, and Luke 13:10-17.
Jeremiah 1:4-10 is a story about how God can use anyone and everyone to do His work in our world. Jeremiah was called by God to be a prophet, but Jeremiah argued that he was too young to be a prophet. God replied that his request was part of His plan for Jeremiah’s life, and He would tell Jeremiah what to do and what to say. God’s love will break through every barrier and challenge the limitations we place on our abilities and God’s gifts in our lives. God is willing to give us more than we can ask or imagine, but we have to open our hearts, minds, and hands to receive God’s blessing for ourselves and others.
When God looks for someone to do His work, He goes after someone who isn’t looking for the position. He does not call the equipped. He equips the called. He calls us and equips us to share the Good News, and He equips us to face the consequences of sharing the Good News. People need the Lord, but they also need the companionship of other people. The world needs more people like Jeremiah-people who sense God’s call on their lives and who pursue it. They are not interested in instant gratification like so many people in our modern society are.
Jeremiah’s work was not stellar. For forty years he preached a single message from God-a message that the Israelites would be destroyed and everything the people held dear would be gone. The people did not listen to Jeremiah. In fact, they tried several times to kill him. Jeremiah remained resolute in his message, and we must also be resolute when doing God’s work, no matter how difficult our circumstances may be.
Long ago the church began to recognize “the priesthood of all believers.” The church teaches that the Holy Spirit lives in the hearts of believers. We are all authorized as witnesses to the gospel in fulfillment of the Great Commission. Before we can do this, we need the power of God if we are to have any hope that the Word of God will get through to the people we are trying to help.
Doing God’s word can be scary. We can feel like the writer of Psalm 71, which is a lament from someone who was in danger. Doing God’s work takes us out of our comfort zones. We will face hardships, including hatred and persecution. These hardships won’t last but the strength that God will give us will last if we trust in Him.
The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews calls on us as Christians to fulfill our Christian duty of loving others. We are to love one another, show hospitality, remember prisoners, be faithful in marriage, obey our leaders and not love money above anything else. This includes comforting the sick and afflicted like Jesus did in our Gospel passage.
When we do God’s work, we must be careful not to slide back into worldly ways. Worldliness leads to fear and trembling. Heavenly ways lead to a personal, loving presence with the living God. We stand with confidence because we have been sprinkled with the blood of Jesus. Christ’s blood and our faith give us the grace and strength we need to do God’s work. Neglecting our salvation will only lead to judgment. Instead of neglecting the free gift of salvation, we respond with joyful, grace-oriented, reverential worship and service of God.
The synagogue leader in Luke 13:10-17 was obsessed with obeying rules; specifically, the rule about keeping the Sabbath holy. The Jews, especially the Pharisees, were so obsessed with keeping God’s Commandments that they came up with all sorts of rules that governed what they could and could not do on the Sabbath. Included in the list of things that could not be done on the Sabbath was healing a sick person. Healing was considered work, and a good Jew could not do that type of work.
The commandment forbidding work on the Sabbath left the term “work” undefined and allowed for various interpretations. The Pharisees came up with a list of tasks that were forbidden on the Sabbath, but the list did not include healing. They agreed that lifesaving intervention could be performed on the Sabbath, but they were divided on whether healings of non-life-threatening conditions such as a woman who was bent over could be performed on the Sabbath.
We aren’t used to thinking of the church as a place where hurting people are invited, encouraged, and released to “stand up straight,” especially if they are disenfranchised by those who hold power and authority both inside and outside the church. Why is this the case? It is because like the synagogue leader the church often emphasizes legalism over compassion.
The synagogue leader objected to Jesus’ freeing of the bent woman from her bondage on the Sabbath. In other words, in the mind of the synagogue leader, freeing animals from bondage was more important than freeing people from the bondage of sin and illness. By healing the woman on the Sabbath, Jesus’ actions were considered to be within the intention or spirit of the Sabbath, and they enhanced Sabbath observance instead of destroying it.
Acts of compassion are holy work, and holy work was allowed on the Sabbath. After all, if holy work was not allowed on the Sabbath, what would the synagogue leader do? His work was holy. In Mark 2:27, Jesus argues that “the Sabbath was made for humankind and not humankind for the Sabbath”. In other words, we must not lose sight of the person in need. For example, what do you think would happen to the sick if paramedics or people in the medical profession did not work on the Sabbath? What would happen if firefighters or police officers refused to answer emergency calls on the Sabbath?
By healing the woman on the Sabbath, Jesus was doing God’s work. In doing so, He proclaimed the Good News. As Christians we are called on to do God’s work by proclaiming the Good News. Jeremiah’s experience of receiving, experiencing, and delivering God’s Word is a good example for us and the church to follow. We have been set apart as proclaimers of God’s word to the nations. We must accept with humility this responsibility.
Jesus formally denied that God rests on the Sabbath. He is creative effervescence. He constantly and lovingly creates. The institution of the Sabbath is a symbol of creation yet to be completed and still needs to be brought to fullness. We as Christians are to continue this process of creation. This story illustrates a basic truth about God’s kingdom. The kingdom doesn’t care about our timing, or our sense of etiquette, or our obsession with propriety and decorum. The kingdom cares about love now.
We are called on to free people from bondage. By healing the woman, Jesus freed her from the bondage of disability-a bondage that some people in that time believed was caused by a person’s sin. Similarly, the people of Israel were bound by affliction and sin. They were godless in heart since instead of crying out for help they sat complacently and gnawed over their own affliction.
The Sabbath so overwhelms us with God’s abundance and grace we are desperate to share it. The Holy Spirit keeps us on the lookout for anyone in need of healing or empowerment. We don’t restrict this to specific times, places, or days, but we do this every day and everywhere by the unbounded Spirit of God, which gives us strength to do His work in our world.
This story asks us what kind of fruit our adherence to tradition bears. Does our vision of holiness lead us to hospitality, to inclusion, to freedom for ourselves and others? Does it cause our hearts to open wide with compassion? Does it lead the broken to feel loved and welcomed at God’s table? Does it make us flexible? Does it prime our minds and hearts for a God who is always doing something new?
- Craig Condon, “The Call that Frees us…….and Others Too!” Retrieved from the author’s sermon library.
- Craig Condon, “God is Our Refuge and Strength.” Retrieved from the author’s sermon library.
- Craig Condon, “For Every Rule, There Are Always Exceptions.” Retrieved from the author’s sermon library.
- Carolyn Sharp, “Commentary on Luke 13:10-17.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org
- Michael L. Ruffin, “Commentary on Jeremiah 1:4-10.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org
- “Proper 16C.” Retrieved from http://girardianlectionary.net/reflections/
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013, pp.751-752,963, 1413-1414,1763-1764)
- Swindoll, Charles R.: Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary: Hebrews (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers Inc.; 2017; pp. 207-210)
- Scott Hoetzee, “Jeremiah 1:4-10 Commentary.” Retrieved from https://cepreaching.org
- Bruce Epperly, “Adventurous Lectionary-The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost-August 21, 2022” Retrieved from www.patheos.com/blogs/livingaholyadventure