Sunday’s sermon: Jesus Who Shows Compassion

Good Samaritan” by Paulus Hoffman

Text used – Luke 10:25-37

  • According to …
    • DiSC Personality Profile system (took in seminary): Creative Pattern
    • Enneagram: 1w9 (the Idealist)
    • Myers-Briggs Type Indicator: INFJ (the Advocate)
    • And that’s just a few of the dozens of possible labels that I could wear thanks to the personality test industry. There are all sorts of ways we try to understand who we are and who the people that we’re working with or living with are nowadays. Corporate settings, business retreats, church conferences – any organization that has spent time trying to dig deep into team building has explored some sort of personality test.
      • Part of the call process with our CPM: reams of forms to fill out including 3 separate personality tests (MBTI, the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory … and one other that I’ve long since forgotten)
      • Personality test industry = $500 million dollar industry![1]
      • We do everything we can to try to get down to the root of who we are. We feel like if we better understand ourselves, we’ll better understand the world around us – how we interact with people, how people perceive us, some of our strengths and weaknesses, some of our triggers, the best ways that we can contribute, and so on. We seek to understand what our role is and how it fits in with the roles of the people around us – what piece of the puzzle we happen to be, and how we fit with those around us and with the larger picture. → always interesting to learn about who other people are, the roles they play, and how those roles affect and inform our lives
        • Extra interesting because each different type of test reveals different facets of who we are Because whether you’ve taken 100 personality tests or zero, we all know that personalities are complex, multifaceted things. We are many things to many people, and we play many roles throughout our lives.
    • So that’s the angle we’re going to be taking throughout Lent this year. I wish we could be getting together so we could do our own personality exploration on the side with this, but what we’re going to be focusing on during our worship is the personality of the One who brings us here in the first place. We’re going to be focusing on who Jesus is by reading some of the stories of his life and ministry (brought to us this year by Luke’s gospel) and letting those stories reveal roles that Jesus plays even to today.
  • Story that we’re encountering Jesus through today = probably one of (if not the) most well-known stories in the entire Bible It’s one of those stories familiar to people who have never set foot in a church in their lives. It’s the story of the Good Samaritan.
    • Definitely familiar “Good Samaritan” moniker used in all sorts of different ways – all involving “helping” in some way or another
      • Good Samaritan charities/organizations
      • Good Samaritan hospitals
      • Good Samaritan churches
      • Good Samaritan Society = senior living/rehabilitation facilities here in southern Minnesota[2]
      • If you utter the phrase “Good Samaritan,” people know what you’re talking about.
    • Confession to make this morning: in my 8+ yrs. of ministry, I’ve never preached the Good Samaritan I’ve never preached on this text before because I’ve always felt like it’s one of the few Scripture passages that, for the most part, preaches itself.
      • All know the basic story, right?
        • Begins with one of the legal experts/Pharisees asking Jesus, “What must I do to gain eternal life?” Jesus responds with question about the Law (Pharisee’s area of expertise) which encourages the Pharisee to answer his own question: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” not good enough for the Pharisee counters with another question: “But who is my neighbor?”[3]
        • Jesus’ reply = the familiar story: man traveling alone from Jerusalem to Jericho (notoriously treacherous stretch of highways) gets set-upon by a band of thieves who “stripped him naked, beat him up, and left him near death” a number of people happen upon this man in his gravely wounded state as they make their own way along the road – priest sees him but passes by, Levite (spiritual leader) sees him but passes by, Samaritan “was moved with compassion” and stopped to help the man bandaged his wounds, put him on his donkey, took him to an inn, cared for him, and provided funds to the innkeeper for more care to be given to the man until he was well again[4]
        • Passage wraps up with Jesus posing the Pharisee’s question back at him: “What do you think? Which one of these three was a neighbor to the man who encountered thieves?” Pharisee responds, “The one who demonstrated mercy toward him.” Jesus gives what will become one of his trademark instructions (at least in Luke’s gospel): “Go and do likewise.”[5]
      • I mean, the end of the story really preaches itself. It’s a full sermon in two short verses: [Jesus said,] “What do you think? Which of these three was a neighbor to the man who encountered thieves?” Then the legal expert said, “The one who demonstrated mercy toward him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”[6]  Done and done, right? It’s clear. It’s concise. There’s a faith lesson involved as well as a directive to go and do (literally). What more do we need?
  • Except that it’s not that clear cut. I mean, it must not be … because here we are 2000 years later, and we still can’t get this right.
    • 2020 has proved that to us in spades
      • Violence done to black and brown bodies over and over and over again while the rest of us look the other way or look for pointless and baseless excuses
      • Politicization of something as simple as wearing masks as a way to protect others during a worldwide pandemic that has killed millions
      • Willfully ignoring and denying systemic racism that has perpetuated poverty, desperation, and an oppressive lack of opportunities for communities of color
    • Beyond just this past year, the last few years …
      • Immigrant families literally torn apart at our southern border
      • Flagrant violation of treaties with indigenous tribes who made their homes on this land millennia before we ever arrived
      • Violence done to the bodies and souls of LGBTQ+ people
      • General villainization of “the other”
        • Anyone whose skin isn’t white
        • Anyone whose first language isn’t English
        • Anyone whose passport doesn’t say “United States of America”
        • Anyone whose faith practice isn’t Christian
    • Not only have we forgotten how to listen to the voices of those who are different from us. We have actively denied and disparaged and attempted to silence those voices. With our words and our intentional silences. With our actions and our inactions.
      • Dr. Mitzi Smith (prof of NT at Columbia Theological Seminary): Disinterested, dehumanizing distance and ignorance makes no demands and takes no risks for others. … When do our class, race, gender, ethnic, ideological, cultural, and religious differences promote dehumanization of ourselves and of others? Dehumanizing others dehumanizes us.[7]
  • But still we have our story for this morning staring us in the face, and we hear again Jesus’ call to compassion. Let’s look a little more closely at our story again.
    • 3 people that encounter the injured man = priest, Levite, and Samaritan
      • Priest and Levite = presumably same ethnic and religious background as the injured man Jews from the area
      • But the Samaritan is another story. Samaritans = technical Jews from the northern kingdom of Israel BUT their ancestors weren’t deported during the time of the Babylonian exile These were the people left behind in the conquered city and surrounding area.
        • Resulted in Jews intermarrying with Assyrian conquerors Jews thought of the Samaritans as half-bloods and “second-class citizens”[8]
        • Resulted in a different form of religious practice Jews thought of the Samaritans as “untrustworthy heretics”[9]
        • Needless to say, Samaritans were despised and actively discriminated against.
    • And yet Jesus makes the Samaritan the example in this passage – the example of being a true neighbor, the example of right action, the example of compassion.
      • Scholar: As a way of illustrating where the center of gravity lies within the story, consider which actors are related to the nearly thirty verb forms in the parable. The victim of the mugging is the subject of two verbs. The robbers are the subject of four verbs. The priest and Levite are the subject of three verbs each, enough to walk the road, see the man, and pass by. The innkeeper is the subject of two verbs. The Samaritan is the subject of fifteen verbs.[10]  Clearly, it’s the actions of this “other” that we’re supposed to pay attention to and learn from. Jesus makes it abundantly clear that the one who crosses all of those arbitrary, societal “other” lines is the one who is acting as God desires.
        • Smith’s description: [This is] a parable narrative about human beings and how they respond to traumatized, violated, unsheltered, and/or marginalized others. This parable is about men—a priest, Levite, and Samaritan—who must make significant decisions at the intersection of ethnicity/race, gender, human victimization, and desperation.[11]
  • Friends, the reality of history is that Jesus was a dark-skinned, curly haired, Middle Eastern Jew. In circumstance, he was about as far from you and I as he could possibly get. And yet he came for us. He came for all of us. He came to show compassion in ways that continue to challenge and astound us. In his ministry, Jesus himself showed compassion in some of the most unlikely, unexpected, and unwelcomed circumstances: sinners and screw-ups, outcasts and misfits, those who had been labeled unclean and unwanted, tax collectors and even Pharisees – those whom he knew would one day take his life. But his compassion never waivered. How often can we say the same? Amen.

[1] Emma Goldberg. “Personality Tests Are the Astrology of the Office” from The New York Times, Published Sept. 17, 2019, accessed Feb. 21, 2021.


