Of wastelands and the water of life

Watching for the morning of August 25

Year C

The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost:
Proper 16 / Lectionary 21

(Photo credit: dkbonde)

(Photo credit: dkbonde)

How arid has faith become when you resent a person being healed on the Sabbath?  How barren when we are so committed to the form of religion that we have lost its life breath?

And do not think this is a problem of those archenemies, the Pharisees.  It is the problem of every religious tradition.

We have all been in that place where we resent the attention someone is getting, when we can feel the ground of our position, authority or respect weakened.  Our innate tendency in such moments is to see the other’s faults – and point them out.  We diminish the other in whatever way is available to us.  We mark their errors.  We minimize their accomplishments.  We sneer and snicker, gripe and complain.  We murmur.  On a human level, we understand the Pharisees.

But however understandable it may be, humanly speaking, it is dark and haunted spiritually.  Before us stands the anointed of God dispensing the gifts of that ultimate Sabbath rest when all heaven and earth are united in peace, when God’s spirit of grace and life governs every heart, and all that has gone wrong since Eden has been left behind with the grave clothes in the tomb.

Before us stands a foretaste of the final Sabbath – and in our resentment we see instead some upstart, untrained, Nazarene who should be working the construction site not presuming to speak for God.  We do not see healing; we see work that could have waited a day.  We do not see deliverance.  We do not see salvation manifesting itself in our midst.  We have let go of the realm of heaven to dwell in this world of our wants and resentments.  Without realizing it, we have abandoned the rich green land of promise for a spiritual wasteland.

This Sunday, through the prophet, the poet, the author of Hebrews and by the voice of Jesus, God calls us to renewal: to reenter the promised land, to drink again from the river of the water of life, to feast on the bread of heaven and sing anew: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.”

The Prayer for August 25, 2013

God of healing,
bring your reign of light and life
to all who are broken or bound,
touching us with a foretaste of that feast
where all are fed,
every wound healed
and every tear wiped away

The Texts for August 25, 2013

First Reading: Isaiah 58:9b-14
9bIf you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, 10if 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.” – In the difficult years after the return from exile in Babylon, when Jerusalem still lay in ruins and faith had grown lackluster before the trials of daily existence, the prophet calls the people to renewed faithfulness.

Psalmody: Psalm 103:1-8
“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.” – A hymn of praise, celebrating God’s abundant mercies.

Second Reading: Hebrews 12:18-29
“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe.”
– Having conclude his great recital of those who put their trust in the promise of God, the author contrasts the threats and fear experienced with the giving of the Law at Sinai with the promise and grace of life in Christ – urging us not to miss such a gift.

Gospel: Luke 13:10-17
“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.” – Jesus frees a bound woman evoking the hostility of the religious leaders.  But Jesus was not “doctoring” on the Sabbath; he was bringing the Sabbath rest of God.