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Archive for September 2016

Seeing Lazarus

not to judgeLuke’s parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus is so powerful, and still so timely for each of us. In it, Jesus presents an unnamed rich man (meaning it could be any rich man, not just a certain one), so comfortable in his wealth and abundance that he doesn’t even notice the hungry man, named Lazarus, at his gate.

This is a parable of contrasts:
The Rich Man is clothed in purple and fine linens
Lazarus, is in rags and covered in sores

The Rich Man feasts sumptuously
Lazarus longs for even the scraps that fall from the Rich Man’s table

The contrasts continue after death:
Lazarus is comforted in the arms of Father Abraham
The Rich Man is in misery and is tortured by flames

Like I said on Sunday, this isn’t a parable about heaven and hell, although some across the centuries have cited this passage to remind the unrepentant sinner that they are bound for hell.

Sure, you can read heaven and hell into this parable. But I want to challenge you to read this parable as a parable about the HERE and NOW.

Listen to how Jesus develops this parable. After death, the Rich Man begs to have Lazarus come quench his thirst (now he knows Lazarus’ name? and here, even in death he expects Lazarus to serve him?! The gall of this guy! ! !). When that can’t happen the Rich Man wants Father Abraham to go to his five living brothers and warn them. When Father Abraham says “no,” the Rich Man begs that Lazarus could go and warn them. He says, “Surely they will change their ways if someone comes back from the grave to warn them!”

Father Abraham replies, “They have Moses and the Prophets. If they can’t believe them, neither will they believe it if someone is resurrected and appears to them.”

And that’s how I know this parable is about the here and the now.

Friends, not only do we have Moses and the Prophets — we DO have a resurrected savior who has taught us to care for the hungry, the poor, the weak, the lame, the blind.

But how many of us live in comfort, feasting sumptuously, while Lazarus lies at our gate, covered in sores?

It’s a tough question, but it is relevant and powerful, and it should remind us that we are called to do more than chase after our own comfort and abundance. We should not be able to rest at night if we know that even one child has gone to bed hungry.

Yet sleep we do — and comfortably. Sometimes we don’t sleep too well because we have indigestion from eating too much — isn’t that ironic!?

Would we live differently if someone were to come back from the dead to warn us that there are others suffering right in our own backyard?

That, my friends, is food for thought. May you chew, slowly and deliberately, on the message that Jesus’ parable speaks to you. And may you, with open eyes, seek to serve Lazarus wherever he may be.

In Christ,

Rev. Paula

do not judge


Spotlight on Extravagant Generosity ’17

CEH Extravagant Generosity Stewardship

In the parable of the Samaritan Jesus is calling us to “re-imagine the world” in a whole new way. Jesus is calling us NOW, to a re-imagined world of unconditional, open hearts, open minds, open arms compassion towards all. He expects us to go, now.

A re-imagined world of compassion is our call to stewardship for 2017 at Church of the Eternal Hills.

How do we show this type of compassion to all?

Through Our Nurture and Care of our Pastor and Staff
We are profoundly committed to a joyous and growing ministry for all. Paula’s inspiration and leadership has re-invigorated our youth ministries through youTHursdays, Fall Festival, our new Service Stations, Playtime Drama Club, Joyful Noise Choir, high school Tuesday Bible study, Grand Mission Experience, Mystery Friends and many more programs. And more kids and their families are responding to these programs as participation increases each month.

This success along with other expanding ministries of our church has placed a tremendous time burden on our pastor.

Coupled with her time commitment to our youth just mentioned, leading passionate worship services and heading our staff, here’s one quick example of why Paula’s time is stretched more than other pastor’s. Remember where we live. Now think of where we often are when we are sick or had a surgery or are recovering from some other medical treatment – we are down on the Front Range. And, we are very much comforted and nurtured when our Pastor calls. But that is a five hour round trip and visitation – more than half a work day for her.

We want to make sure we care and nurture our pastor as much as she cares for and nurtures us and our entire community. To do this we need to add part-time staff to ease the increased time burden on Paula and church staff that our success has created.

