Sabbath and Freedom

by Aug 28, 2019

Luke 13:10-17

Jesus is challenged for healing on the Sabbath

A friend of mine went on a management course. He was a team leader and was always available for those who he worked with. Of course, that meant he was constantly on the phone answering their questions. In the first session they took him, and the others on the course to the lake district. They took their phones away from them, and put each of them on the side of a mountain with a little shelter, a bottle of water, some food and a limit on how far they could move from their shelter. So they couldn’t speak to one another. They stayed there for 12 hours, during which time they were able to stop thinking about all the things that needed doing and were able to be. On the bus journey home my friend’s mobile regained reception and started beeping with messages. As he looked through them, starting from the panicked ones asking questions and wondering why he wasn’t responding. He had a series of messages telling him all the issues his team had had while he was away were sorted.

When I was 4 years old we lived in Montreal in a duplex. A duplex is a bit like a house which has been converted into two flats, one upstairs and one downstairs. But it is designed like this, so there are two front doors. I think there are buildings like this on the Finchley Road. In Montreal they are popular you can recognise them because they have often have outside staircases going straight up to the upstairs entrance. We lived upstairs and Mr Teacle lived downstairs. I have no memory of Mr Teacle, though my impression was always that he didn’t like children. My memory of him was purely that at some point when I had been jumping around Mr Teacle had complained that we were very noisy and could we keep it down. As a result every time I realised I was jumping or every time I fell over or dropped something I would shout: ‘Sorry Mr Teacle.’ Which thinking back on it now wouldn’t much improve Mr Teacle’s experience of having us upstairs. Though it did temper my jumping. This reaction became so ingrained, that for years afterwards, wherever I was, if I made a big noise I would say: ‘Sorry Mr Teacle.’ In a way this programming, this indoctrination worked far beyond it’s need – it encouraged me to try and be quiet. But years later when I was living in a flat I was constantly tiptoeing around desperately worried about making too much noise.

Of course there is a need for children to learn when its appropriate to make lots of noise and when it isn’t. But there is also a danger of teaching our children that they aren’t allowed to do something that the teaching extends beyond the context, or beyond our meaning. For example, if we talk about girls being quiet and boys being rambunctious,  we potentially build up those behaviours. If we make children feel uncomfortable and restricted in church – like they aren’t really welcome, then they will remember that when they have the choice. We can limit ourselves and others, we can generate a sense of shame or unease so easily.

In today’s Old Testament and Gospel readings we explore something of the meaning of the Sabbath. In the reading from Isaiah we are reminded of what the Sabbath is for: A time to refrain from pursuing our own interests, but rather a time to delight in the Lord and the holy day of the Lord. Sabbath was the 7th day of the Genesis 1 creation story.
It was the day that God chose to rest, but also to enjoy and to delight in the creation. So God commanded his people to rest on the 7th day, to delight in God and all that God had made and be thankful. But the passage from Isaiah isn’t only about Sabbath, it also reminds us that what God commands God’s people to do is to unburden ourselves so that we can offer our food to the hungry, to care for the afflicted, and to trust in God. Among our Jewish neighbours who mark the Sabbath: It is about being with family and friends, about attending the synagogue and not relying on others to serve them.

In the Gospel Jesus heals a woman who is bent double from some ailment. Immediately the Synagogue leaders respond, so vehemently one wonders what shame they feel this act is going to bring upon them – so programmed to obey the sabbath in a specific way – perhaps they have missed the point that the sabbath is there to delight in God’s creation, and to free us from the bondage of the world. So often our knee-jerk responses, like apologising to Mr. Teacle, like that sense of imposter syndrome, like that deep down sense of unwelcome we might associate with certain places, are connected to a sense of shame.

In reality what Jesus has done isn’t shameful. Jesus honours God in his compassion. The rules around the sabbath had exceptions or allowances for when to act was a question of life or death. and yet this woman has been sick for sometime. Is her life suddenly at risk? She doesn’t even seek Jesus out. But in a way this is exactly Jesus’ point. Often Jesus reminds the lookers on that his acts of compassion are only one bit of the story. They are a visible outward sign of the much more significant grace going on inside. Jesus is not just freeing her from her ailment, but freeing her from the sin which clings to us all. Like the sacraments we celebrate at baptism, and in the Eucharist, the healing of the woman is an outward sign of the grace of God, reaching out to us with forgiveness and love, re-establishing the relationship we have with God.

And that is what the sabbath is for. We should all set aside time ideally each day, but a significant time each week, in which we can be freed from the burdens of the world and receive the grace of God,
leaning down to us as we are bent double,
reaching out to us and drawing us up into the love of God.
I hope that is why we gather together each Sunday,
in this place, to receive that renewal, to receive that grace.

