Rev. Rosemary Webb
25th August 2019
Listen to God

If you are as old as me, the Sabbath was a day of rest. And if anyone tried to change it, the Lord’s day Observance Society would soon step in, as a child I felt the most important commandment must be – and on the seventh day God rested. And this for me was compounded by my Wee Free granny who firmly believed that if you didn’t keep it holy you were definitely on the road to Hell. Which was much the same as the synagogue leader. How society has changed – but perhaps we need to ask ourselves if it is all for the best.

The Gospel reading we have just heard centres on what we can or cannot do on the Sabbath. Remembering that, when God sent Moses the Ten Commandments, people did not have nine to five jobs, annual leave or even Bank Holidays. They were nomadic but that must have meant that for most people they worked all the time to get food, look after their animals, which would be an everyday duty. So being told that God rested must have meant they too could relax. They could, in fact must, rest – have the time to listen to God, for without that time how could they know God’s plans for them.

But relaxing doesn’t mean ignoring their animals, their families, it means slowing down, stopping and thinking and most importantly having time for God.

but we certainly know that our loving Father would never call upon anyone to stand and watch someone suffer, he would never stop us reaching out when someone was suffering. And Jesus was with God at the beginning of time so he fully knew what God meant.

In the passage, Jesus was teaching in the synagogue when a local woman came in, not it would appear to see Jesus, but to join the worshippers – she had been suffering for eighteen years. The church leaders would obviously know her and know her plight. Jesus could immediately see that she was suffering, that she was in pain. Jesus didn’t ask her to sit down, start speaking more loudly so as to detract attention from the woman, no, he did what he knew he must do – so he stopped preaching, asked her to come to him, laid his hands on her and healed her.

Immediately the woman straightened her body and praised God for his goodness, Jesus knew that at all times his teaching must be in accordance with God’s will, but most of all he knew his father’s love for all his.

Children, he knew that God would never want him to ignore suffering. The leader of the synagogue knew the woman had suffered for years, he didn’t know whether she would ever meet Christ again, but he would rather see Jesus ignore the women than break off his teaching on the sabbath and heal her. Surely that is cruelty, denying God’s love for his children.

Whenever Jesus healed the Jewish leaders found fault – why – was it that they didn’t want the Son of God to be more powerful than they? Couldn’t they understand that Jesus’ main intention was to ease suffering, draw people into a closer relationship with God. No they didn’t want to understand, they didn’t want anything that took power away from them.

And surely God was right to have a day of rest in the commandments He knows we are all weak sinners. We all need time to take stock, to think, even to be bored, we need silence. Life today is always noisy, we seem to be surrounded by tension, and we certainly seem to be increasingly living in a violent society.

We all need to learn that we are not superhuman, we need to spend time alone with God, in silence, otherwise we do become tired and when we are tired it is far more likely that little things will irritate us, and people can easily fly off the handle for no reason at all. God was right we all need a day of rest, and if we don’t have it we are surely far more likely to break all the other commandments.

We must all take the time to listen to God, not just sit there with a long list of requests, but to sit still so we can truly feel God’s presence in our lives, so we can recharge our batteries. It will also give us more time to commune with nature, to watch the birds and insects, the wild flowers how they are flourishing. Perhaps if we had all done more of this in recent years we would have noticed what we are doing to the environment. We could have seen the damage we are doing, we could have noticed earlier that we were neglecting creation.

From the moment Jesus began his teaching the Jewish leaders couldn’t accept him. They had been waiting for the Messiah but when he was in their midst, they were more concerned about keeping their power and control, than remembering all the lessons the prophets had given them. They must have been able to see that Isaiah’s words were coming true, their leaders were intelligent people.

Jane Williams says that there is a need for a Sabbath – a day when we remember why we are here, who our God is. That without it we can get into the habit of only thinking about ourselves and our own needs. How Isaiah saw the Sabbath as a day when we can turn back to God, move away from ourselves and towards others. That it reminds us that we should take delight in the Lord.

Today do the world’s Christians all put serving God ahead of having power – sadly not. The church is still a safe home for far too many abusers – people who want to manipulate the young, the lonely – people who think they are all powerful and can do as they please. And in its less severe forms this often leads to quite markedly different interpretations of the bible.

The synagogue leader probably felt threatened that he might lose control of his congregation and that they would turn from his teaching and follow Jesus. Even then the number of people in the seats might be more important to him than the truth of the teaching. He wanted a full synagogue even if it meant banning God from his temple.

Thee will always be people with power, but it is how they use the power which is important. Jesus showed his power by healing the crippled woman but that was not a ruling kind pf power but a power of compassion and love.

There is a kind of power which can get people to listen, not a bullying power, but a kind of power which can encourage people to listen, help them to see the glory of God. It can be a silent power, it can the light of Christ shining in the dark, it is the word of God being taught in such a way that, it truly draws people towards God. We are all called to draw people into God’s family – by teaching his love.

God is truth, God’s power is love not bullying. The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that God is right, we all need a day when we rest. When we take a step back from the pressures of the world and really make room in our lives for God, so that he can love us, guide us, show us the way forward and give us his peace, this peace we and the world needs.

Luke 13: 10-17
Hebrews 12