And we want to continue to faithfully compensate all our staff. Fruitful stewardship should always begin with the key people who are the foundation of all we do and dream of doing. For instance, we need to pay Jill for the hours she actually works, which we are not currently doing. So we have added modest, but much deserved staff compensation increases to our proposed 2017 budget.

Seeing Lazarus

Luke’s parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus is so powerful, and still so timely for each of us. In it, Jesus presents an unnamed rich man (meaning it could be any rich man, not just a certain one), so comfortable in his wealth and abundance that he doesn’t even notice the hungry man, named Lazarus, at his gate.

This is a parable of contrasts:
The Rich Man is clothed in purple and fine linens
Lazarus, is in rags and covered in sores

The Rich Man feasts sumptuously
Lazarus longs for even the scraps that fall from the Rich Man’s table

The contrasts continue after death:
Lazarus is comforted in the arms of Father Abraham
The Rich Man is in misery and is tortured by flames

Like I said on Sunday, this isn’t a parable about heaven and hell, although some across the centuries have cited this passage to remind the unrepentant sinner that they are bound for hell.

Sure, you can read heaven and hell into this parable. But I want to challenge you to read this parable as a parable about the HERE and NOW.

Listen to how Jesus develops this parable. After death, the Rich Man begs to have Lazarus come quench his thirst (now he knows Lazarus’ name? and here, even in death he expects Lazarus to serve him?! The gall of this guy! ! !). When that can’t happen the Rich Man wants Father Abraham to go to his five living brothers and warn them. When Father Abraham says “no,” the Rich Man begs that Lazarus could go and warn them. He says, “Surely they will change their ways if someone comes back from the grave to warn them!”

Father Abraham replies, “They have Moses and the Prophets. If they can’t believe them, neither will they believe it if someone is resurrected and appears to them.”

And that’s how I know this parable is about the here and the now.

Friends, not only do we have Moses and the Prophets — we DO have a resurrected savior who has taught us to care for the hungry, the poor, the weak, the lame, the blind.

But how many of us live in comfort, feasting sumptuously, while Lazarus lies at our gate, covered in sores?

It’s a tough question, but it is relevant and powerful, and it should remind us that we are called to do more than chase after our own comfort and abundance. We should not be able to rest at night if we know that even one child has gone to bed hungry.

Yet sleep we do — and comfortably. Sometimes we don’t sleep too well because we have indigestion from eating too much — isn’t that ironic!?

Would we live differently if someone were to come back from the dead to warn us that there are others suffering right in our own backyard?

That, my friends, is food for thought. May you chew, slowly and deliberately, on the message that Jesus’ parable speaks to you. And may you, with open eyes, seek to serve Lazarus wherever he may be.

In Christ,

Rev. Paula

do-not-judge
***
Spotlight on Extravagant Generosity ’17
CEH Extravagant Generosity Stewardship

In the parable of the Samaritan Jesus is calling us to “re-imagine the world” in a whole new way. Jesus is calling us NOW, to a re-imagined world of unconditional, open hearts, open minds, open arms compassion towards all. He expects us to go, now.

A re-imagined world of compassion is our call to stewardship for 2017 at Church of the Eternal Hills.

How do we show this type of compassion to all?

Through Our Nurture and Care of our Pastor and Staff
We are profoundly committed to a joyous and growing ministry for all. Paula’s inspiration and leadership has re-invigorated our youth ministries through youTHursdays, Fall Festival, our new Service Stations, Playtime Drama Club, Joyful Noise Choir, high school Tuesday Bible study, Grand Mission Experience, Mystery Friends and many more programs. And more kids and their families are responding to these programs as participation increases each month.

This success along with other expanding ministries of our church has placed a tremendous time burden on our pastor.

Coupled with her time commitment to our youth just mentioned, leading passionate worship services and heading our staff, here’s one quick example of why Paula’s time is stretched more than other pastor’s. Remember where we live. Now think of where we often are when we are sick or had a surgery or are recovering from some other medical treatment – we are down on the Front Range. And, we are very much comforted and nurtured when our Pastor calls. But that is a five hour round trip and visitation – more than half a work day for her.

