and return in the dark of night to retrieve you ox, donkey, or child until the Sabbath was over? “I’m sorry old Blue, we will be back in the morning because it would require us to break at least three Sabbath laws.” No, you get to work and call it a necessity.

The first lesson is using God’s laws with difference and preference based on situational ethics and personal gain or threat. Jesus is challenging the established interpretations of “Keeping the Sabbath” and restoring the original purpose of the law. 

Jesus does not throw out the law, Jesus completes the law. This is not an invitation to throw out the law, rather to recall why laws are given in the first place. Doing good for God on the Sabbath honor’s God, “watch” as he heals the suffering man’s condition. Jesus restores the original reason for the law, devoting ourselves to God and God’s work. Don’t focus on remembering the 39 ways to behave or restrain yourself, remember the one commandment to refrain from our work to share in the works of God.

Jesus heals on the Sabbath at least seven occasions. Something simple had become clouded and convoluted. Sabbath was made to rest with God, not to work on keeping rules. Think how much time and energy WORK was being investing in keeping rules that were focuses on our actions rather than on God’s.

Back to the dinner party. When we are invited to an important dinner or party.

  • Why do we attend? To celebrate those giving the party? A holiday, a wedding? Some occasion for celebration?
  • When does it become, instead a social measuring? An opportunity for networking?

Do we prepare ourselves to be seen by our neighbors or by God? If God is at the party, I think I would rather dress for God than the eyes of the group. Our society is driven by what we will wear, eat, and present ourselves to the world. 

Think of social media. What picture to use as a profile phone? The one where we have been out working in the yard, all hot and sweaty, or some older photos from a few years ago, when the camera captured our very best side with favor? 

What is our Focus? If the dinner party, work interview, or social occasion is about business in the world in which we live and work, we know the proverb from Erasmus, “Clothes Make the Man” and we best look and be our best for the world to embrace, hire, and befriend us. But when it’s an invitation for Sabbath, an invite to rest with God, who are we trying to fool or impress?

Jesus continues to say, “When you host a party” don’t invite those who you want to be invited to their homes. When it comes to God, using the opportunities to celebrate God, don’t make them about yourselves, your social standing, your place in the world, unless your true intentions are of this world!

We might want to dismiss this teaching opportunity off by saying we just don’t go to such parties and dinners and there is no nugget of application from this passage. But recall this occasion is not as much about a party or a dinner, than it is how we keep the Sabbath.

We are tempted to think about days past when less commerce was done on Sunday’s but that is emphasizing the laws and rules over the communion with God and the People of God. This passage is not justification for break the rules, it is for remembering what God wants from us.

  1. Today is a great day for fellowship with God and one another
  2. Today is a great day to talk and listen to God in prayer
  3. Today is a great day for worship of God
  4. Today is a great day to place our worry, fears, responsibilities, strengths and weakness at God’s feet and be at home with God.

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“A Day For Healing” Luke 13:10-17

10 Now he 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. 12 When 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. [NRSA]

One of the issues of this passage, that we see in the news today, is deflection. The story, the headline, should read, “Woman Set Free” but instead the headline reads, “Jesus Does Work on Sabbath”.

We live in a time that we need to pray for discernment about what is true, what is important, and what is Good vs evil. Just because it is on the web, on the news, on some official letterhead unfortunately, we are surrounded by what others want us to focus, even if it is not true, good, or the wholeness of God.

Jesus is focused on a person being set free and made whole. And the official voice is protecting the power structure of the day.

But this is not the most powerful part of this passage:

When the community should be celebrating the healing and life restoration of this woman the whole community must have known had struggled for decades, now is made whole!

This is a story of freedom.

Notice that Jesus calls a certain woman who was known to all in the community as the old woman with a bad back. For nearly two decades she had been suffering with the same aliment.

Can you picture this person? Back pain, sleepless nights and limited strength every day. Visits to many doctors, many treatments, and remedies attempted. Twenty years of struggle that had become accepted as “her way of life.”

