Thursday, September 29, 2016

29 September 2016
Luke 6:1-11

And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. (Ge 2:2, NRSV)       
            Good afternoon, welcome. Today’s lectionary reading tells two Sabbath stories; rather, describes two Sabbath confrontations between Jesus and the Pharisees. Sabbath rest goes all the way back to creation, to the very beginning. According to Strong’s, the Hebrew word translated ‘rest’ can mean rest, cease, or celebrate. Although most modern translations go with rest, since rest implies a need of some sort or other, let’s take a minute to consider cease, and celebrate.
            Remember, God’s plan all along was to create humankind. He began by creating a perfect world for humanity to live in. Some commentators think He originally intended to dwell here with the humans He created, in which case it is not unreasonable to assume, after creation was finished, God simply ceased creating and celebrated what He had done. God made the man and woman stewards over His creation, implying they had day to day tasks to perform. After the fall, these tasks would become toil and Sabbath rest would move into the realm of true rest from work; but in the beginning I believe it was more of a celebration. Genesis 3:8 seems to support this, at least the idea of God being physically present in the garden. Keeping the Sabbath becomes a commandment in Exodus-Israel is commanded to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy; work is expressly forbidden. By the time Jesus comes work had (and still has) an extremely broad definition. Keeping these ideas of celebration and rest in mind, let’s move forward to our Gospel reading.

One Sabbath while Jesus was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked some heads of grain, rubbed them in their hands, and ate them. (Luke 6:1, NRSV)
The idea of going through grainfields plucking grain and eating it goes back at least to Deuteronomy 23:25-25. Here God says its ok to go into your neighbor’s field (or vineyard) and pluck with your hand-you can eat it there but you can’t take it with you. The problem was, Pharisees considered plucking harvesting and harvesting was work and work was forbidden.

Then he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” (Luke 6:5, NRSV)
Jesus reminds them that David raided the Temple and ate the bread of the Presence-consecrated sanctuary bread, for priests only-which God allowed. If God allowed that, surely He would allow eating grain, which was available to anyone who entered the field. Then He gets to the heart of the matter-the son of Man is lord of the Sabbath. Jesus seems to be saying ‘I gave you the Sabbath; I get to make the rules about how it is to be kept, and if I want to celebrate it in a grainfield, I will.’

After looking around at all of them, he said to him, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was restored. But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus. (Luke 6:10-11, NRSV).
The second Sabbath confrontation centers around a man with a withered hand, and this question, which Jesus puts to the Pharisees in a synagogue service-is it lawful to  do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save life or destroy it?(vs.9). Jesus spoke, the man stretched out his hand (neither of which was work); Luke says the hand was restored. Jesus celebrated life by making the man whole. What should have been a joyous occasion for everyone present-a powerful sign of the presence of God among His people-instead filled the Pharisees with fury.

I have two take-aways here, one from the Genesis account and one from the Gospel. First, from Genesis, comes the idea that God really, really wants our friendship; God truly enjoys being with us. We need to move away from the idea of God as a cosmic taskmaster or supernatural Santa, and towards the idea of God as our divine lover and ourselves as His beloved. James says it like this; “God yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us” (Ja.4:5, NRSV). I think I have asked this before-if we cannot enjoy God now, how will we ever enjoy Him in eternity?

The Gospel take-away is similar and also one we have seen before. The Pharisees stood in the presence of God and did not recognize Him. This is not a criticism; it simply is. John tells us Jesus would say “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. Yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (John 5:39-40, NRSV). I know from personal experience the gap between knowing about God and knowing God is huge. And I also know from personal experience knowing about God leads to pride and hardness of heart; knowing God leads somewhere else entirely. 

We have another made-for-meditation moment here-God celebrating His creation, in His creation, with His creation. Point your thoughts in that direction today; keep it in mind Sunday as we celebrate together.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. JRG


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