[3] Lk 10:25-29.

[4] Lk 10:30-35.

[5] Lk 10:36-37.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Mitzi J. Smith. “Commentary on Luke 10:25-37” for The Working Preacher, For Feb. 21, 2021, accessed Feb. 21, 2021.

[8] Mary Miller Brueggemann. “Luke 10:25-37 – Pastoral Perspective” in Feasting on the Gospels: Luke, vol. 1. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2014), 298.

[9] Douglas F. Ottati. “Luke 10:25-37 – Theological Perspective” in Feasting on the Gospels: Luke, vol. 1. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2014), 298.

[10] Mary Hinkle Shore. “Luke 10:25-37 – Exegetical Perspective” in Feasting on the Gospels: Luke, vol. 1. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2014), 299.

[11] Smith.

Sunday’s sermon: Love You Forever

Texts used – Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and John 17:20-26

  • You all know just how important children’s books are and always have been to me. No surprise when your Mom was a children’s librarian for 40 yrs!
    • So many lessons to be learned alongside compelling storylines and fantastic illustrations! → describe Galena Sunday school lessons (taught Sunday school as a part of my church internship and created curriculum out of “regular” children’s books paired with Scripture and some crafts/activities): I was very particular about picking out “non-churchy” children’s books. You see, it was really important to me that these books be ones that the kids could easily come across in their everyday life – at home, in their library time at school, and so on. By connecting those everyday children’s books to a lesson about faith, it was my hope that their encounters with those books outside of our Sunday school class would give them a flash of God in the midst of their ordinary days. I guess you could say I wanted the books to continue teaching them about faith long after our Sunday school lesson was over.
      • Believe it or not, the passage from Deuteronomy that we just read actually talks about this. Well, sort of … it can be interpreted that way, anyway.
        • Text: Love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your being, and all your strength. These words that I am commanding you today must always be on your minds. Recite them to your children. Talk about them when you are sitting around your house and when you are out and about, when you are lying down and when you are getting up.[1]
          • Heb. word translated as “recite” could also mean “repeat” – some other translations say “impress on your children” → Anyone who’s been around kids – their own or someone else’s – knows that the more ways and opportunities you can find to present an idea to kids, the more likely it is that that idea will stick! It’s just like my intentions with using “regular” children’s books for our Sunday school lessons.
            • Text: talk about it when you are sitting around your house → having dinner or at bath time
            • Text: talk about it when you’re out and about → in the car or while you’re grocery shopping
            • Text: talk about it when you’re lying down → before they go to bed at night
            • Text: talk about it when they get up in the morning
          • So what’s the “it” that this passage wants you to repeat? It’s simple: Love God!
  • Now, this may sound a little counterintuitive, but there’s actually a problem with this message: you’ve probably heard it at least a million times before, especially around Valentine’s Day weekend. You’ve heard it so many times that maybe it’s past the point of “repeating for the sake of learning” and reached the point of “in one ear and out the other.” So this morning, I’m going to present it just a little differently. After all, we aren’t really all that different from kids sometimes, are we? We like hearing important messages expressed in a variety of ways. This morning you all get to be kids again. You get to sit back and just relax while I read you a story. This book is called Love You Forever.
    • Author: Robert Munsch, illustrator: Sheila McGraw, publisher: Firefly Books → read book[2]

