Sermons

"Calling out the Hypocrites (And Praying it Ain't Me!)": A Sermon for the 14th Sunday After Pentecost, Year C

"Calling out the Hypocrites (And Praying it Ain't Me!)": A Sermon for the 14th Sunday After Pentecost, Year C

Aug 21, 2016

Passage:Luke 13:10-17

Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Robert Pace

Series: Season After Pentecost

Category: Love, Discipleship

Keywords: church, eucharist, hypocrisy, love, sabbath, sunday

Summary:

In this passage from Luke, Jesus calls out the hypocrites. We get uncomfortable when Jesus "calls out" anyone for their behavior that's counter to his vision of the Kingdom, BUT we often say: "that's THOSE people he's talking about." But when we take a hard look at our own lives, we might see that sometimes we have room to see our own hypocrisy and our own room to grow.

Detail:

In the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

Whatever happened to the “good-ol’ days” of rest on Sundays?

These days, Sundays are just as action-packed and busy as the rest of the week, it seems!

When I was a kid, a preacher’s kid, mind you, we definitely had a more laid-back rhythm of life on Sundays. Stores and businesses were closed on Sundays, and most folks we knew came to church.

On Sunday mornings, we got up and went to Sunday School and Church.  Then, the only major decisions our parents had to make was whether Sunday dinner (that’s what “fancy lunch” was called) was at home or at a restaurant.

Now, we lived in a small town. There were no restaurants, per se (unless you count Dairy Queen and the “L & G” Drive-In).

So, going out for Sunday dinner meant heading over to the next town to go to the Wyatt Cafeteria--my favorite. I always got the fried cod, macaroni and cheese, and slice of chocolate pie with the sprinkles on top. But there was always one hitch. If we went to the cafeteria, we had to get moving quickly as soon as church let out, or the Baptist service would let out and make the line too long!

But here’s the thing about that memory. If all businesses and stores were closed to honor the “Sabbath,” what about the Wyatt Cafeteria? What about those cooks and servers and cashiers and busboys and cleaners at that restaurant? They, clearly had to be there from very early every Sunday morning to cook my macaroni and cheese; to bake my pie; to fry my fish; and of course to create the dozens and dozens of other dishes that fed us faithful Christians our Sunday dinners every week.

So what did that make them in this society in which we lived?

Were they less than?

Were they UNfaithful?

When we went through the line at the cafeteria, should we have scorned them with pity and judgment because they had not been in church with us?

I can see it now: “I’d like like extra tartar sauce for my cod. And because you weren’t at Church, I’ll pray for you to God!”

I don’t recall anyone actually doing that!

Perhaps there were some who did.

But I do think that there is a tension that still exists in the Christian community about issues surrounding “going to Church” as a measure of “being Christian.”

Hear me clearly, I come down solidly on the side of us being a “community of believers.” We are the “Body of Christ,” because we “come together” in this community. We support each other and, specifically, we share in the mystery of Christ’s body and blood in the Holy Eucharist.

All of this happens in Church. So it IS  important to participate in a community of faith as much as is possible to do so.

However, it’s also easy to look at each others’ lives and judge based solely on the outward appearances. People do have circumstances that are beyond our understanding or knowledge. As a priest who thinks church is pretty important, this is a key thought I always have to keep centered in my mind.

Listening to the gospel reading from Luke today, we hear Jesus accusing people of being hypocrites. And this isn't the only time in the gospel where he does this. He flat-out calls others out when they don't understand him.

It's a bit awkward to hear Jesus shaming people like this.

But there's a part of us that feels okay with it as long as we know it's about someone else.

But every once in awhile, I have to admit, I wonder...

Is this message aimed at me??

Is Jesus calling me a hypocrite?

And, if we are all honest in our soul searching, we all probably ask these types of questions from time to time: "How do I actually line up with Jesus?"

"Do I really understand what Jesus wants of me?"

"Am I a hypocrite?"

Luke tells us that Jesus is teaching on the Sabbath, and woman appeared with an unclean spirit that had plagued her for eighteen years. This spirit had caused her to be bent over and crippled for that entire time.

Jesus laid his hands on her and brought her healing.

The leader of the synagogue, one who was well versed in the Torah--the Law of Yahweh--was tremendously upset by this action. Jesus had violated a strict interpretation of the Torah. It’s clear that one is not supposed to work on the Sabbath.

A rabbi/prophet performing acts of healing is work. And Jesus healed this woman on the Sabbath. There is no dispute about the specifics of the case.

So Jesus calls him out: “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from bondage on the sabbath day?”

Jesus forces them to look at their own actions. Why are they hypocrites? Because they are willing to do some things on the Sabbath that they see as necessary for their own comfort, for their own way of life. They will untie an ox or a donkey. But for eighteen years, they have never addressed the pain and suffering of this woman. They have never seen to her healing. They have never made her life better. They are more concerned with the letter of the law that with the outcome of God’s love for God’s people.

So back to thinking about the “good ol’ days” of Sundays being rest days. I’m not sure that they ever really were that for everyone in our society. And now that we live in an era that has much more competition for our attention and time on Sundays, attending worship can seem like a luxury.

But for those of us who do participate in this luxury, we need to see it for what it is: We come together to give praise to the one who created us to be loving images of that Creator. We come together to sustain and support each other. We come together to share in the mystery of Christ’s sacrificial love. We come together to partake of the mystery and the foretaste of the heavenly banquet in the holy communion. And perhaps most importantly, we come together to be the Body of Christ and to take God’s reconciling love back into the world each time we leave these doors.  

Let us always be grateful to God for the blessing of Sundays--and God’s Holy Church.   Amen.