We want to make sure we care and nurture our pastor as much as she cares for and nurtures us and our entire community. To do this we need to add part-time staff to ease the increased time burden on Paula and church staff that our success has created.

And we want to continue to faithfully compensate all our staff. Fruitful stewardship should always begin with the key people who are the foundation of all we do and dream of doing. For instance, we need to pay Jill for the hours she actually works, which we are not currently doing. So we have added modest, but much deserved staff compensation increases to our proposed 2017 budget.

Peace and Global Witness

Come to the Table of Justice

On Sunday, our guest preacher, Rev. Mark Vickstrom, did a fine treatment of a very difficult parable: Luke 16’s Parable of the Good Steward. Through the example of the leadership of Zimbabwe, Rev. Vickstrom illustrated what unchecked greed in a despot (Robert Mugabe) can do to an entire nation.

It’s a great time for us to be focusing on other parts of the world, as this month’s Mission of the Month is the “Peace and Global Witness” Offering through the PC(USA). The Offering itself will be gathered on Oct. 2, World Communion Sunday, and the money raised will go towards our denomination’s efforts to help spread peace across the globe. The PC(USA) does this through efforts you can read about in the article entitled, “Taking a Risk for Peace” below.

At CEH, we seek to help spread a message of peace in our family and community. One way is through teaching conflict resolution to our youngest disciples. Loving each other though our views may be polar opposites is something we encourage and support in our Forum class on Sunday mornings. There are also wonderful resource materials available concerning peaceful conflict resolution — ask Nancy Henry and she would be very glad to pass them along. These were available on the Mission Table, but have already been taken down to make way for next month’s mission.

25% of the Peace and Global Witness Offering will also stay right here in Grand County. The Mission Committee chose The Grand County Advocates to receive our local portion of the offering not only for their courageous work helping women and children escape from abusive domestic relationships, but for their encouraging work in the school system and throughout the community to educate and empower.

25% of the Peace nad Global Witness Offering goes to our mid-level councils. Look at how our Presbytery reaches across borders to help all of us serve our world:

The Presbytery of Denver Reaches Out

The Presbytery of Denver reaches out with congregations who work together in mission and ministry. The Guatemala Mission Partnership, which joins four congregations, and Zimbabwe KidZ Mission Partnership, which is composed of three congregations, both work to provide clean water to homes, villages, schools and churches. With congregational giving to the Presbytery, we all share in this life-saving work.

The Presbytery of Denver reaches out to form new ministries with new neighbors from around the world. Vietnamese is the language of their worship, Bible studies, weekly dinners, meetings and outreach to schools, homes and businesses, but the growing Vietnamese Presbyterian Fellowship, which meets at the Presbytery Center is joined with us all in a commitment to share the good news of Christ. Supported by the Presbytery, and now designated a new worshiping community, the fellowship is led by Pastor Tu Minh Bui.

The Presbytery of Denver reaches out in partnership across the world. Partnership is the key value of our Presbytery’s decade-long relationship with the Presbytery of Zimbabwe. Through the partnership, eight Denver Presbytery ministers have served for a month in churches or schools in Zimbabwe. Likewise, elders and ministers from Zimbabwe have led worship in more than forty Denver Presbytery congregations.

The Presbytery of Denver reaches out to the world with the Presbyterian Mission Agency. The Mission Service and Recruitment Office helps Presbyterians discern their call to international mission service, whether as long-term volunteers or mission co-workers; with mission personnel in more than 40 countries, your gifts help Presbyterian World Mission recruit, send, and support people from our own communities in this unique service.

As we look forward to World Communion Sunday, I hope you will be mindful of how desperately our world needs peace, and that you will prayerfully discern how generous you can be as you contribute to this special offering.

With hope for peace,

Rev. Paula


Come to the Table of Justice

Taking a Risk for Peace

A group of church women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are living witnesses to the declaration in First John that God’s “perfect love casts out fear.”