  • Power of love, right?! → Not surprisingly, love is obviously a concept scattered all throughout the Bible. In fact, the word love in all its various forms – love, loved, loving, and beloved – shows up 757 times in the Bible!
    • And this message is extra clear in the New Testament. Today’s text from the gospel of John sheds a little light on the reason for that clarity.
      • Context for John passage = subsection of much longer intercessory prayer that Jesus prays toward the end of his time on earth – today’s subsection entitled “The prayer for the church” in most Bibles → This is a very intimate moment between Jesus and God. In the other gospels, we’re told that Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane at this point, though John doesn’t actually say that. By now, Jesus has already said farewell to his disciples and dismissed Judas to carry out his betrayal. In fact, directly following this passage is John’s account of Jesus’ betrayal and arrest. So that means that in his last unrestrained moments, Jesus decides to spend that precious time praying … for us.
        • Think of what else Jesus could have been asking for
          • Freedom
          • Strength
          • Spared from pain
          • Instead he’s interceding on our behalf
        • Self-sacrifice reminds me of the mother at the end of Love You Forever → she knows the end of her life is near, but she still tries to sing her song to her son
      • In the gospel passage that we read today, Jesus is praying that the message of his ministry will continue.
        • Just prior to today’s section = prayer for the disciples → important for understanding the lead-in to our text today – text (began with): “I’m not praying only for them but also for those who believe in me because of their word.”[3] → Jesus is transitioning the subject of his prayer from the disciples to those who will follow the disciples –“those who will believe in me through their word” … that’s us! We are the ones who believe in Christ because of the words of those who have come before, but we can also be the ones speaking words of witness, conviction, and faith. We can be part of that chain – a living, breathing continuation of Jesus’ prayer from centuries ago. We can be the ones continuing Christ’s ministry.
        • Jesus even gives us the major emphasis of that ministry here – text: I’ve given them the glory that you gave me so that they can be one just as we are one. I’m in them and you are in me so that they will be made perfectly one. Then the world will know that you sent me and that you have loved them just as you loved me.[4] → Over and over again throughout this passage, Jesus says that we are in God and God is in us. This is what gives us the power and ability to reach out to others in faith. But how can God be in us?
  • Read 1 John 4:7-19 → It does seem pretty clear, doesn’t it? God is LOVE! It says it 23 times in this passage alone!
    • Stated explicitly – vv. 8 & 16: God is love → Three small, simple words that mean so incredibly much! God lives in us in the truest and purest form of love imaginable.
      • Ties back to the life and ministry of Jesus – from 1 Jn: This is how the love of God is revealed to us: God has sent his only Son into the world so that we can live through him. This is love: it is not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as the sacrifice that deals with our sins.[5] → “God sent his only Son into the world so that we can live through him. This is love.” You see, friends, God knows our sins even more completely than we do. Yet what does God do for us?
        • God: Continues to love us → to long for that deep connection with us even as we wander farther and farther away
        • Book: It’s like the mother in the book. Even as her son was growing older – more independent and sometimes more distant, both emotionally as a teenager and physically as an adult – she still longed for that connection.
        • God: made the effort to reconnect with us through the loving life and ministry of God’s only Son, Jesus Christ → God couldn’t stand the separation any longer! God created us out of love in God’s own image – an image that is first and foremost recognizable in love itself, in that we have the capacity to love because that capacity to love existed first in God and came first from God.
          • 1 Jn text: If we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.[6]
        • Book: That mother crawled across floors. That mother drove across town. That mother hefted her son into her lap long after he’d surpassed her in size. It all stemmed from love – an outpouring of love so powerful, so strong, so undeniable that even when we aren’t aware of it (like the boy while he was sleeping), that love wraps us up and reassuringly rocks us back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.
          • 1 Jn put it about as simply as possible: We love because God first loved us.[7]
  • Friends, this is the gospel message! As God’s children, the Holy Spirit abides with us, enveloping us always in God’s love, so when we’re loving others, we’re offering them the love of God and all that it entails. Sharing love is sharing God. And truly, friends, hear me today: God loves you! Whether this is something you’ve been hearing all your life or something you’ve never heard before, it never hurts to hear, “I love you” one more time. God will love us forever. God will like us for always. As long as we’re living – and even longer – God’s children we will be. Alleluia! Amen.

[1] Deut 6:5-7.

[2] Robert Munsch. Love You Forever. (Richmond Hill, Ontario: Firefly Books Ltd.), 1986.

[3] Jn 17:20.

[4] Jn 17:22-23.

[5] 1 Jn 4:9-10.

[6] 1 Jn 4:12-13.

[7] 1 Jn 4:19.

