In a culture with commercial activity available twenty-four hours each day, seven days each week, for many people attending to the Sabbath is quaint. What they miss is the radical freedom God’s command to “remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy” means for those who are bent-over from hard work. Release from daily labors is for the sake of joy––for remembering that we have been created out of dust, for recognizing that we are kin to all living things, for refusing to be used for someone else’s material gain one-seventh of our lives.
This is a day to remind the assembly of all the reasons God’s word calls us to gather, sing, hear, prayer, hear, eat, and give to the church’s mission at least one day each week. We cannot hear it too much.
Luke 13: 10-17
“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’” (Luke 13:14).
Can you imagine …a religious leader who was upset that a congregant came to the service in order to be healed? . . . [M]ost of us [come] because of tradition, obligation, or habit. Some may even gather for social reasons: to meet friends at the coffee hour, to find a “nice Christian” spouse, to keep up on the parish gossip. . . . Do you come like the woman who appeared in the synagogue, disabled, broken, and looking for healing? Perhaps we do not come here for healing because we do not see ourselves like the broken woman in one of the gospel selections for today. We cannot stand up with the dignity that is ours as children of God, because our pain cripples us and weighs down upon us. Whether we stand in the pulpit or sit in the pew, all us should gather to be healed in this sacred space on this holy day. – John Paul Salay
Written in the sixth century BCE, this prophetic passage targeted those religious professionals and other religionists who focused on outdoing each other in their meticulous observance and strict adherence to piety. The prophet emphasizes that what God requires of worship is not the details of practice, but the emphasis of caring for one another and observing the Sabbath to take delight in God, not focusing on individual interests. Isaiah makes clear that when the hungry are fed and the people's needs are met, God's people will be the light to those around them, leading people in the way of the Lord. – Carrie L. Lewis La Plante
Lest we think that we can fit God into a box that we can handle, the preacher uses the images of a blazing fire, darkness, gloom, a tempest, the sound of a trumpet, an overwhelming voice, none of which can be encompassed or confined. The description of the theophany at Sinai (vs 18–21) inspired by Exodus 19 is juxtaposed with the image of Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem (vs 22–24). However, rather than the fearful gathering that is depicted on Mount Sinai, the gathering on Mount Zion is festive with innumerable angels, and Jesus is pictured as the firstborn of the royal family. This is the same mountain, but now Jesus is the mediator of the new covenant for God's people before the divine judge, and Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for all.
In verses 25–29, the hearers are reminded not to ignore God when God is speaking. God is the ultimate judge, and no one, on his or her own, can escape this judge who will shake the foundations of earth and heaven, all of the created reality. However, those who follow God's way and have faith in Christ have already been given the gift of an unshakable kingdom, and in that the hearers can take consolation. . . [and] serve God with appropriate worship. – Carrie L. Lewis La Plante
John Paul Salay is Loyola University’s Minister of Liturgy and the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA).
Carrie L. Lewis La Plante is pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Indianola, Iowa.
Homily Service 40, no. 9 (2007): 42-52.