While the civil war in the DRC officially ended in 2003, the conflict continues to rage in the east of the country. More than five million lives have been lost, and terror can strike communities at any moment. Gang rapes are common, as is the conscription of child soldiers.

Weary of the atrocities war had inflicted on their communities, a delegation from the Federation of Protestant Women in Ituri took a huge risk for the sake of peace. In March 2013, they visited the hiding place of rebel leader Cobra Matata and asked him to lay down his arms. “We have come to tell you that we are fed up with the war,” delegation leader Neema Androsi told him.

Matata was amazed by their courage, but the women walked away with no assurances the militia would cease hostilities.

More than a year later, in August 2014, Androsi, accompanied by the community chief and his staff, paid another visit to Matata, past burning villages that reminded them of the horrors they wanted to stop. The militia leader listened to their appeal but would not commit to peace. Two weeks later, they visited again with the same result.

However, one day in November 2014, Matata announced he was ready to lay down his arms. In anticipation of his surrender, the Protestant women gathered for worship and prayer not far from where Matata was hiding. Moments later, he and many of his militia members gave themselves
up to the Congolese army.

Matata’s surrender did not end the hostilities in the eastern DRC. There are many more rebel groups that continue to fight for control of land, gain access to vast mineral wealth, and avenge ethnic strife.

Yet Androsi and others continue to work for peace in the DRC, inviting their enemies to join them at a table of justice, a table set by God—a table where women experience dignity instead of abuse, where children flourish in school rather than languish in militia camps, and where communities look to the future with hope instead of fear.

Your support of the Peace & Global Witness Offering helps draw people to God’s table of justice, where adversaries are reconciled and God’s abundance is celebrated and shared.

God has set this table of justice and peace for our neighbors down the street and around the world. Presbyterians like you and me who support the Peace & Global Witness Offering are gathering around the table and invite others to join us there. Please give generously.

Peace and Global Witness

Come to the Table of Justice

On Sunday, our guest preacher, Rev. Mark Vickstrom, did a fine treatment of a very difficult parable: Luke 16’s Parable of the Good Steward. Through the example of the leadership of Zimbabwe, Rev. Vickstrom illustrated what unchecked greed in a despot (Robert Mugabe) can do to an entire nation.

It’s a great time for us to be focusing on other parts of the world, as this month’s Mission of the Month is the “Peace and Global Witness” Offering through the PC(USA). The Offering itself will be gathered on Oct. 2, World Communion Sunday, and the money raised will go towards our denomination’s efforts to help spread peace across the globe. The PC(USA) does this through efforts you can read about in the article entitled, “Taking a Risk for Peace” below.

At CEH, we seek to help spread a message of peace in our family and community. One way is through teaching conflict resolution to our youngest disciples. Loving each other though our views may be polar opposites is something we encourage and support in our Forum class on Sunday mornings. There are also wonderful resource materials available concerning peaceful conflict resolution — ask Nancy Henry and she would be very glad to pass them along. These were available on the Mission Table, but have already been taken down to make way for next month’s mission.

25% of the Peace and Global Witness Offering will also stay right here in Grand County. The Mission Committee chose The Grand County Advocates to receive our local portion of the offering not only for their courageous work helping women and children escape from abusive domestic relationships, but for their encouraging work in the school system and throughout the community to educate and empower.

25% of the Peace nad Global Witness Offering goes to our mid-level councils. Look at how our Presbytery reaches across borders to help all of us serve our world:

The Presbytery of Denver Reaches Out

The Presbytery of Denver reaches out with congregations who work together in mission and ministry. The Guatemala Mission Partnership, which joins four congregations, and Zimbabwe KidZ Mission Partnership, which is composed of three congregations, both work to provide clean water to homes, villages, schools and churches. With congregational giving to the Presbytery, we all share in this life-saving work.

The Presbytery of Denver reaches out to form new ministries with new neighbors from around the world. Vietnamese is the language of their worship, Bible studies, weekly dinners, meetings and outreach to schools, homes and businesses, but the growing Vietnamese Presbyterian Fellowship, which meets at the Presbytery Center is joined with us all in a commitment to share the good news of Christ. Supported by the Presbytery, and now designated a new worshiping community, the fellowship is led by Pastor Tu Minh Bui.

