Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Walking the Line

Walking the Line
Lk. 16:1-13[1]
  It seems to me that there’s a fine line between integrity and dishonesty. We view them as opposites, and so you might think that they are so far apart that it’s easy to tell the difference.  But, unfortunately, in our human condition they too often get mixed up.  When does a conversation with a friend who owns a company in which you own stock become felony insider trading?  Ask Martha Stewart about that one.  Or what is the real difference between using “nutritional supplements” to enhance your athletic performance and resorting to more potent compounds? That’s a dilemma probably every professional athlete faces.  Or when does a campaign promise that reflects a candidate’s values and intentions shade off into a lie that is simply intended to garner votes in the election?
  I’m afraid the line between integrity and dishonesty is a fine one indeed.  And as Jesus made clear over and over again, that line applies to our money as much as any other area of life.  Our Gospel lesson for today is one of several parables Jesus taught his disciples in order to warn them against the danger wealth would pose to their fidelity to God.  It’s incredibly easy to cross the line from serving God to having our lives controlled by money--whether it’s an abundance of money or the lack of it.  And like he does elsewhere, Jesus makes it clear that you cannot serve both God and “mammon” (Lk. 16:13).[2] 
  And yet, on the face of it, this parable is somewhat confusing.  It almost seems that Jesus is commending the dishonest use of wealth as a means of gaining eternal life! Given not only Jesus’ teaching about money, but the whole biblical witness, it’s clear that Jesus would not have made such bizarre statement. So what are we to make of this?  A little background might help.  A “steward” was a household slave who was in charge of the master’s estate.  He would manage all the affairs related to the operations, the personnel, and the finances.  So the “steward” was the one who was entrusted with the master’s wealth.  It seems that this particular steward has been caught being dishonest, and it’s clear that the master is going to dismiss him.
  What the steward does next may seem shocking to us.  He called in those who owed debts to the estate, and gave them back the original IOU and had them write out another one with a reduced debt.  This may seem like outright theft.  But it is likely that in fact the amount by which the steward reduced the debts was actually excessive interest that he had been charging (and probably pocketing).  It would seem that in fact he was simply foregoing his dishonest “commission.”[3] 
  We might wonder how this would do him any good.  In that day and time, debts of honor were taken very seriously.  In a very real sense, the steward was placing these people in his debt by doing them huge favors.  And when he came calling to “cash in” his favors, they would dishonor themselves in the eyes of the community if they did not welcome him as a guest in their homes. This explains the strange comment about the master commending the steward (Lk. 16:8).  It seems confusing at first, but the master simply recognizes that the steward has come up with a very shrewd plan to avoid poverty when he is forced to leave his current position. [4]
  It’s at this point that Jesus begins his strange comments.[5]  He says, “for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light” (Lk. 16:8).  Does Jesus want us to be dishonest and self-serving like the steward?  I don’t believe that for a minute.  But I think he does want us to give as much forethought to the way our actions affect our future as this steward did.[6]  Perhaps it would be better to say that Jesus wanted his disciples to exercise good judgment when it comes to the way they live. 
  But he goes on to get more specific about this.  He says, “make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes” (Lk. 16:9).  Here again, it sounds like Jesus is advising us to use money the way the steward did--to gain an advantage for ourselves.  I don’t believe that’s anywhere close to what Jesus was saying.  Again I think he wanted his disciples to be as intentional about the way they use their wealth as the steward was.[7]  But Jesus clearly expected his disciples to use whatever wealth they had in the opposite way to the steward--we’re to use our wealth to seek first God’s kingdom of peace, mercy, freedom, and new life.[8] 
  It’s all too easy in this day and time to let our concerns about money literally take over our lives.  I think we would all agree from personal experience that money is a hard taskmaster.  When we serve “mammon,” we stray from the path of following Jesus.  Perhaps even worse, we can create a serious obstacle to building our lives on trust in God.  And yet, we live in a world where money is a necessary evil.  I think Jesus was aware of that.  And I think he wanted those who follow him to be aware of the temptations money can pose.  More than that, I think he wanted us to be wise about our use of money, and that means making sure to put it to good use for the sake of others where ever we can.  As with other aspects of our discipleship, when it comes to the way we use our money we are called to walk a fine line--a straight and narrow path that leads to life.[9]

[1] © 2013 Alan Brehm.  A sermon delivered by Rev. Dr. Alan Brehm on 9/22/2013 at First Presbyterian Church of Dickinson, TX.