Sunday’s sermon reflection

Text used – Luke 7:1-10

This week was our annual meeting. In our congregation, we intersperse the annual meeting with worship because it helps us remember that all that we do and say as this church – even the business stuff – we do for the glory of God. On annual meeting Sunday, we have a lot going on: meeting elements, installation (and sometimes ordination) of new ruling elders and deacons, and communion, so I write more of a short reflection than a traditional sermon. So here’s this week’s mini-sermon:

He was a centurion, the commander of a small, local Roman military unit in small fishing village – a town no bigger than Oronoco. Did he have a lot of power outside Capernaum? Nope. To be honest, he didn’t even have that much power inside Capernaum. He was just the Roman’s placeholder – someone to command the local troops in case of any skirmishes, someone to quell any potential uprisings. He didn’t have enough clout with Rome to warrant any special assistance. There were no strings to pull. No favors to call in. And his most trusted and important servant was ill and wasn’t getting any better. In fact, he had gotten worse. He got sicker and sicker. And before long, the centurion could tell that his servant didn’t have much time left.

But then Jesus came to town. The centurion had heard about Jesus from the local Jews talking about this Jesus guy and all the miraculous things he’d done – healing people, banishing demons, and all sorts of incredible things. And the centurion believed the stories. There were too many of them to dismiss them as just rumors. So the centurion believed. In fact, the centurion believed in Jesus more fully and more humbly than anyone else had up to this point. The locals had gone to Jesus to urge him to help the centurion’s servant, telling Jesus what a good man the centurion was. Scripture said, “When they came to Jesus, they earnestly pleaded with Jesus. ‘He deserves to have you do this for him,’ they said. ‘He loves our people and he built our synagogue for us.’” And so Jesus goes, but before he can even get to the centurion’s house, the centurion himself sends one of his friends to Jesus to say, “I don’t deserve this. I’m not worthy to even have you visit me. I believe in you enough that I believe all you have to do is say the word, and my servant will be healed.” No need to lay hands on his servant. No need to breathe on him or take his hand or anything else. Just a word.

The faith of the centurion is so complete – so full and whole and strong. It’s the deepest faith we’ve seen expressed so far, and to be honest, I think it’s one of the deepest faiths we see expressed in all of Scripture. There is humility and honesty in the centurion’s faith. And an all-in trust that Jesus is who he is and can do with a simple word what no one else has been able to do. And Jesus names this: “When Jesus heard these words, he was impressed with the centurion. He turned to the crowd following him and said, ‘I tell you, even in Israel I haven’t found faith like this.’ When the centurion’s friends returned to his house, they found the servant restored to health.” The fullest, most genuine form of faith in Jesus Christ … from someone who is about as “other” as it could possibly get in the gospels. A Roman. A Roman soldier, no less. An oppressor. A pawn of the Empire. And yet, his faith in Jesus impresses even Jesus himself. So here’s the question: Where do we least expect to find genuine, life-changing expressions of faith in the world and the people around us? And what can we learn from those unexpected expressions of faith?

