First Lesson: Jeremiah 1: 4-10
Responsive Reading: Psalm 71: 1-6
Second Lesson: Hebrews 12: 18-29
Gospel Lesson: Luke 13: 10-17
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Robert Holmes gives the following anecdote. There once was a farmer who put a want ad in a farm journal. The ad read “Wanted: a woman in her thirties interested in marriage who owns a tractor. Please send a picture of the tractor.” What this ad illustrates is how easy it might be to lose perspective of what’s crucial in a given situation. We come across such a situation in our Gospel lesson for today.
Our Gospel contains three main characters. The first character is a hunched back woman, the second is a rabbi and the third is Jesus.
Let me tell a story when I was in Lamberton; we had a woman in the congregation that I’ll call Lena. Lena couldn’t make it to church so I would visit her at home every month. Two things that I noticed about Lena the first time I met her. Lena was as hunched over as any woman that I’ve ever seen. The second point I noticed is that Lena’s home might have been the least kept that I’ve ever set my feet. Catalogs and newspaper ads from decades ago lined the floor. I couldn’t begin to venture a guess since that the last time the kitchen sink had been cleaned. When I visited with Lena, all I had to ask her was “How everything was going?” and I didn’t have to say another word for the next 45 minutes. Lena longed for human contact. Once in a while, I would see Lena uptown. The interesting thing about this is people tended to avoid Lena. Lena wasn’t unpleasant or mean-spirited in any way. But because of Lena’s condition people didn’t know what to say to her or do for her. You would see Lena and long for her back to be healed.
As I describe Lena this morning, I want you to now to picture the hunchback woman from our Gospel lesson. This lady had been hunched over for eighteen long years. I don’t imagine this woman to be a regular Saturday Synagogue goer. This woman had heard though about a new preacher giving a different kind of message. She decides to show up to hear him on this day. Jesus immediately notices this woman. Let’s be honest; she would have been pretty hard to miss. Jesus approaches this woman and pretty soon she is crippled no more. The people began to cheer this healing! Why wouldn’t everyone be happy?
The second character in this story is the Rabbi. Most people will read this story and think of the Rabbi being a bad guy. Why would the Rabbi not want this woman healed on the Sabbath? Here’s the thing though the Rabbi knew the scriptures well.
Steve Molin describes the Sabbath regulations best: “If a pregnant woman went into labor on the Sabbath, you MIGHT be able to help her deliver her baby. MIGHT. If you’re child broke his arm, you could put it in a sling, but you could not run cold water over it. If your daughter cut her finger, you could put a bandage on it, but you could not apply any ointment; that would be working on the Sabbath.”
Molin illustrates how you were not to do any work on the Sabbath. Here’s how a Jew in Jesus’ day would have understood the Sabbath. The Ten Commandments came after the Exodus from Egypt. In the days of Egyptian slavery, the Israelites would never have gotten a day off. Now think of the weather these past few weeks. Now imagine, working in the hot sun day after day after day without rest in the much, much warmer climate of Egypt. Now think of the importance of having a Sabbath day of rest. The Rabbi’s point was the following. Jesus could have healed this woman any other day of the week.
How did the Rabbi see this healing? To understand the Rabbi think of the anecdote of the boiling frog, you put a frog in boiling water (the frog will immediately jump out), but if you put the frog in tepid water then slowly raise the heat then the frog ends up boiling alive. The Rabbi wasn’t just concerned with this healing; the Rabbi was worried about a slippery slope where pretty soon the people of Israel were doing everything and anything but attending the Synagogue on the Sabbath day. So if you understand the Rabbi’s role in the story this way, then perhaps not healing this woman on the Sabbath might make sense.
So we understand the hunch-back woman, we understand the Rabbi, so now let’s figure out why Jesus dared to heal on these most sacred of days.
To understand Jesus’ thoughts on the Sabbath let’s look at his words from Mark 2:
“And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”
You see Jesus knew the rules. Jesus knew the rules so well that he was able to out-debate the smartest religious scholars of his day at age 12 in the Temple.
Jesus’ point was not that the Sabbath was a bad thing.