[2] cf. Martin Luther, Larger Catechism, 12, where he calls mammon “the most common idol on earth” (Part One, the Ten Commandments, on the First Commandment).  Cf. also Ralph Martin, and Peter Davids, eds., The Dictionary of the New Testament and its Later Developments, s. v. “James, Letter of,” by Robert W. Wall, where he points out that those who love mammon “inevitably exploit their neighbors.”  See further Jürgen Moltmann, The Way of Jesus Christ, 100.
[3]Cf. Joseph A. Fitzmyer, Gospel According to Luke X–XXIV, 1101; Darrell Bock, Luke 9:51–24:53, 1330, 1341; J. Duncan M. Derrett, Law in the New Testament, 56–63; I. Howard Marshall, Commentary on Luke, 616–19.
[4] In fact, it may have improved the master’s standing in the community, because the steward’s dishonesty may have consisted precisely of the fact that he was lending the master’s money and charging exorbitant and in fact illegal interest rates.  Cf. Joseph A. Fitzmyer, “The Story of the Dishonest Manager (Lk. 16:1-13),” Theological Studies 25 (Mar 1964): 35-37.
[5] There has been a debate about where the parable ends and Jesus’ comments begin.  Where does the parable end and Jesus’ interpretation of the parable begin?  Some have suggested that the parable ends with 16:7, and that what follows in 16:8 constitutes the narration of Jesus’ (the “Lord”) commendation of the Dishonest Steward (cf. Rudolf Bultmann, The Synoptic Tradition, 176–76, 199–200).  Others have suggested that 16:8a belongs to the parable, while 16:8b constitutes Jesus’ comments on the parable (cf. Fitzmyer, Gospel According to Luke X–XXIV, 1101; Marshall, Commentary on Luke, 619-20; Bock, Luke 9:51–24:53, 1332).  This seems more likely, and most agree that 16:9-13 constitute further comments on the topic of wealth.
[6] Cf. Jennifer E. Copeland, “Shrewd Investment,” The Christian Century (Sept. 7, 2004): 21, where she observes that the steward “used all the means at his disposal to adapt to his new reality. We should be no less shrewd in adapting to God's reality.”
[7] Cf. Michael J. Christensen, “The Shrewdness in Stewardship,” in The Living Pulpit (July-Sept 2006): 7, where he says, “Those who insist on uncompromising economic purity in this world would have to live as St. Francis did, in utter simplicity and dependency on God alone for daily bread. For most of us, managing money will be a necessary distraction.”
[8] Cf. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, III.18.6 (vol. 2, p.421), where he says, “What we give to our brethren in the exercise of charity is a deposit with the Lord.”
[9] Cf. Stanley M. Hauerwas, “Living on Dishonest Wealth,” Journal for Preachers 20 (Advent 1996): 17, where he warns us that even though we may be aware of the dangers of our wealth, we must not fool ourselves into thinking that even our generosity will save us.  He says, “Being generous with our wealth is a good. But our generosity will not save us. Rather what we must face is the only thing that can save us is that our God is a generous God who offers us forgiveness of our sins—sins that are all the more powerful because we cannot will our way out of them. We are caught, but God has freed us from our ‘caughtness’ through Jesus Christ.” 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Grace Overflowing

Grace Overflowing
Lk. 15:1-10[1]
  The Church has, in my opinion, had a mixed legacy.  In many cases the faithful have given sacrificially to those in need, and have poured out kindness and mercy to those who are hurting.  But in all too many cases, I’m afraid the Church has been responsible for inflicting the hurt.  The painful truth is that we in the Church have drawn all kinds of lines between “us” and “them”--whoever “they” may be.  Like the Pharisees who criticized Jesus for consorting with “sinners,” we have labeled those we deem outsiders by using all sorts of unkind and hurtful language. And in my opinion, we have wounded some people so deeply that there is very little chance they will ever walk through the doors of this or any other church. And yet, it seems to me that we are called to relate to them, and indeed to anyone we come in contact, as channels of God’s unlimited and overflowing grace.