Sunday’s sermon: Fulfilling Sabbath

Text used – Luke 6:1-16

  • The sun was setting and the dark of night was beginning to creep across the land. The priest was readying the synagogue for the evening vigils when he saw movement out of the corner of his eye. He figured it was another beggar or a widow coming to seek help. But when he looked again, he recognized the young man approaching. It was David – David, the warrior who had slain the Philistine giant, Goliath. David, who had since become a powerful and renowned commander of many troops in Israel’s army. David, who it was said had befriended King Saul’s son, Jonathan. David, who it was said had caught the eye of King Saul’s daughter, Michal. David, who it was also said had stirred the fierce jealousy of King Saul himself.[1] There, in the waning light of dusk, this same David stood there before the priest. He looked all around as though anxious that anyone would recognize him which sent a jolt of fear into the priest’s heart. With a quaking voice, he said to David, “Why are you alone? Why is no one with you?” The priest saw David hesitate for a moment, again glancing quickly to the right and left before answering, “The king has given me orders, but he instructed me, ‘Don’t let anyone know anything about the mission I’m sending you on or about your orders.’ As for my troops, I told them to meet me at an undisclosed location.” Something about the way he said it made the priest wonder. But David wasn’t finished: “Now,” he asked hopefully, “What do you have here with you? Give me give loaves of bread or whatever you can find.” At this, the priest balked a bit, for he knew the only bread he had on hand was the holy bread – the Bread of the Presence, the 12 loaves representing the 12 tribes of Israel whose precise baking instructions were laid out in the book of the Law, the bread specifically made for God and God alone, also designated by the book of the Law.[2] The priest knew all of this – the exact letter of the law and the utter sanctity of the bread. He knew that there was something about David standing here before him tonight that felt off. And yet deep in his heart, he knew there was something else about David standing here before him – something that overrode his misgivings, overrode his strict interpretation of the Law, overrode even his fear. The priest felt God’s presence in that moment and in David himself. So he took the Bread of the Presence and gave it to David.[3]
    • A story that the Pharisees who accused Jesus that Sabbath morning would have known well
    • A story that Jesus himself clearly knew well, too
    • A story of needing food and compassion and a bending of sacred Law → Or, more like fulfilling of sacred Law.
    • Like our Gospel story this morning, it’s a story of two worlds colliding
      • The world of the old Law and the world of the new gospel
      • The world of the letter of the Law and the world of the root of love behind the Law
      • The world of “already” and the world of “not yet”
  • Understanding of the Sabbath from the Pharisees’ point of view[4]
    • Observing Sabbath = cornerstone of Jewish religious practice
      • Quite possibly the earliest practice → set by God in in very beginning with Genesis 1 creation story when God rested on the 7th day[5]
      • Rules for Sabbath laid out in many passages throughout the Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Bible) → In fact, the commands for properly observing the Sabbath touch every one of those first five books.
        • (As we’ve said), Sabbath = established in Genesis with creation
        • Sabbath = given to Moses as part of the 10 Commandments in Exodus → fully 1/3 of the entire text for the 10 commandments is devoted to the 5th commandment: Six days you may work and do all your tasks, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. Do not do any work on it—not you, your sons or daughters, your male or female servants, your animals, or the immigrant who is living with you. Because the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything that is in them in six days, but rested on the seventh day. That is why the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.[6]
        • Other specifications for how to observe the Sabbath laid out in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy → one such specification is what initially gets Jesus into trouble in our story today: prohibition against people gathering food on the Sabbath
          • Comes from time when Moses and the Israelites were in the wilderness after escaping Egypt and God provided them manna from heaven: God provided enough manna for each person for each day → instructed people only gather enough for that day, not save any except for the Sabbath day → instructed to gather enough food for two days the day before the Sabbath so they didn’t have to work to gather food on the Sabbath itself[7]
    • So that’s where the Pharisees in our story this morning were coming from. These were the rules pertaining to the Sabbath – the rules that the people of Israel had already been following for centuries, the rules that had literally been given to them by God. And it was the Pharisees’ job to interpret those rules for themselves and their communities and to make sure everyone abided by those rules to keep the Sabbath holy.
