Rev. Rosemary Webb
21st August 2016
The Smallest of Seeds Can Grow Into The Largest of Trees

You are all probably bored with hearing me say how my grandparents from the Highlands were wee free and like the Jewish leaders in the Gospel believed that on the Sabbath you did nothing except go to church. When I stayed with my Granny, as a child, I even had to put hat and gloves on when outside on the Sabbath. But I could never understand their attitudes because they wouldn’t let my father go to university as he refused to go into the church, the eldest Ross in each generation had done that and there was to be no change. Like the Jewish leaders it was all to do with the tradition, nothing to do with loving God. And to this day no male member of my family has since entered the church.

I am, also, old enough to remember a time when The Lord’s Day Observance Society seemed to be continually in the news. It seemed at times that the only reason to remember the Ten Commandments was to remember the words Six days you shall labour but the seventh day is the Sabbath and on it you shall not work.

So as we think about Jesus’ message is there a message in it for us today, how should we respond?

When we first hear the Gospel passage we appear to be hearing another example of Jesus’ compassion, his awareness of the suffering of those around him, his determination to reach out, but perhaps most importantly Jesus is demonstrating his determination to show the true meaning of the Law, to make the Jewish leaders rethink their position.

We can look at the small picture – Jesus teaching in the synagogue when a local woman who had suffered for eighteen years came limping in. Jesus didn’t ignore her, didn’t sigh at his sermon being interrupted, no he stopped and called her forward, he lay his hands on her and healed her.

Now Jesus would have been at the front near to where the leader of the synagogue was sitting, and it was his duty to ensure that the teaching was sound, was orthodox.

This woman had been ill for years, people knew she was in constant pain, and yet those church leaders were happy to condemn her to a continuing life of misery. They didn’t know if she would ever meet Christ again. They were cruel; and yet they said and indeed believed that they were serving God. However many times they saw Jesus heal, take people out of pain and misery, those leaders found fault.

Jesus was showing them God’s love, showing how God’s kingdom here on earth will be, but they didn’t like it. They would have had to admit they needed to change their views.

So let us go back to the synagogue, we don’t know but it could have been a small one, and yet Jesus had gone there. He was by then well known, the crowds were following him, so the congregation may have been far larger than normal. The leaders would have been pleased, large congregations are always good, and yet they were uneasy. This man was saying he was the son of God but more than that he didn’t seem to speak their language, and then of all things he worked on the Sabbath, he healed that woman. What message was he giving to the crowds, I mean, goodness, some of them were vague enough about The Law without him blatantly going against the commandments, and what’s more everyone knew she had a evil spirit.

I am sure the people in the synagogue could sense the atmosphere, and what else could the leader do except challenge Jesus, he had to firmly state the Law, the people there mustn’t forget it.

But Jesus wasn’t going to be ignored; ‘you hypocrites’ he said. No one would expect you to ignore your animals on the Sabbath. You untie them, set them free so that they can have water, so that they do not suffer. So why can’t I untie this woman, release her from her illness – what is the difference. To Jesus that was true hypocrisy.

But does the world move forward, isn’t there still so much hypocrisy, isn’t that why there is so much anger, so much hurt in the world. People say churches are less well attended because of Sunday opening, but isn’t more because people can’t be bothered to make the time, because at times to them churches seem hypocritical.

Doesn’t the woman represent all people who suffer, all the hypocrisy that still exists. Jesus called the woman a child of Abraham but let’s face it there are still descendants of Abraham, people who whatever faith they are, Christian, Jew Moslem, believe that only a heterosexual man should lead worship, they haven’t moved on since the time of Abraham. And because of this there are many millions of woman who are denied education, freedom to marry who they chose, freedom to lead their own lives. And whilst it is worse in Asian countries there are still women in the west who are denied the opportunity to follow their chosen calling, and perhaps most particularly within the church. Of course I know men can also be denied total freedom.

When Christ laid his hands on this woman he didn’t just heal her, but he liberated her, he freed her from all that was holding her back. And more than that, he was showing all those people there what the kingdom of God is like, he was using them to spread the word.

He said to them ‘what is the kingdom of God like?’ and he compared it to a mustard seed. That smallest of seeds which can grow into the largest of trees, or like yeast which looks totally insignificant but when mixed with flour it grows. Something gradually happens and it is transformed. Both things take time, but when the transformation starts nothing can stop it,for it is beyond our power.

So isn’t this Christ’s message to us. Haven’t each of us here the ability to be like the tiniest mustard seed. Yes we are all tiny, we probably feel ourselves to be totally insignificant, but we are not talking about ourselves doing something, we are talking about letting God use us. Trusting and believing in God enough to speak out, to work for peace and justice. Not to be like that synagogue leader who obviously took one look at the women and turned away, who didn’t see the need to free her from her sickness. No we must take Christ as our example, proclaim the Good News, work for peace and love throughout the world, not let people stop us because we are afraid of offending them.

We must plant that mustard seed, more than that we must be that mustard seed, which will grow and spread into becoming the Good News, so that just as that woman was liberated and healed so the whole world, men women and children, may be liberated to live in peace.

Luke 13: 10-17