  According to the Gospels, Jesus related to people of all classes and stations in life with the same kindness.  That’s part of the reason why some of the Jewish religious leaders were so offended.  They went to great lengths to justify their belief that they were God’s chosen, blessed by God’s favor, living in God’s good graces. And in this system, anyone who didn’t live up to their standards of holiness was a “sinner.”  That meant that, by definition, they were rejected by God and excluded from God’s grace. The way they expressed that mindset was by excluding them from common activities like worship, and especially meals. In their mind, to share a meal with a “sinner” was to extend God’s grace to them, and they didn’t deserve it![2]
  That’s the context behind the parables Jesus told in our Gospel lesson for today.  He told two unusual stories that illustrated how God extends grace to all people, without any restrictions or limitations.  The first is a story of a shepherd who has a flock of 100 sheep.  One of them goes astray, and rather than staying to make sure the other 99 are safe from all dangers, he leaves them to search for the lost sheep.  When he finds that one sheep, he is so overjoyed that he invites his friends to rejoice with him.  And in that day and time, it was expected that the host of a celebration would provide food.  So did he serve roasted lamb?  Seems ironic, and extravagant to go to so much effort to find one sheep, only to use it as the main course for a celebration with his friends!  I think the point is that God’s grace is that extravagant.
  Jesus told another, similar story about a woman who lost a coin.  That might not seem like a big deal, but in this case, her entire “nest egg” consisted of ten coins.  So she literally turns her house upside-down looking for the lost coin.  And when she finds it, she’s so overjoyed that she invites her friends to celebrate with her.  And guess what--yep, she would have been expected to provide food.  At the very least, she would have had to spend the coin she had just put so much effort into finding to put on the party.  Again, it seems ironic and extravagant to celebrate finding the coin by spending it to throw a party for her friends.  Again, I think the point is that God’s grace is extravagant.
  In both cases, Jesus drew the same conclusion: “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Lk. 15:7).  Jesus makes it clear that, contrary to the smug, self-righteous, and stingy attitudes of his opponents, God excludes no one from grace.  In fact, God actively seeks out those who have found themselves on the other side of the boundary lines.  And when just one of those who have been excluded finds his or her way back into the grace and mercy and love of God, Jesus said all heaven rejoices.[3]
  I don’t think there was any way that Jesus could have more blatantly contradicted the self-righteous attitude of some of the Jewish religious leaders.  What he was teaching about the free access of God’s grace that extends to everyone, crossing all the “lines” we draw to mark off “us” from “them,” constituted virtually the exact opposite of what they taught.  Their definition of what constituted a “sinner” was rather sweeping.  They didn’t limit “sinners” to those we might think of as leading an “immoral” life.[4]  They included everyone who didn’t have the luxury of spending their whole day studying and seeking to practice God’s commands.  They even had a word for them: they called them “the people of the land.” It wasn’t a compliment!  And the self-righteous religious snobs of Jesus’ day believed that those “sinners” had only one way to gain access to God’s grace: they had to earn it.  It’s no wonder they could treat the vast majority of people around them as if God could care less about them.[5]
  Unfortunately, we in the church have made the same mistake all too often.  We have excluded those whom we ought to include.  We have looked down on those whom God loves and values and seeks to bring home.  We have not only drawn lines that make us feel like we’re righteous at the expense of assuming others are sinful, we have in some cases reinforced those lines with hurtful words.  As I said earlier, I fear that there are some people whom we the Church have wounded so deeply that there’s very little chance they will ever come back. There may be nothing we can do about that.  But what we can do is imitate God’s extravagant love for all people.[6]  We can be channels of God’s overflowing grace--simply by treating the people we encounter in our daily lives with kindness and mercy and love.

