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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, August 25, 2019           

Today’s Scripture Reading | Luke 13:10–17

Now he 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. (NRSV)

We humans love rules. We love to have answers about what to do and when. Without rules, the operation of the world seems random, and we can’t really handle random very well. We see it as a way of separating the sheep from the goats, so to speak: people are either rule-followers or rule-breakers. In a very general sense, maybe that’s useful. Most of us, though, are a mixture of the two, following some rules strictly and others a bit more loosely.

We all have rules we keep and rules we break. The question is, why do we break the rules we break and keep the rules we keep? For the most part, when we cross whatever line we cross, it’s a matter of personal indulgence. Selfishness, to be blunt. We drive a little faster than the speed limit not because we’re in a hurry, but because we feel like it. And knowing that we do that makes us a little quicker to judge people who break rules we keep: they’re just indulging themselves, they’re selfish, they’re just bad people.

The thing is, though, there are rules that get broken out of pressing human need. Ambulances break the speed limit and go through stop signs all the time, because there is a pressing human need. And there is a distinct ethical difference between breaking a rule out of pressing human need and breaking a rule out of self-indulgence. Often we call those who break the rules out of a knowledge of another’s need heroes.

Jesus shows us this time and again. Here, the law of the sabbath comes in second to human need. Here, a woman comes to be healed and is chastised for not doing it the right way or at the right time. Jesus calls those who would place their law over her need hypocrites, and they are put to shame. The law of love demands that the needy are cared for, and that supersedes laws of time and place.

Lord, remind us that your command that we love one another is paramount. Help us not to hold out rules of time and place above your law of love, and let us always remember that when need is present, the time to act is always now. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts

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