The Presbytery of Denver reaches out in partnership across the world. Partnership is the key value of our Presbytery’s decade-long relationship with the Presbytery of Zimbabwe. Through the partnership, eight Denver Presbytery ministers have served for a month in churches or schools in Zimbabwe. Likewise, elders and ministers from Zimbabwe have led worship in more than forty Denver Presbytery congregations.

The Presbytery of Denver reaches out to the world with the Presbyterian Mission Agency. The Mission Service and Recruitment Office helps Presbyterians discern their call to international mission service, whether as long-term volunteers or mission co-workers; with mission personnel in more than 40 countries, your gifts help Presbyterian World Mission recruit, send, and support people from our own communities in this unique service.

As we look forward to World Communion Sunday, I hope you will be mindful of how desperately our world needs peace, and that you will prayerfully discern how generous you can be as you contribute to this special offering.

With hope for peace,

Rev. Paula

***
Come to the Table of Justice

Taking a Risk for Peace

A group of church women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are living witnesses to the declaration in First John that God’s “perfect love casts out fear.”

While the civil war in the DRC officially ended in 2003, the conflict continues to rage in the east of the country. More than five million lives have been lost, and terror can strike communities at any moment. Gang rapes are common, as is the conscription of child soldiers.

Weary of the atrocities war had inflicted on their communities, a delegation from the Federation of Protestant Women in Ituri took a huge risk for the sake of peace. In March 2013, they visited the hiding place of rebel leader Cobra Matata and asked him to lay down his arms. “We have come to tell you that we are fed up with the war,” delegation leader Neema Androsi told him.

Matata was amazed by their courage, but the women walked away with no assurances the militia would cease hostilities.

More than a year later, in August 2014, Androsi, accompanied by the community chief and his staff, paid another visit to Matata, past burning villages that reminded them of the horrors they wanted to stop. The militia leader listened to their appeal but would not commit to peace. Two weeks later, they visited again with the same result.

However, one day in November 2014, Matata announced he was ready to lay down his arms. In anticipation of his surrender, the Protestant women gathered for worship and prayer not far from where Matata was hiding. Moments later, he and many of his militia members gave themselves
up to the Congolese army.

Matata’s surrender did not end the hostilities in the eastern DRC. There are many more rebel groups that continue to fight for control of land, gain access to vast mineral wealth, and avenge ethnic strife.

Yet Androsi and others continue to work for peace in the DRC, inviting their enemies to join them at a table of justice, a table set by God—a table where women experience dignity instead of abuse, where children flourish in school rather than languish in militia camps, and where communities look to the future with hope instead of fear.

Your support of the Peace & Global Witness Offering helps draw people to God’s table of justice, where adversaries are reconciled and God’s abundance is celebrated and shared.

God has set this table of justice and peace for our neighbors down the street and around the world. Presbyterians like you and me who support the Peace & Global Witness Offering are gathering around the table and invite others to join us there. Please give generously.

Darkness and Light

Darkness

We began our service on Sunday with a time of silence to take notice of the darkness of the day. It was the 15th Anniversary of 9/11, and I invited anyone to come forward and light a candle on our Communion table during the silence. I expected only a few people to come forward, but as I watched the aisles fill with worshipers, I realized I had not put out enough candles. So I went back to my office, grabbed thirty more candles, and placed them beside our improvised candle-holder.

The silence was held much longer than I would have imagined. People were very somber coming forward, remembering where they were that morning, holding the pain very close and acknowledging how things have changed for us.

The candles were seated in a bed of sand in a plastic gardening container, and the light they all produced was pretty spectacular. It reminded me that darkness can sometimes lead to light, and I remembered the way that our nation bonded together during the months directly following 9/11. Somehow neighbors felt closer to each other; faith communities strengthened with people returning to church; and a genuine feeling of deep patriotism rose out of the rubble of the Twin Towers, the crashed remains of Flight 93 in Pennsylvania, and the gaping hole left in the Pentagon building.