[1] © 2013 Alan Brehm.  A sermon delivered by Rev. Dr. Alan Brehm on 9/15/2013 at First Presbyterian Church of Dickinson, TX.
[2] Cf.  John Nolland,  Luke 9:21–18:34, 773; Fred Craddock, Luke, 102-103, 184.  Cf. also R. Alan Culpepper, “The Gospel of Luke,” New Interpreters Bible IX:298: “The parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin expose the grudging spirit that prevents us from receiving God’s mercy.  Only those who can celebrate God’s grace to others can experience that mercy themselves.”
[3] Cf. Mary H. Schertz, “God’s Party Time,” The Christian Century (Sept. 4, 2007): 18: “God s mercy is reckless and profligate. It is a prodigal passion, and our visions of salvation are measly by comparison.”  Cf. also Jürgen Moltmann, Jesus Christ for Today’s World, 12.
[4] cf. Craddock, Luke, 77-78: “sinners” were those who were excluded from the synagogue, and “Given the central place of the synagogue in the community, to be a sinner was to be an outcast.”
[5] Cf. Ann James, “Prodigiously Lost and Found,” The Christian Century (Mar 1, 1989): 221, where she points out that “The Pharisees probably expected the story to end with some sort of condemnation of the way they too distanced themselves from sinners,” but the point Jesus was making is that “no one is lost—or rather, no one is left un-searched for.”
[6] Art Ross, “Lk. 15:1-10,” Interpretation 61 (Oct 2007): 424: “A life of discipleship is a life that begins with repentance, leads to the faith of Jesus, and embodies the love of God,” a love that is “love for the lost; persistent pursuit of the well being of others; joyful, generous friendship; and sharing with one's friends and neighbors.”  Cf. also Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics 2.1:278: “God’s love is not merely not conditioned by any reciprocity of love. It is also not conditioned by any worthiness to be loved on the part of the loved.”


Lk. 14:25-33[1]
  I think most of us embrace the Christian faith with some kind of notion of what we’re going to get out of it.  Whether it’s an eternity of bliss in “heaven,” or whether it’s a better, happier, more fulfilled life here and now, we all have some expectation of what we’re going to get out of it.  Unfortunately when we make these assumptions, we forget that the one we follow as Lord met a completely different outcome, at least in this life.  We follow a Savior who was ultimately crucified.  And Jesus warned those who would follow him that they would experience a similar fate if they did so.  But we have so domesticated the Christian faith that we have turned it into just another way of getting what we want out of life.
  In our Gospel lesson for today, Jesus warned all those who would follow him that they must be willing to “carry the cross.”  Anyone not willing to do so “cannot be my disciple” (Lk. 13:27).  This is something that all of the Gospels make clear.  But what they don’t spell out quite so well is exactly what that means for us in terms of specifics.  In our Gospel lesson for today, Jesus says that it means things like “hating” your family, and even life itself (Lk. 13:26).  It means “giving up all your possessions” (Lk. 13:33).[2]  I would say these aren’t the outcomes most of us envisioned when we began our journey of faith.
  To reinforce the importance of this, Jesus tells two short parables about what it means to “count the cost” of following him.  One has to do with building a tower.  Jesus says that nobody builds a tower without making sure it’s possible to finish construction.  But the example is one that is ridiculous--one who can only finish the foundation, and then runs out of resources.  Nobody would do such a foolish thing.  And even if someone could only complete two-thirds of the building, if they ran out of money, they would surely borrow to finish the project.  It seems that Jesus is exaggerating on purpose.  But why?
  The same thing is true with the other parable.  A king going out to war ought to have good sense enough to know whether he can defeat his opponent with a force half the size.  But in real life, Kings borrowed heavily to hire more troops if their own armies were lacking.  And they repaid the debts by imposing heavy taxes on conquered nations once they had defeated them.  So once again, it would seem that Jesus is exaggerating on purpose.  The question is why he would do that.  The fact of the matter is, Jesus often spoke ironically in order to make people think through things a little more deeply.[3]
  I think one of the lessons Jesus may have been trying to teach is that you can never really know the outcomes of what you start.  Even if someone invested all their resources in building a magnificent tower, they could never know what might happen to that tower.  It could be destroyed the very next year by a fire, or by a massive storm.  The same thing holds true for a King going to war.  He cannot know whether the conquered people will mount a rebellion against him.  Or, as often happened in the ancient world, whether he has stretched his armies too thin, and has left himself vulnerable to attack from a new contender.  The reality is, even if the builder or the King do a perfect job of preparing to pay the cost of success in their respective ventures, they cannot know what the ultimate outcomes will be.
  I began my Christian journey almost forty years ago.  I can say that my expectations now are vastly different from what they were then.  I made it my goal to try my best to do the right thing.  I tried at every fork in the road to discern what God was leading me to do.  I tried to serve God and others to the best of my ability.  And up to about fifteen years ago, I believed that all that would mean that I would spend my life teaching the Bible to Seminary students.  I counted the cost on many occasions, and made the sacrifices that were necessary to follow the path that I believed God wanted me to follow.  But I must say that I could never have anticipated the twists and turns my life would take.  And, the truth of the matter is that some of them were hard and painful.  But at the same time, some of them have brought me to joys that I would never have expected.  You can never really know the outcome of your choices, particularly the choice to follow Jesus in discipleship.[4]  For my part, in the words of Maya Angelou, I wouldn’t take nothin’ for my journey now.
  When it comes to the choices we make in life, there are some things that are right for us to choose regardless of the outcome.[5]  I think that’s also a part of what Jesus may have been trying to teach us.  I don’t believe Jesus literally expected us to “hate” our families.  But our choices must reflect the utmost importance of following Christ.[6]  And so we choose to love and serve those around us because it is the right thing to do.  We choose to make sacrifices for the sake of God’s kingdom because it’s the right thing to do.  We choose to follow Jesus because it is the right thing to do--regardless of the outcomes.[7] If we didn’t act or make a decision or choose to take a risk without knowing fully the outcome of our choices, we’d never do anything in life that’s worth doing.  I think Jesus wanted us to follow him with that in mind, knowing that we can never know where the path will lead us, understanding that we can count the cost, but we cannot fully know the outcome of our faith this side of eternity.

[1] © 2013 Alan Brehm.  A sermon delivered by Rev. Dr. Alan Brehm on 9/8/2013 at First Presbyterian Church of Dickinson, TX.
[2] Stanley Hauerwas, “Hating Mothers as the Way to Peace,” Journal for Preachers 11 (Pentecost 1988): 19, says that the point of these sayings is that “if Jesus is the Messiah, it is surely absurd to think we can follow Jesus while clinging to the attachments of the old age. Rather, to be his disciple means that all our past, all our loves ... are now put in a new context.”
[3] Cf. J. Duncan M. Derrett, "NISI DOMINUS AEDIFICAVERIT DOMUM : Towers And Wars (Lk XIV 28-32),” Novum Testamentum 19 (Oct 1977): 249, where he observes, “The suggestion, that one must commence only when one has absolutely within one's power the means to complete, does not fit with real life at any period of history; and to illustrate minute calculation as these parables do and then to use the illustrations in this way is really ridiculous. Perhaps there is an element of irony in the stories which the centuries have left buried ?”
[4] Cf. R. Alan Culpepper,  “The Gospel of Luke,” New Interpreters Bible IX:293: “no one can know whether he or she will be able to fulfill a commitment to discipleship.  Jesus was not asking for a guarantee of complete fidelity in advance, however.  If he had, no one would qualify to be a disciple.”