Jesus calls this woman to come to him.

He declares that he wants to set her free from her ailment.

This gives us occasion to examine all that needs healing. There are multiple levels of healing at work. Jesus is not just making her physically well. His message was to set her free.

  • Our bodies:
  • Our minds:
  • Our Souls.

Our Bodies

We are typically good about sharing our physical needs and physical needs of one another.  In our collective experience we each have stories of ailment and illnesses, suffering and struggles with our bodies. At first thought, we pray for each other to be made well or made physically whole, but we forget that we are more than physical bodes.

Our Minds

We are also feeling, sensing, and effected by our emotional needs. I am lonely, I am afraid, I am lost. I am confused. I am worn thin and filled with garbage, baggage, and trash. My heart is heavy and my mind is focused on the rules, the bills, the markers of our struggles.

When we are physically broken, there are also emotional factors of pain, sadness, loss, depression, grief, shame, fear, and more that ride along with our physical struggles. To be whole is to be not only physically mended, but also to address the psychological and emotional trauma we experience.

Out Stephens Ministry team is ready to walk with you in your journey is a personal and private way.

There numerous conditions that our emotional and psychological state impacts our physical reality. And the reverse is true.

The man who is blind, and the Blind man.

Often we begin to identify as that afflicted person and not as the individual human-child of God. When my identity is condition of my physical or emotional state I become captive of a condition and loose the person that I am.

We know someone who adopts the identity of being a victim rather than the person we are who has experiences some illness, events, or struggle. When we live as an objectified person we become trap or trap others by shifting the person for the condition.

Remember Jesus is about setting this woman free from her ailment, her condition, and the whole picture of her beyond her condition.

Our Souls

The most important factor in our wholeness, is addressing our spiritual wholeness and freedom. The doctor can patch us, the counselor can guide us to separating our emotions and experiences. But there are some folks who are spiritually free who never find physical or emotional wholeness, but have such a closeness to Jesus that they are able to find freedom to know joy, peace, fellowship, and meaning in life, even when the former things are unchanged.

  1. In this example Jesus speaks and invited freedom
  2. Second, Jesus touches this woman and her body, mind, and spirit are set free.

Her response is to Worship God.

Together we are seeking God’s will and purpose in our daily lives and for the sum of our lives.

We know Jesus has healed her physically, emotionally, and spiritually

We know that her condition was more than physical because Jesus connects her wholeness from the power of Satan, the power of evil.

  • The context of our physical conditions,
  • Our emotional states, and
  • Our spiritual relationships

Require all three to be addressed to be truly free.

Why settle for satisfying the body when the heart, mind, and strength can all be well in unison.

ARE WE FREE?

This story of healing, wholeness, and FREEDOM is told for our benefit.

Lord heal my body

Lord heal my heart and mind

Lord heal my spirit.

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God has a Better Way: Hebrews 11:29-12:2

29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as if it were dry land, but when the Egyptians attempted to do so they were drowned. 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell after they had been encircled for seven days. 31 By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had received the spies in peace. 32 And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets– 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented– 38 of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. 39 Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect. 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. [NRSA]

By Faith: By faith

We think we know how the story of the saints should go:

Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith,

did not receive what was promised,

The punchline is not that got their reward, even those who have gone before are waiting for New Heaven and New Earth.

Our loved ones are with Jesus, but they too are awaiting Christ’s return to give us the new Jerusalem, and be join together.

Hear the Good News: 40 since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us,

be made perfect. 1

Preventing Grace, Justify, Sanctifying, Perfecting Grace

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,

Imagine being an Olympic racer with the world cheering you on in a race. We have all the saints, prophet, loved ones, and more cheer us.. to

  1. let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely,
  • and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2

BUT HOW? How do we have faith greater than beliefs. Difference in believing what Jesus can do, and in trusting what Jesus will do in, with, through, for me and you.

 looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith,

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