Human need knows no boundaries of day or time
Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Decalogue in our prayer book puts it (BCP p. 350). In Exodus, chapter 20, sabbath is tied to God’s rest on the seventh day of creation. In the fifth chapter of Deuteronomy, it is associated with liberation from slavery. From these two versions of this commandment we learn that the sabbath can be, at least, a day of holy rest to remember the creative and liberating acts of God that call us to new and holy opportunities.
In the gospel according to Luke, we learn that while Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath, a woman crippled for eighteen years showed up, and when Jesus saw her, he healed her. It was a creative and liberating act of God. She didn’t ask to be healed. Jesus simply saw her and released her from what ailed her and did so because she needed to be released.
Jesus is, after all, about compassion, mercy, healing and release from that which binds us. And the leader of the synagogue didn’t like it. Jesus was breaking the sabbath rules. But healing wasn’t a matter of work, any more than leading an animal to life-giving water is work. It was a matter of holy necessity that knows no boundaries of day or time.
What Jesus did that day in the synagogue was to broaden the interpretation of what it means to remember the sabbath day and keep it holy. By inviting God into that moment, Jesus was going far beyond the idea of the sabbath as merely a day of rest within the tradition, when business ceases, gifts are offered, and celebrations are held. Like so many religious traditions of his day, Jesus broke this one wide open, making room for the creative and liberating activity of God.
With Jesus, the sabbath became associated with acts of compassion, mercy and healing that brought new meaning to the sabbath rules. By meeting someone’s need on the sabbath, the true spirit of the sabbath was honored.
Human need knows no boundaries of day or time. Jesus’ expansion of sabbath understanding reminds us of that reality, and it calls us to be sensitive and responsive to it. It’s a matter of holy necessity.
“Shouldn’t this woman be set free?” Jesus asked.
Well, when you put it that way. . .
Consider how you might participate in the creative and liberating sabbath acts of God. Where might God’s sabbath compassion, mercy and healing take you? Where do you see opportunities to respond to another’s need?
As many of you know, the Episcopal Community Services Foundation (ECSF) has been serving as the Diocese of Southern Ohio’s outreach fund-raising arm for nearly three decades. What this means is that the generous and gracious pledges and donations you and others make to ECSF address needs in our local communities. Through ECSF, your funds are distributed to organizations with parish connection and involvement to provide creative and liberating acts of compassion, mercy and healing that make tremendous differences in the lives of our neighbors.
This is honoring the spirit of sabbath. It’s a matter of holy necessity. And it is the focus of the Episcopal Community Services Foundation.
To make a contribution and find out more about ECSF, go to https://ecsfsouthernohio.org .
The Rev. Canon Lynn Carter-Edmands is Canon to the Ordinary in the Diocese of Southern Ohio and serves as the Bishop’s staff liaison to the ECSF Board. She has been working with the board for the past several months as they move forward in new ways, partnering with congregations throughout the diocese to meet the needs of our neighbors. Connect with her at email@example.com.