The Sabbath is about what God can do for us, not what we can do for God. We get the Sabbath day all wrong when we think of it existing for God’s benefit rather than our own.
Dr. Armand Boehme tells this story. “One individual noted that going to church and listening to sermons was not doing her any good. Church was a waste of time because she couldn’t remember what had been preached two weeks prior. This woman decided that she was going to stop coming to church and soon dump religion altogether. The Pastor then asked her “If she can remember what she ate for Sunday dinner two weeks ago?” Her response was “Of course not! How could I remember that!” So the Pastor said, “Then perhaps you should stop eating since you can’t remember what you ate; the meal couldn’t have done you any good!” Her response was, “Well, of course, it did me some good since I am still alive. The food nourished my body.”
“So” replied the Pastor, “the food did you some good even though you can’t remember what you ate! So it is with the Word of God. As the food nourished your body, so the Word nourished your soul and kept you spiritually alive. If you neglect to feed your soul, you will die spiritually just as surely as you would die physically if you stopped eating food. No more comment was necessary and the lady kept coming to church to be fed and nourished by God’s Word and the Sacraments!”
Jesus’ point about the Sabbath was that the letter of the law was and is important. “Remember the Sabbath Day and Keep it Holy” but remember the Sabbath exists for our benefit, not God’s. And if a woman can’t remember her supper or a sermon from two weeks back, then think of the impact upon a woman that had been healed after being hunched over for 18 years.
Here’s another story why the Spirit of the Law is more important than the Letter of the Law.
At the turn of the 19th century, the country of Norway was in shambles. Poverty and drunkenness were both running rampant. Norway’s State Church was more interested in seeing that the citizenry possessed Seminary type belief even if it didn’t connect to their lives. Into this crisis comes a man named Hans Nielsen Hauge. Hauge grew up poor and lacking in education. The Spirit of God one day touched Hans Nielsen Hauge and he began to preach. Hauge’s preaching wouldn’t have earned him an “A” in seminary. Hauge was arrested for not being a licensed preacher many times. People accused Hans Nielsen Hauge of practicing “witchcraft”. Hans Nielsen Hauge saw the Spirit of the Law as being more important though than the Letter of the Law. Hauge’s movement eventually began to revitalize Norway. Hauge’s writings and sermons began a revival throughout Norway. Hauge’s influence began to cause men to put down the alcohol and become better husbands and fathers. Hauge’s mission took up the cause to find factories and mills throughout Norway. A simple, uneducated lay preacher started to help lift the nation of Norway out of poverty. Many regard Hans Nielsen Hauge as one of Norway’s greatest heroes. They said Hauge shouldn’t preach; they also said that Jesus shouldn’t heal on the Sabbath.
The Norwegians could have waited for the right preacher to come around. Just like there were six other days of the week that Jesus could have healed this hunch-back woman. The thing is Jesus would always place the person as the priority rather than the way that things had been done before. You see later in Jesus’ ministry he would encounter people who were guilty of sin. Jesus heard these people say and do all kinds of nasty things to him. No one else would dare do what Jesus did because it just wasn’t right. The thing is that Jesus was always about placing God’s people at the center of his ministry rather than rules about what had been done before. So therefore, Jesus was going to set the woman’s hunched back straight. When the rules tell Jesus one thing, he will always come marching on out of the grave. Amen.
 Holmes, Robert. “Beyond Change to Transformation”. Day 1.org. 26. Aug.2001. Web. Aug. 15.2016.
 Luke 13:10-17.
 Molin, Steve. “Maybe Resting on Sabbath is Overrated.” Lectionary.org. 2004. Web. Aug.15.2016.
 Lose, David. “The Law of Love.” Working Preacher. Luther Seminary. Saint Paul, MN. 18. Aug.2013. Web. Aug.15.2016.
 Mark 2:27
 Luke 2:41-52.
 Pastor Boehme serves at Trinity Lutheran in Northfield, Minnesota. I previously used this analogy during a October 10th, 2010 sermon given at Our Savior’s in Lamberton, Minnesota. I have previously met Pastor Boehme and thanked him for use of this analogy.
 “Hans Nielsen Hauge”. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 09. June.2016. Web. Aug.16.2016.