All those candles burned very hot, and melted quite quickly, leading to the plastic gardening container catching on fire and beginning to melt onto the Communion table. Unfortunately, the table was also covered with a plastic protector, which also caught on fire and began to melt. Luckily, the fire was put out just as quickly, and nobody was hurt.

The fire did leave a small burn on the Communion table though. Perhaps we will leave it as a reminder that none of us are perfect — we all bear scars, and those scars make us who we are. Flawed, scarred, but still able to provide service to our God.

As this week has progressed I have begun to imagine some new meaning from our slight emergency on Sunday morning. I said earlier that the light that arose out of the darkness of 9/11 was a new a deeper intimacy in our country, the incredible growth of faith communities, and a renewed and deeper sense of patriotism. My metaphor is that, like all the candles we lit on Sunday, some of the light from 9/11 seemed to burn out rather quickly as well. Look at our country only 15 years later — neighbors scarcely know or acknowledge each other, nationwide church membership and attendance is returning to the all-time low it was at pre-9/11, and patriotism has become something more divisive than unifying with the ridiculous mess we’ve created in our political arena.

How did that bright light of intimacy and hope burn out so quickly? Granted, it’s been 15 years, but our pain is still so present, how can it be that the light is not? When we let that pain and darkness be felt and remembered, we must also pay tribute to the light, hoping to rekindle it rather than extinguish it.

My charge to you is to rekindle the light that came out of 9/11 without letting it burn out this time. Go out into your neighborhood and meet people; renew your commitment to your faith community; and remember with pride the love and hope that so many heroes exhibited on 9/11, and which so many of our soldiers (more than 14,000 deaths, for details go here ) have given their lives for.

***
Light

We turned from the darkness of 9/11 to the present and very bright light of our children on Sunday morning. We had so many wonderful visitors on Sunday who had come to have their backpacks blessed. There was palpable energy in the entire church!

The remainder of the service (after the 9/11 Remembrance) was geared toward children, with a Prayer of Confession that involved a white board and drawings of “icky” things that fill up our hearts. It was a neat visual lesson that the waters of baptism wash all that icky stuff away.

Rather than a sermon, we had an extended “Time for Young Disciples” that taught about the “Whole armor of God” as found in Eph 6:10-20. My message to the students gathered is that we spend too much time worrying about what we are wearing to school — about what is on the outside. What we need to be more concerned about is what’s going on inside. Here are the ways I asked the students to get ready for school each day:

The Helmet of Salvation: when you’re brushing your hair, look in the mirror and remember that you are a beloved Child of God.
The Breastplate of Righteousness: when you put on your backpack, remember that you need to protect your heart and keep it clean, and remember that God’s love can help soften the blows of mean words and bullying.
Shoes fit to spread the Gospel of Peace: when you tie your shoes remind yourself that you are going to be a peace maker instead of a trouble maker.
The Sword of Truth: when you are buckling your belt, imagine you are pulling out a sword and say, “I will be truthful!”

These words are not just true for our children, but true for everyone of us. If were as concerned with “wearing” the whole armor of God everyday as we are about the clothes we put on, we would have a much different view of the day!

Following our service there was SO MUCH LIGHT at our first-ever Fall Festival. Many hands worked many hours to bring this celebration to fruition. Special thanks go to Karin & Krista Conrad, Sue Perkins, Tara Walker and family, and Laura Veenstra. We had games, face-painting, cotton-candy, a delicious smorgasbord of brats and picnic food, and an adorable S’mores station! It was a great celebration, and even though some wind blew through and knocked down our tents and bike parade route, there was plenty of fun to be had.

Our facebook page has pictures galore, and we have decided this should be an annual event! We’d love your feedback on the day if you were here, so please consider dropping me a note to let me know what you thought about the Fall Festival, the Blessing of the Backpacks, and anything else that comes to mind.

May you bask in the light of hope that does shine ever so brightly around us, and may it fill your heart with enough warmth that you can spread that to others.