[5] Cf. Jürgen Moltmann, The Way of Jesus Christ, 204, where he expresses the value of the decision to follow Jesus in discipleship: “Anyone who participates in ‘Christ’s sufferings’” becomes a witness “to the coming truth against the ruling lie, to coming justice and righteousness against the prevailing injustice, and to coming life against the tyranny of death.”
[6] Cf. Carson Brisson, “Luke 14:25-27,” Interpretation 61 (July 2007):  331, where he says that the call to “hate” one’s own family reflects “the radical nature of the subordination of all other values and relationships a disciple must practice if she or he would respond faithfully to God's dawning reign. What is required is allegiance to Jesus above all other concerns or commitments.” Cf. similarly Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics 3.4:262 and Joseph A. Fitzmyer, Luke X-XXIV, 1062.  See further Fred Craddock, Luke, 181, “In sum, his word is, Think about what your are doing and decide if you are willing to stay with me all the way.” Cf. also Darrell Bock, Luke 9:51–24:53, 1284–85, where he reminds us that in a First-Century Jewish context Christians may have literally been alienated from family and friends by their choice to follow Jesus.
[7] Cf. Brisson, “Luke 14:25-27,” 332, where he says, “The call really is to cross bearing. This call truly is impossible for men and women, but possible with God. Some hear the call, but remain committed to hearth or home or to a myriad of other good but penultimate claims. They are convinced that in those things their true life resides. Others hear the call and cast their lot with Jesus above any and all other claims, whatever shape that takes. To them it is revealed, and it can be revealed in no other way than by taking up ‘the cross’ and following Jesus, that this invitation is actually to receive their very lives back as more than they could ever have otherwise imagined they could be.”

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Free Sunday

Free Sunday
Lk. 13:10-17[1]
  The words “free” and “Sunday” haven’t typically been associated with one another.  Except maybe in some commercial on TV trying to lure crowds into a “really big sale.”  But for those of us who have lived in and around the church, we don’t tend to think of Sunday as “free.”  We tend to think of it as a day when we “have” to go to church.  Maybe even Sunday School and church.  In rare cases these days, maybe we “have” to go to church in the evening as well.  We talk about worship as an obligation, as a burden, as something we “have” to do.  But if we were really “free,” there are other things we’d much rather do on Sunday than go to church.
  Of course, you and I both know that lots of people these days view Sunday as a “free” day.  But it hasn’t always been that way.  From long before the days of Jesus, the command to “honor the Sabbath” was essential to Jewish faith and life.[2]  And one of the ways they believed they honored the Sabbath was by not doing any work.  And so the Jewish leaders developed a wide variety of restrictions about what you could and could not do on the Sabbath as a practical way of obeying the command.  The Sabbath was a day that was anything but “free.”  Unfortunately, the  Christian observance of a “Sabbath” on Sunday has been just as restrictive.
  As it was with many things, Jesus shook things up quite a bit regarding honoring the Sabbath.  Think about it: it would seem that honoring the Sabbath is supposed to be about honoring God.  But as many prophets have attested throughout the ages, you can’t honor God from some sense of obligation.  It has to come from the heart.  Beyond that, it would seem that all the restrictions on what you can and can’t do on this day takes the focus off from God and places it on keeping the rules.  And it’s not that we’re “keeping” the commands to honor God.  We’re just keeping the rules for the sake of being able to say we kept the rules.
