Summary: PENTECOST 12, YEAR C - What does God expect from Sunday morning Worship? Read my sermon and find out.
One Sunday morning a stranger entered a small country church in the middle of the sermon. The man was unkempt and dirty, and clearly smelled of alcohol. The usher attempted to seat him in a far off corner but instead he walked to the very first pew and sat directly in front of the preacher. Then to the congregations horror the man began to make loud comments to their pastor’s sermon. “Amen. That’s right! Preach it brother.” The minister gave the man a nasty look, but it was to no avail. The stranger just continued, “Praise Jesus, Hallelujah!” Finally the usher approached the man and whispered in his ear, “Sir, we don’t act like this in church.” “But I’ve just got religion,” said the stranger. “Yes sir,” said the usher, “but you didn’t get it from here.” When you walked into church today what were you expecting ? Hymns, a sermon, a time for fellowship. We all come to church on Sunday morning with expectations, anticipations, of what we will encounter once we get here. As a minister I periodically run into people who are out church shopping. Individuals and couples who are going from Church to Church shopping for a congregation that possesses everything that they are looking for in a church. Expectations, we all have them. But in the midst of all our looking for what we expect, what we anticipate, what we want, how many of us have ever taken the time to ask what does God expect from Sunday morning worship? What is God looking for in a church? After all, we should ask ourselves, is what we expect from church and what God expects from church necessarily the same thing? I’m sure you know the answer to that! Not hardly. When our purposes and God’s purposes, our desires and God’s desires, our expectations and God’s expectations, find themselves at cross purposes, and I tell you there will be times when they are. At those times we need to ask ourselves why are we here, after all and who really is suppose to be calling the shots around here?
One day while Jesus is teaching in one of the many synagogues he beholds a woman who for eighteen years had been bent over and could not straighten up. Having compassion on her infirmity Jesus lays his hands upon her and immediately she stands up straight and is healed. As a result of her healing the women begins to praise God. Not bad, wouldn’t you say. But not every one is happy with the results. The ruler of the synagogue becomes indignant righteously angry at what has just happen in his congregation. But unwilling to chastise Jesus in front of the people gathered the ruler instead chastises the woman and those who had gathered for the services. “There are six days on which work ought to be done,” the rabbi cries, “come on those days and be healed, but not on the Sabbath day.” What’s bugging this guy? Oh he’s just getting a little historical. You see, centuries ago the Jewish people didn’t listen to God very well. They turned away from following His will. So God sent the nation of Israel into captivity in Babylon for 75 years. When they finally returned to Israel those who were religious wanted to make sure that this never happened again. Out of fear of future failure and judgment the Pharisees were created. Religious lawyers who’s purpose was to interpret God’s law and make sure that this time God’s people obeyed. So to the Pharisees God had commanded to keep the Sabbath holy and holy they would keep it. Since God had rested on the Sabbath man must also rest from all work. That included even the work of healing. There are six days on which work is to be done. Healing was OK, if you were healed on one of those days but not the Sabbath that is a day of rest. His goal is to honor the Sabbath, isn’t he? He’s just trying to be obedient to the will of God, right? But Jesus won’t buy it. He will not accept this religious expectation. He hits them between the eyes. “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or ass from the manger, and lead it away to water it? And ought not his woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” The Pharisees had every intentions to honor God, to do the will of God so what was it they missed that deserved such harsh judgment from the Son of God? What is it that Jesus understood that made this man’s expectations for the Sabbath so reprehensible to Christ? The Pharisee’s intended to “love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength.” Even to the extreme. Wouldn’t Jesus find that acceptable. Apparently not.