In Christ’s Light,

Rev. Paula

How to be Holy

Sunday’s scriptures taught us big lessons about what makes God happy on the Sabbath. We heard from from Isaiah:

If you remove the yoke from among you,

the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,

if you offer your food to the hungry

and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,

then your light shall rise in the darkness

and your gloom be like the noonday.

The Lord will guide you continually,

and satisfy your needs in parched places,

and make your bones strong;

and you shall be like a watered garden,

like a spring of water,

whose waters never fail. . .

If you refrain from trampling the sabbath,

from pursuing your own interests on my holy day;

if you call the sabbath a delight

and the holy day of the Lord honorable;

if you honor it, not going your own ways,

serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs;

then you shall take delight in the Lord,

and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth;

I will feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Jacob,

for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

(selections from Isaiah 58:9b — 14, emphasis added)

Someone jokingly said after service that I might not want to read that particular scripture on a Bronco’s Sunday. But it really isn’t a joke, is it? We value our Sunday time, and not especially because it is the day we set aside to worship God. We value Sunday time because we (those who attend church) typically have the day off, and there aren’t a lot of things that are expected of us.

I wonder what it would be like if all people really did take delight in the sabbath. I think there would be a whole lot less complaining about things that didn’t matter so much (“service was too long,” “my children just don’t enjoy the service,” “I didn’t like the music,” “the music was too fast/too slow/too loud”). What would it be like if we just really took delight in the Lord?!

Jesus is up against some complainers as well in our scripture reading from Luke:

Now [Jesus] was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.” But the Lord answered him and said, “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 this bondage on the sabbath day?” When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing (Luke 13:10-17).

His point is clear here — rather than being concerned about pointing fingers about what is “right” and what is “wrong” to do on the Sabbath, we need to be more concerned with loving one another. What Jesus did, although “against” sabbath restrictions, was MERCIFUL.

When I was a child growing up in the church, I was reminded time and again that there was proper behavior for church. Jeans were inappropriate, as were t-shirts and tennis shoes. Children were expected to be silent during the service, and at least in my family you had to sit up straight in the pews. These are a little different than the “Sabbath Laws” that the synagogue leader was pointing to, but it’s about the most parallel thing I can come up with in my own life. The parallel is that people were very concerned with “Looking holy” rather than “Being holy.”

Truly being holy seems to be the real key to these sabbath laws, and Jesus recognizes this.

It wasn’t a new concept, because the Isaiah readings were written somewhere around 800 years before Jesus was even born, and in this whole section of Isaiah there is a lot of commentary about God being unhappy with how God’s people were observing the sabbath. God says, in no uncertain terms, that just “Looking holy” is not enough. In fact, “Looking holy” irritates God (Amos 5:21 also says it pretty clearly, “I hate, I detest your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me”).

In the particular reading above (chap 58) there’s a pretty easy list of how to make God happy on the Sabbath:
remove the yoke from among you
stop pointing your fingers at each other
stop speaking evil
offer your food to the hungry
satisfy the needs of the afflicted
don’t trample on the sabbath
don’t pursue your own interests on the sabbath
call the sabbath a delight
don’t go “your own way” on the sabbath
don’t serve your own interest on the sabbath
don’t pursue your own affairs on the sabbath

Well, I guess I wouldn’t call it an “easy” list, but it certainly does help us to see it again is list form. Each of these actions/mindsets have to do with being merciful and looking to the interests of others rather than being solely focused on “self.”

So this big controversy of Jesus healing the woman has to do with being HOLY by being MERCIFUL. Wouldn’t you, Jesus asks, do the same for your pet or your livestock? Why not this woman, who has suffered for so long?

Friends, as we look at how we live our everyday lives, I feel we should be practicing all these actions that are pleasing to God. Let’s not keep them limited to the sabbath (although honestly that would be a pretty great start); let’s practice them every single day.

We could be living in holy times if we kept just those things as our focus.

May you find delight in worshiping the Lord in these ways: by practicing your acts of mercy; and focusing less on trying to “look holy.”

With Hope,

Rev. Paula