  • But then there’s Jesus
    • Now, it’s important to remember, folx, that Jesus was a Jew. He grew up observing all the Jewish laws and festivals. Just a few weeks ago, we read the story of Jesus getting left behind in Jerusalem when he was 12 yrs. old, and if you’ll remember, his family had traveled to Jerusalem to observe the Passover festival. → means Jesus’ disagreement with the Pharisees over Sabbath in our Scripture this morning wasn’t about the importance of the Sabbath but about the nature of how to best, most faithfully keep the Sabbath
      • 2 different instances in our passage this morning
        • 1st Sabbath run-in with the Pharisees = Jesus and his disciples walking through a field on the Sabbath → disciples are picking heads of wheat as they walk through the field and eating them → Pharisees call them out (as per the prohibition that comes the from the story of gathering manna that we talked about earlier)
          • Jesus’ response: “Haven’t you read what David and his companions did when they were hungry? He broke the Law by going into God’s house and eating the bread of the presence, which only the priests can eat. He also gave some of the bread to his companions.”[8] → goes back to the story that we started with this morning: David being in a moment of need because he was doing what God needed him to do
          • Implication = work/movement of God supersedes the particular rules of the Sabbath → Jesus doubles down on this with his final statement to the Pharisees on this matter: “The Human One is Lord of the Sabbath.”[9]
            • Sounds simple, but this is a loaded phrase! → scholar explains significance of this statement: In declaring himself lord of the Sabbath, Jesus announces both his authority over the Sabbath and his place as the fulfillment of God’s promise. … In this declaration Jesus positions himself as that one for whom Israel may and must give thanks as the provision of God, as the fulfillment of God’s promise of redemption. As the lord of the Sabbath, Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise in which Israel has been trusting and resting since the exodus. However, Jesus also pronounces himself this [“Human One”] who is lord of the Sabbath. … While he is the promise of the Sabbath, Jesus is also the man who in his flesh is the union of God and humanity. … In Jesus’ humanity God has joined God’s self in covenant with all of humanity. As the [Human One] who is also lord of the Sabbath, Jesus in the union of God and humanity, the master and fulfillment of God’s covenantal promises.[10]
        • See even more of this fulfillment in Jesus’ 2nd Sabbath run-in with the Pharisees: heals the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath → even trickier situation because, as text tells us, Pharisees are waiting in the wings (so to speak) just itching to pounce on Jesus for profaning the Sabbath with his actions again … And Jesus does not disappoint! – text: On another Sabbath, Jesus entered a synagogue to teach. A man was there whose right hand was withered. The legal experts and the Pharisees were watching him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. They were looking for a reason o bring charges against him. Jesus knew their thoughts, so he said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and stand in front of everyone.” He got up and stood there. Jesus said to the legal experts and Pharisees, “Here’s a question for you: Is it legal on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or destroy it?” Looking around at them all, he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” Se he did and his hand was made healthy. They were furious and began talking with each other about what to do to Jesus.[11] → Again, this not Jesus telling the Pharisees that the Sabbath wasn’t important, wasn’t worthwhile, wasn’t holy and sacred. It’s Jesus interpreting the faithful practice of the Sabbath differently. It’s Jesus honoring the spirit of Sabbath differently. It’s about Jesus displaying devotion to God differently – not in the letter of the Law but in the action of love that inspired the Law in the first place.
  • So what do we do with the idea of Sabbath today? What does Sabbath mean to us? How do we honor the Sabbath with our actions, our rest, our words, and our purpose each and every week? How does God’s command to honor the Sabbath affect our movements through our days and through our lives?
    • To be sure, not easy questions to answer, especially in this day and age → our world is a 24/7 world that stops for little to nothing
      • Jobs that require the presence of workers all day every day or at least for a large chunk of time 7 days a week → being so close to so many medical careers in Rochester – both Mayo and Olmsted – makes this particularly clear to us (even in non-pandemic times!)
      • Activities and obligations that require our action and our attention all the time → perfect e.g.: there’s laundry waiting for me at home this afternoon – laundry that cannot wait … not if I want clean clothes to wear to tomorrow!
    • So how do we keep Sabbath today? Key: take a cue from Jesus = honor the love and sacred intention of the Sabbath → read passage from The Sabbath by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel[12]:

      One of the most distinguished words in the Bible is the world qadosh, holy; a word which more than any other is representative of the mystery and majesty of the divine. Now what was the first holy object in the history of the world? Was it a mountain? Was it an altar?

      It is, indeed, a unique occasion at which the distinguished word qadosh is used for the first time: in the Book of Genesis at the end of the story of creation. How extremely significant is the fact that it is applied to time: “And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy.” There is no reference in the record of creation to any object in space that would be endowed with the quality of holiness.

      This is a radical departure from accustomed religious thinking. The mythical mind would expect that, after heaven and earth have been established, God would create a holy place – a holy mountain or a holy spring – whereupon a sanctuary is to be established. Yet it seems as if to the Bible it is holiness in time, the Sabbath, which comes first. …

      Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation; from the world of creation to the creation of the world. 
    • So, friends, let us, indeed, turn to that holiness in time – our time together in this worship, our time together with humanity that reflects God’s image and love back at us, and our time together with God. Let us find our Sabbath. Alleluia. Amen.

[1] 1 Sam 17-20.


[3] 1 Sam 21:1-6.


[5] Gen 2:2-4.

[6] Ex 20:9-11.

[7] Ex 16.

[8] Lk 6:3-4.

[9] Lk 6:5.

[10] Keith Errickson. “Luke 6:1-11 – Theological Perspective” in Feasting on the Gospels: Luke, vol. 1. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2014), 148.

[11] Lk 6:7-11.

[12] Abraham Joshua Heschel. The Sabbath: It’s Meaning for Modern Man. (New York, NY: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1951), 9, 10.