"Rest in God": Sermon for the Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost, Year C

"Rest in God": Sermon for the Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost, Year C

Aug 25, 2019

Passage:Luke 13:10-17

Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Robert Pace

Series: Pentecost

Category: Peace, Grace, Creation

Keywords: creation, grace, peace, rest, sabbath


Jesus was accused of breaking the Torah for healing on the Sabbath. He then called others "hypocrites" for not understanding what the Sabbath was for. What are we to hear in this passage? Do we understand Sabbath? Do we live as Jesus wants us to live? Are we hypocrites? This sermon explores these themes.


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

Listening to the gospel reading from Luke today, we hear Jesus accusing people of being hypocrites.

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 a woman appears with an unclean spirit that has plagued her for eighteen years. This spirit has caused her to be bent over and crippled for that entire time.

Jesus lays his hands on her and brings her healing.

The leader of the synagogue, one who is well versed in the Torah--the Law of Yahweh--is tremendously upset by this action. Jesus has 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?”

So where are WE in this story?

Are we the hypocrites? Do we look judgingly at how others live? Or are we the like the woman who got healed? Or are we hiding in the background trying to avoid being seen?

What, exactly, are we supposed to do with the Sabbath?

Not too long ago, I spent some time reminiscing with some friends about the fact that Sunday used to be considered the Sabbath in our society.

Just a few decades ago, there was a different way of life on Sunday. Most businesses were closed on Sundays. In many states, “blue laws” meant stores and businesses were not allowed to conduct any commerce on Sundays.

I know this is how I grew up in small Texas towns. Back in the 1970s, hardly any businesses were open on Sunday in the little communities of my childhood, except for perhaps the Dairy Queen--and it opened only at noon.

But that was now decades ago. Today, almost every store opens seven days a week. Few restaurants are closed on Sundays. Movie theatres, service companies, and even many professionals have Sunday hours.

Because I was shaped by that earlier rhythm of life, I still have the hardest time adapting to this change--not because I'm a curmudgeon or because I have some artificial, "Pollyanna" view like: "gee, wasn't it always better in the past?!?" No, I think there's part of who I am that's always subconsciously looking for life to slow down a bit on Sundays.

One of the longest-lasting areas of humor in my marriage has gone something like this:

Jill: "Hey Robert, why don't you call such and such place to see if they have that thing you needed."

Me: "But Jill, it's Sunday. They aren't going to be open on Sunday!"

Jill (laughing, lovingly): "This isn't 1975. Give them a call and try!"

Of course, I call....They are open...They are always open....

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

So, we still don’t have an answer. Are we hypocrites if we have activities on Sunday? Are we hypocrites if we don’t have activities on Sunday? Which one is it?

I think we need to take a hard look at what the Sabbath is to understand what Jesus is doing in this Gospel story.

Bishop Michael Curry, in his Way of Love podcast on “Rest,” explains that God created the Sabbath after seven days not because he was “tired and needed a nap.” The Sabbath isn’t about God “taking a day off.”

Instead, the Sabbath is about rest… but not just rest from our weariness… it’s about all of creation “dwelling in God…abiding in God.”

It is that perfection of relationship… the wholeness and completeness that comes with perfect harmony.

It’s about taking the time to be in complete connection with God as part of God’s creation. This is, ultimately, what we were created for. God created us, and said, “It is Good.”

To be one with God is what it means to be at perfect Rest. “Sabbath” is taking the time to find that harmony…that connection…that oneness with the God of creation.

We set aside a time where we “dwell deeply in God…so much so that we forget …about… time…”

The woman had been afflicted with a crippling spirit for eighteen years. Jesus helped her to abide in God… to rest in the comfort and joy of the presence and God’s grace. Jesus gave her Sabbath. The ability to “Rest in God.”

 The leader of the synagogue missed the point. The leader of the synagogue saw only work and activity and busyness, which upset the laws.

In our cultural context, in the past we tried to pass laws to close businesses and dictate commercial activity on Sundays. But those laws were really about our busyness… They were never, truly, about the Sabbath.

As a community of believers, we need to seek that Sabbath rest in God in all we do. 

And, we should also 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 foretaste of the heavenly banquet in the holy communion. And perhaps most importantly, we come together as the Body of Christ to take God’s reconciling love back into the world each time we leave these doors. 

In the midst of our busy lives, I don’t think we are hypocrites when we seek our abiding rest in God.

May we all find that perfect rest in God, who loves us and calls us to love one another.