  In our Gospel lesson for today, Jesus breaks a major rule for keeping the Sabbath: he healed someone who was not in any imminent danger.  And as you can tell from the Synagogue leader’s response, this was something one just didn’t do.  But notice that when the leader objects, he doesn’t say anything directly to or about Jesus.  Rather he rebukes the woman: “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day” (Lk. 13:14).  And yet the story doesn’t indicate that she came to the synagogue on that day to be cured.  She came for the same reason she always came: to worship God.[3]   
  I think it’s important to notice the difference between this unnamed woman and the Synagogue leader who was an important man in the community.  When Jesus set her free from her ailment,[4] she immediately began praising God.  It seems to me that there’s no better way to honor God on the Sabbath than by engaging in some heart-felt praise to God! By contrast, the Synagogue leader with his obsessive rule-keeping thought that his stingy complaining was somehow a more fitting way to honor the Sabbath.  He may have been keeping the rules, but his resentful behavior doesn’t strike me as something that brought honor to God.[5]
  This episode isn’t the only time the Gospels report Jesus clashing with the Jewish authorities over the Sabbath.  Time after time, rather than following their restrictions, he honored God on the Sabbath by putting into practice God’s mercy and compassion in the lives of people who were suffering and in need.[6]  And they always accused him of dishonoring God by violating the Sabbath.  In response, he tried to point out the hypocrisy of their obsession with rules.  In this case he reminded them that they would free their livestock for feeding and watering on the Sabbath, but they refused human beings the chance to be free from their suffering.  He insisted that practicing mercy and compassion were not only permitted on the day set aside to honor God, in fact they were positively required.[7]  In contrast to the Synagogue leader’s complaint, he insists that this daughter of Abraham “ought” to be set free on the Sabbath day (Lk. 13:16).[8]
  There’s no better way to honor God on the day we set aside for worship than to follow Jesus in practicing God’s mercy and compassion--especially toward those who are suffering and in need.  There’s no better way to honor God on the day of worship than by setting people free from all that binds them--including setting them free from the stingy rules that we have used to reinforce the notion that they “have” to come to church.  I don’t believe God wants anyone to come to church because they think they “have” to.  I think God is honored when people are set free like this woman--when that happens they not only want to praise God, it may be hard to keep them from it!  I believe when you set people free, they will honor God on the Sabbath because they want to--because they cannot help but celebrate God’s kindness and mercy and love.

[1] © 2013 Alan Brehm.  A sermon delivered by Rev. Dr. Alan Brehm on 8/25/2013 at First Presbyterian Church of  Dickinson, TX.
[2] Cf. Joel B. Green, “Jesus and a Daughter of Abraham (Luke 13:10-17): Test Case for a Lucan Perspective on Jesus' Miracles” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 51 (Oct, 1989): 649.
[3] Cf. Fred Craddock, Luke, 170.
[4] Cf. Green, “Jesus and a Daughter of Abraham,” 653-54, where he points out that the language associating her ailment with being “bound” by Satan is common in Luke’s Gospel, and contributes to the them that Jesus’ healing miracles are important demonstrations of the victory of God’s Kingdom over the powers of evil that oppress people.  Cf. similarly, John Nolland, Luke 9:21–18:34, 725; Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics 4.2:224-225.
[5] Cf. Green, “Jesus and a Daughter of Abraham,” 649:  “What is central is that these loci of the sacred, Sabbath and synagogue, actually segregate this needy woman from divine help.”
[6] Cf. Barth, Church Dogmatics, 4.2:232.
[7] Cf. Joseph A. Fitzmyer, Luke X-XXIV, 1011: “The episode is but another one in the Lucan Gospel in which Jesus is portrayed as stressing that the welfare of a human being takes precedence over even such religious obligations as the observance of the Sabbath.”  Cf. also Green, “Jesus and a Daughter of Abraham,” 651; Craddock, Luke, 170; R. Alan Culpepper, “The Gospel of Luke,” New Interpreters Bible IX:274; Barth, Dogmatics 4.2:226.
[8] Cf. Green, “Jesus and a Daughter of Abraham,” 651, where he points out that “daughter of Abraham” is one of the ways in Luke’s Gospel that Jesus refers to those who are “people in need of God's mercy, persons defined by others as existing outside the boundaries of God's chosen, yet the very people to whom God shows his fidelity and brings salvation.”