Sermon for August 26
2007-08-24 by David von Schlichten


True Sabbath

(word count: 757)

Text: Luke 13:10-17


Main point: The Sabbath is not about rules and rubrics mainly but about a sacred time during which all are welcome to glorify God and to receive God's healing power.


In our Gospel reading from Luke, Jesus heals a crippled woman during a worship service on the Sabbath. The leader of the synagogue criticizes Jesus for doing work on the Sabbath, which, according to the leader, is a violation of the Ten Commandments.

Many of us see this leader of the synagogue as ridiculous. It is easy to put him down for criticizing Jesus for healing the crippled woman on the Sabbath. Jesus performs this miracle of healing during worship, but this so-called religious expert is too busy being angry about the rules to appreciate this wonder that Jesus has performed right in front of him.

It is indeed easy to be hard on the synagogue leader, but let's put ourselves in his sandals. He is simply trying to adhere to the Ten Commandments, which states that people are not to do work on the Sabbath. Don't we want to take the Ten Commandments and the Sabbath seriously? That's what this leader wants. He wants us to honor the Ten Commandments and the Sabbath, but here is this Jesus character violating both.

Moreover, according to the Jews, the day ends at sundown, so if Jesus waits just a few more hours, he can perform the miracle without violating the Sabbath. What's a few more hours?

The leader of the synagogue seems extreme and legalistic, but he has a point. After all, aren't rules important? Don't we need to follow the rules, especially the ones that come from God?

Jesus himself endorses rules. When a young man asks what he must do to receive eternal life, Jesus starts off by reminding him to follow the Ten Commandments. Jesus values rules.

Even so, the leader of the synagogue is in error for at least two reasons. First, as Jesus notes, there is precedent for tending to animals on the Sabbath. If it is all right to tend to animals on the Sabbath, then surely it is acceptable to heal a daughter of Abraham on the Sabbath, right? That just makes sense.

But there is a larger, deeper misunderstanding on the part of the synagogue leader, and that is this: healing someone is not a violation of the Sabbath. It is indeed part of honoring the Sabbath.

Many people misunderstand this truth about the Sabbath. Legions of us think the Sabbath, be it Saturday or Sunday, is just a day for following rules. “Go to church. Don't do work.” But actually, according to the Ten Commandments and the rest of Scripture, the Sabbath is a day of rest on which we glorify God.

Let me elaborate. First, the Sabbath is a day of rest. Why rest? Because rest rejuvenates us, heals us, strengthens us. God knows the importance of rest.

But it's not just any day of rest. The Sabbath is a day of rest on which we glorify God.

With those two points in mind, think about Jesus healing the crippled woman. What can be more rejuvenating and strengthening than that great rest called miraculous healing? And does not such a miraculous healing, when properly understood, lead to glorifying God? You bet it does.

Healing the woman on the Sabbath brings both rest, for the woman, and glory for God. What could be a better Sabbath event?

Why do you honor the Sabbath by coming to church? Because you're supposed to? Because you're trying to get God on your good side? Because it makes you feel good?

Soren Kierkegaard complained that people came to worship to watch the pastor put on a performance. Many people still think of worship along those lines. Let's be entertained or dazzled by the preacher. Sometimes we even mistakenly call the congregation “the audience” and the bulletin “a program,” as if this is a concert or a play and not a worship service.

Kierkegaard went on to say that, yes, worship is theater, but it is the congregation that is performing, with God as the audience (and, I would add, the guest of honor), and the pastor as the prompter, reminding us of our lines.

In any case, coming to Church to honor the Sabbath, foremost and first, is to be an activity of rest and renewal that glorifies God. In that great event, God helps us to stand tall by teaching us and feeding us.

The Sabbath is, not a chore, but a blessing. Thanks be to God for giving us rest and for granting us the opportunity to glorify God, for in glorifying God, we find true rest, clarity, and renewal.

David von Schlichten, poedifier

Outline for Sunday (August 26)
2007-08-22 by David von Schlichten

I'm having trouble coming up with an outline. My Wednesday Bible study fell apart this morning, so I didn't get much from it, unfortunately. (It's days like these that I wish I did something else for a living.)

Rick Brand's comment and Jimmy Buffet quote are compelling. (Scroll down to read Rick's blog entry, as well as my summary of LH articles for this week.)

Also, it is important to stress the value of the sabbath, since most people seem to misunderstand it.

Next, in Back to the Well: Women's Encounters with Jesus in the Gospels (Westminster John Knox, 2004), Frances Taylor Gench makes numerous valuable points, including that there is a place for the crippled and lame in worship. (By the way, Frances' husband Roger is the author of articles for September 2, 9 and 16 in Lectionary Homiletics).

With all this in mind, as well as the Kierkegaard quote from LH about worship, here, with some strain, is my outline:

title: True Sabbath

text: Gospel

main point: The Sabbath is not about rules and rubrics mainly but about a sacred time where all are welcome to glorify God and to receive God's healing power.

A. It is easy to put down the religious official in the synagogue for criticizing Jesus for doing work on the Sabbath, but let's put ourselves in the official's sandals

     1. he is just trying to follow Scripture

     2. also, rules and rubrics are important for structure and direction

B. We have rules here at St. James: don't run in church, the candles need to be lit before we begin worship, etc.

C. Jesus is saying that healing this crippled woman is more important than rules

D. Indeed, isn't the Sabbath really the perfect time for such a healing?

E. The Sabbath is about life, refreshment, renewal, all as a result of glorifying God

F. Many see worship as a chore, a performance by the pastor, or a quid-pro-quo with God (I come to worship, and God responds by doing what I want)

G. Instead, worship on the Sabbath (which is Sunday for many of us Christians) is greater: it is a time of sacred power during which we glorify God because God deserves our glorification

H. God welcomes all, gives us healing, not because we earn it, but because God is gracious

I. The selflessness of true worship has healing power

J. Women, the bent-over, everyone is welcome: glorify God

We'll see where this goes. I'm not sure. Help, Spirit. (Man, what a day. Tomorrow'll be better.)

