Summary: The relationship of the Christian Sabbath and the Gospel
Sermon: Covenantal Collapse
Text: Luke 14:1-11
Occasion: Trinity XVII
Who: Mark Woolsey
When: Sunday, Sep 21, 2008 (which is really Trinity XVIII)
Where: Providence Reformed Episcopal Church
Luke 14:1-11, NKJV: Now it happened, as He went into the house of one of the rulers of the Pharisees to eat bread on the Sabbath, that they watched Him closely. And behold, there was a certain man before Him who had dropsy. And Jesus, answering, spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?"
But they kept silent. And He took him and healed him, and let him go. Then He answered them, saying, "Which of you, having a donkey or an ox that has fallen into a pit, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?" And they could not answer Him regarding these things.
So He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noted how they chose the best places, saying to them, "When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; and he who invited you and him come and say to you, ’Give place to this man,’ and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ’Friend, go up higher.’ Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at table with you. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
Collect: Lord, we pray thee that thy grace may always both precede and follow us, and make us continually to be given to all good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
[fiddle w/a couple of pencils]
(1) Which is easier, to perform an operation or to gather firewood?
(2) Why do we worship on Sunday when it is clear from the 10 commandments we recite each week that Saturday is the day of rest and holy assembly?
(3) What is the relationship of the first two questions to each other, and with today’s Gospel lesson?
(4) How do I keep this parish from falling asleep while I answer these questions?
Let me partially answer the last question first. There are periods of church history that if you could not answer these questions, you would be killed. Executed. You know, having a gun put to your head does wonders for your attention span, don’t you think? No ADD on the guillotine. Even today to misunderstand the principles behind these questions is to misunderstand who Christ Himself is, and to invite eternal disaster. So I invite you today to see these questions as providing a fresh, but completely orthodox, view of our Scripture passage.
First, how many of you know what "dropsy" is?
[drop stuff now]
Some of you may have heard of the ontological and teleological arguments for the existence of God. If He were ever to cure me of my tendency to run over and drop things, I think that healing would form the basis for the "clumsilogical" argument of His existence and would be proof enough to convince even the most ardent Pharisee. But alas, the dropsy that our Lord cured was not clumsiness; it’s something much more serious. The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary defines it as:
... a symptom of a number of diseases, mostly of the heart, liver, kidneys, and brain, causing collections of water in the cavities of the body, or on its surface, or in the limbs. (New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, p306)
Basically, you swell up. I don’t think it’s particularly pleasant. Jesus healed this man, but He did so on the Sabbath, which is what got Him in a LOT of trouble.
III. Setting the Stage
As anybody who has had any familiarity with the Gospels knows, Jesus and the Pharisees were not on the best of speaking terms. Have you ever experienced a tense relationship with someone? One that has a long history of insults, offenses, anger, and the like? This is especially egregious in a family relationship where there is no way out, day after day. Each time you see this person it just takes one little word, or perhaps simply a glance, and you are at each other’s throats like cats and dogs. Jesus’ family was like that. No, I don’t mean Joseph and Mary; I’m talking about Abraham’s big family, the Hebrews, that Jesus both created and was born into. Listen to St John: