Preaching Resources

Preaching Mission for the 11th Sunday after Pentecost (August 21, 2022)

Set Free for Service and Sabbath
by Bishop Chris Giesler

 

Preaching Texts: Isaiah 58:9b-14, Luke 13:10-17

 It is at the very core of who Jesus is to set people free so they can be who God intended them to be. 

Just as Jesus was about to begin his public ministry, he went home to Nazareth and attended worship at the Synagogue on the Sabbath. They allowed the hometown boy to read scripture and preach that day, and Jesus picked up the scroll and read from the Prophet Isaiah:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
   because he has anointed me
     to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
   and recovery of sight to the blind,
     to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
When Jesus finished reading, he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.

Jesus seems to be saying that this is his job description:     

 To bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
   and recovery of sight to the blind,
     to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

So, 13 chapters later, as Jesus is making his way to Jerusalem, he is again found in a synagogue, and here Jesus sees a woman bent over and has been crippled for 18 years.  His heart moved with pity for her.  Did you hear the words that Jesus uses to describe the effects of this woman’s disease?  First, he tells her you are set free from your ailment. Then in his concluding argument with the synagogue leader, he says, “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?

Set free from bondage. Sound familiar? It is part of Jesus’ job description. It is at the very core of who Jesus is to set people free so they can be who God intended them to be. 

In this text, two people are in bondage; one went home free, and the other remained captive. The crippled woman went home free. The man in the synagogue did not. He was bound up by rules and regulations, in do’s and don’ts, so much so that he had a very narrow view of God’s love.  He had come to believe that God’s love was earned by going down a checklist of laws and regulations. 

This synagogue leader can be found in just about every congregation in the world today, and he can most likely be found living in some corner of our souls.  Now the issues to which he was most sensitive might be different for us today, but he can be found within us.   Sometimes we tend to think that only people that look, sound, and believe like me belong in God’s kingdom.

The answer for us can be found in the text from Isaiah.  There, two words stand out service and sabbath.

If you remove the yoke from among you,
   the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
10 if you offer your food to the hungry
   and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness

The Prophet here tells us not to point our fingers at others but instead serve them and take care of their needs.  Matthew’s Gospel records Jesus’ teaching about what we will be judged by, and it is not church attendance or donations; it is about caring for others.  There Jesus says, if you fed the hungry, gave water to the thirsty, and visited the sick and imprisoned, you did it for me, and blessed are you. 

Next, the Prophet challenges us to keep the sabbath by saying:

13 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;
14 then you shall take delight in the Lord,
   

This comes from the portion of Isaiah that scholars think was written after the people of Israel had gotten back to Jerusalem following the Babylonian exile.  And like the other books of the Bible written during this period, like Nehemiah, Ezra, and the prophetic writings of Haggai, there is much stress on honoring the Sabbath day.  It was a call to get back to basics, to get back to God, and to restore holiness in their lives.

The Sabbath itself, when instituted in the Ten Commandments, was put there as a day of rest so that we can allow God to catch up with the rest of our lives. It should be a day to set aside tasks and responsibilities to sit and listen to God. Some would say that it is the most important of all the commandments because if we don’t keep the Sabbath, we find breaking the other nine much easier.    

Each day of the week, we should set aside some time to do nothing but listen; each week, we should set aside a more extended time to do nothing but listen for God’s voice. If we don’t listen, we will lose the heart of Jesus, which motivates us to care for others. 

Where is it that we are in bondage, and from what do we need to be set free? Where is it that we need a Sabbath point of view? 

  • Forgive us, Lord, when we have put our material possessions as gods in our lives.
  • Forgive us, Lord, for making idols of our accomplishments and for placing those accomplishments before you as primary in our lives.
  • Forgive us, Lord, when the words spoken from our lips have not brought honor to you or your kingdom.
  • Forgive us, Lord, when we fail to respect those who have passed the faith on to us.
  • Forgive us, Lord, when we fail to keep our promises.
  • Forgive us, Lord, when we hoard our wealth at the expense of others.
  • Forgive us, Lord, when we lie to conceal our own mistakes.
  • Forgive us, Lord, when we spend time and energy wanting things we don’t need.
  • Forgive us, Lord, when we have forgotten or refused to take our rest in you.
  •  Forgive us, Lord, when we fail to do your will.

May the Spirit of our gracious Savior set you free! 

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