Sermon: What’s the Sabbath for?

Sermon for Longview 29 August 2013

Luke 13:10-17

Today’s reading is all about the Sabbath, and what it’s for. Some cultures have been very restrictive in the past about what you could and couldn’t do on a Sunday – I remember reading books like Little House on the Prairie, and being horrified that on a Sunday you couldn’t play, and just had to read sermons and other religious books.

Now, these days, that isn’t such a terrifying thought – in fact it’s quite relaxing. And that’s part of what the Sabbath is all about. Relaxing, refreshing, restoring. Not restricting in an unloving way. The people around Jesus, the Pharisees, were horrified that Jesus was ‘working’ on the Sabbath. Healing someone was seen as work. But Jesus rightly shines a light on their hypocrisy – some things just need to be done as a matter of course. Feeding your animals is one of those things. And healing someone who needs it is one of those things too.

Jesus knew that the woman needed to be healed when she turned up. He knew that the time was Now! Maybe it can be tempting in our Christian lives to put things off, saying ‘the time isn’t right. But when the need is there, the time is definitely there.

In years past, Sundays were very different. There was no shopping and people had a day off. Now, the malls are all open, and some Christians feel that we shouldn’t encourage this behaviour by shopping in them. But what is the Sabbath all about? It’s about taking some time apart from the bustle of normal life to spend with God. And if society is moving past the point where everyone does that on the same day – past the ‘Christendom’ era, we have to move too. That doesn’t mean we don’t take time to sit with God. Yes, we do take that time, but it may not be at the same time as other people. We have members of our congregations who we don’t see very often on a Sunday, because they have to work. They don’t have any choice. What a responsive, loving church should do is make it possible for those people to meet together and worship God on another day. Jesus healed on the Sabbath – he knew that what needed to be done needed to be done. Maybe the church today is being challenged to do what needs to be done too – meeting people on different days, maybe for an evening service, to be with God.

And that’s what we are doing here today at Longview. I can’t be with you on a Sunday, so we have our service on  a Thursday. No one would suggest that it’s not church, that God isn’t here.

God is wherever two or three worship in his name. And that can be anywhere, anytime.

Today’s reading challenges us to take the Sabbath for its life-giving properties, and when we can’t do it on a Sunday, we can take our Sabbath at other times. The main thing is to be with God, listening, and letting ourselves be refreshed. And that can mean letting others be refreshed too.

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