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, poedifier

Stuck in Luke
2007-08-21 by Rick Brand

The Luke passage fascinates me because of how often the narrow focus on one thing, even a good thing, results in the complete missing of the miracle that happens right in front of us.  Jesus demonstrates the power of Grace and the religious leaders don't even slow down to join the woman in praise.  As Jimmy Buffet says, "so many good things happen around here and some people never see two."

Some Highlights of This Week's "LH" Articles
2007-08-21 by David von Schlichten

First, you can read David A. Davis' "Preaching the Lesson" piece for this week as a free sample. You'll also find a helpful article on the Gospel for this week.

Okay, here are my thoughts about this week's articles in Lectionary Homiletics. I have managed to swim over to my computer to post this blog. (Seriously, God bless all those who are struggling with flooding and other severe weather.)

Focus text: Hebrews 12:18-29 


Richard A. Spencer rightly notes that the image of God as a consuming fire is difficult to reconcile with the more merciful image of Jesus who teaches us to call the Father "Pappa" (Abba). Spencer teaches that we exegetes must make our way through the language of Hebrews to hear “the Word behind the words” (p.29). He reminds us that we are to remember that the context of Hebrews prompted the writer to be more strident and urgent. Thus, “perseverance in their devotion to Christ is not a mild suggestion but an eschatological demand” (29).

Spencer adds that we preachers need to supplement this tough word with a Word of grace for a theological word that is “self-sufficient” (29).

"Theological Themes"

Richard B. Steele writes about what makes worship acceptable and unacceptable to God. Steele contends that what made Abel's sacrifice acceptable was that it was “a token of unstinting gratitude, not a carefully calculated bribe” (p.29). Worship is unacceptable to God when it caters to the whims of the worshippers or tries to bribe God. Worship is acceptable to God when it honors God, acknowledges our sin and leads us to repentance, and gives glory to God for God's grace.

Steele quotes William Temple: "'Worship is the submission of all our nature to God'" (29). The selfless act of the adoration of God is, for Temple, paramount.

Steele also includes a fascinating endnote that summarizes what Kierkegaard says about worship in one of his books. Kierkegaard writes that many of us think of worship as theater, where we watch a performance by the pastor. Kierkegaard teaches that worship is indeed theater, but the parishioners are the actors, God is the audience, and the preacher is the prompter, reminding people of their lines (p.30). (Now that's my kind of endnote. That's a whole end-song I'll be humming all day.)

"Pastoral Implications"

Rodney J. Hunter writes about the struggle many of us have with the law/gospel dialectic. What's the relationship between salvation by faith and our good works? Hunter uses helpful analogies on page 31 to suggest an exegetically sound answer. For instance, he writes that when a person is truly in love, her or his life is shaped around that love. Loving acts result from that love. Hunter suggests, "Perhaps it is imperfect love that distorts discipline into either anxious striving or phony freedom and irresponsibility" (31).

"Lesson and the Arts"

Troy Messenger writes well about William Blake, that enigmatic artist, prophet, and poet of the late eighteenth-century, who cared much about the injustices of his day and who saw God and eternity in the smallest of things. Thank you to Messenger for lifting up this amazing figure of literature, theology and art.

"Sermon Reviews"

Heather Kirk-Davidoff, in summarizing a sermon by Raymond Calkins, indicates that we who are rooted in Christ can let our traditional beliefs and practices shake. The world may shake, but ours is the unshakeable kingdom (p.32).

Also, Kirk-Davidoff notes, a sermon by Roberta Hestenes stresses that gratitude toward God puts our feet on solid ground (33).

"Scripture and Screen"

David von Schlichten writes with his usual cogent brilliance about the following movies: The Fugitive, Twelve Angry Men, Erin Brockovich, The Lord of the Rings, and The Trip to Bountiful.

"Preaching the Lesson"

You'll want to read David A. Davis' article, in which he writes about the idea of stressing God's holiness as part of acceptable worship (p. 34; or see Samples).


John H. Pavelko preaches that the cloud of witnesses, the heroes of faith, are a bunch of sinning misfits; their story is primarily about God using these people despite their shortcomings (p.35).

These pages have lots of intelligent, faithful work, thanks be to the Holy Spirit. 

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, poedifier

"Pastor, Your Sermon Really Hurt Me."
2007-08-19 by David von Schlichten

That's what someone said to me this morning as she shook my hand. I invited her to wait in my office for me to talk with her after I had greeted everyone. (The sermon that had hurt her is a couple blog entries down).

Once I was seated at my desk, she told me that, in my sermon, I had preached about unfulfillment and how Jesus' words about familial division point to an example of unfulfillment.

My parishioner had had much difficulty with family (I knew this; she and I had spoken extensively about her family problems), and she thought I was saying that she was somehow inferior to others because she had had this difficulty.

I explained that it is God's will for us to get along with our families but that sometimes that does not happen and so we have unfulfillment. However, we are all unfulfilled in some way because we all far short of the ideals of God. Further, being unfulfilled does not mean that one person is inferior to another.

"I don't think you are inferior because you have had family troubles," I said. We reviewed some of her family troubles, and I affirmed that I thought she had worked hard to try to bring an end to the familial strife.

Most importantly, we all, in our unfulfilled state, are to keep persevering, trusting in the merciful, powerful love of God.

Thanks be to the Holy Spirit, everything got cleared up between my parishioner and me. I appreciated that she had come to me to talk about the sermon rather than keeping her thoughts and feelings to herself.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, poedifier 

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