A friend of mine went on a management course.
He was a team leader and was always available for those who he worked with
Of course, that meant he was constantly on the phone answering their questions.
One day he was sent on a management course and almost the first thing they did was take him,
and the others on the course to the lake district.
They took their phones away from them,
and put each of them on the side of a mountain
with a little shelter, a bottle of water, some food
and a limit on how far they could move from their shelter
So they couldn’t speak to one another.
They stayed there for 12 hours,
during which time they were able to stop thinking about all the things that needed doing and were able to be.
After their day on the mountain they had another two days of classes and exercises.
On the bus journey home my friend’s mobile regained reception and started beeping with messages.
As he looked through them,
starting from the panicked ones asking questions and wondering why he wasn’t responding.
He had a series of messages telling him all the issues his team had had while he was away were sorted.
Body
When I was 4 years old we lived in Montreal in a duplex.
A duplex is a bit like a house which has been converted into two flats, one upstairs and one downstairs.
But it is designed like this, so there are two front doors.
I think there are buildings like this on the Finchley Road.
In Montreal they are popular you can recognise them because they have often have outside staircases going straight up to the upstairs entrance.
We lived upstairs and Mr Teacle lived downstairs.
I have no memory of Mr Teacle, though my impression was always that he didn’t like children.
My memory of him was purely that at some point when I had been jumping around Mr Teacle had complained that we were very noisy and could we keep it down.
As a result everytime I realised I was jumping or everytime I fell over or dropped something I would shout:
‘Sorry Mr Teacle’
Which thinking back on it now wouldn’t much improve Mr Teacle’s experience of having us upstairs.
Though it did temper my jumping.
This reaction became so ingrained,
that for years afterwards, wherever I was, if I made a big noise I would say: ‘Sorry Mr Teacle.’
In a way this programming, this indoctrination worked far beyond it’s need – it encouraged me to try and be quiet.
But years later when I was living in a flat I was constantly tiptoeing around desperately worried about making too much noise.

Of course there is a need for children to learn when its appropriate to make lots of noise and when it isn’t.
But there is also a danger of teaching our children that they aren’t allowed to do something that the teaching extends beyond the context, or beyond our meaning.
For example, if we talk about girls being quiet and boys being rambunctious,
we potentially build up those behaviours
If we make children feel uncomfortable and restricted in church – like they aren’t really welcome, then they will remember that when they have the choice.
We can limit ourselves and others,
we can generate a sense of shame or unease so easily.
In today’s Old Testament and Gospel readings we explore something of the meaning of the Sabbath.
In the reading from Isaiah we are reminded of what the Sabbath is for:
A time to refrain from pursuing our own interests,
but rather a time to delight in the Lord and the holy day of the Lord.
Sabbath was the 7th day of the Genesis 1 creation story.
It was the day that God chose to rest,
but also to enjoy and to delight in the creation.
So God commanded his people to rest on the 7th day,
to delight in God and all that God had made
and be thankful.
But the passage from Isaiah isn’t only about Sabbath,
it also reminds us that what God commands God’s people to do is to unburden ourselves so that we can offer our food to the hungry, to care for the afflicted,
and to trust in God.

Among our Jewish neighbours who mark the Sabbath:
It is about being with family and friends,
about attending the synagogue
and not relying on others to serve them.

In the Gospel Jesus heals a woman who is bent double from some ailment.
Immediately the Synagogue leaders respond,
so vehemently one wonders what shame they feel this act is going to bring upon them –
so programmed to obey the sabbath in a specific way –
perhaps they have missed the point that the sabbath is there to delight in God’s creation,
and to free us from the bondage of the world.
So often our knee-jerk responses,
like apologising to Mr. Teacle,
like that sense of imposter syndrome,
like that deep down sense of unwelcome we might associate with certain places,
are connected to a sense of shame.
In reality what Jesus has done isn’t shameful.
Jesus honours God in his compassion.
The rules around the sabbath had exceptions or allowances for when to act was a question of life or death.
and yet this woman has been sick for sometime
Is her life suddenly at risk?
She doesn’t even seek Jesus out.
But in a way this is exactly Jesus’ point.
Often Jesus reminds the lookers on that his acts of compassion are only one bit of the story.
They are a visible outward sign of the much more significant grace going on inside.
Jesus is not just freeing her from her ailment,
but freeing her from the sin which clings to us all.
Like the sacraments we celebrate at baptism,
and in the Eucharist,
the healing of the woman is an outward sign of the grace of God, reaching out to us with forgiveness and love,
re-establishing the relationship we have with God.
Conclusion
And that is what the sabbath is for.
We should all set aside time ideally each day, but a significant time each week,
in which we can be freed from the burdens of the world and receive the grace of God,
leaning down to us as we are bent double,
reaching out to us and drawing us up into the love of God.
I hope that is why we gather together each Sunday,
in this place, to receive that renewal, to receive that grace.

The Reverend Robin Sims-Williams

Weekly Services

Sunday Mornings

8.00am Said Eucharist in the lady chapel
10.00am Parish Eucharist with choir and Sunday School

Weekday Services

Said Eucharist on Wednesdays at 11.00am
Evening Prayer 
Monday through Thursday at 5.30pm

Joker and Grace

  Luke 17:11-19 Jesus heals 10 lepers This weekend I went and saw the new film - Joker. It is the back story of the Joker - Batman’s arch rival - possibly the most recognisable comic-book villain of all time. I saw a tweet before going to see the film, which...

read more

You are what you eat

What do you like to eat? What is your favourite food? That is probably one of the most universal questions. We all have an answer. More so than ‘what’s your favourite colour?’ or ‘Whose your favourite Beatle?’

read more