Second Sunday after Pentecost, June 3, 2018
Texts: Deuteronomy 5:12-12; Mark 2:23-3:6
The Rev. Anne Meredith Kyle. Pastor
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable to you O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
The Pharisees in our Gospel passage from Mark are portrayed differently than Nicodemus, who visited Jesus under the cover of darkness in the passage we shared last week. Today we are shown a portrait of the Pharisees colored with mistrust and contempt. This man who says and does remarkable things is a threat to business as usual at the temple and in Jewish society and must be silenced. Jesus was constantly under the watchful eye of the Pharisees who were wise and devout persons steeped in the knowledge of Jewish law. Jesus, who tells us that he came to fulfill the law, was a threat to them because he just didn’t seem to have a traditional understanding of the law, and people were listening to him.
The story continues at the temple as the Pharisee watch to see Jesus’ response to a man who has lost the use of one of his hands. This situation would likely have left them man unable to work to support himself and worse, may have caused him to be cast out of the community. The Gospel of Mark shines a bright light on the challenges which faced God’s people when it came to sorting out the importance of following the Law and the importance of showing mercy and compassion. In this text, Jesus is once again staking his claim to the importance of showing mercy and compassion, even at the expense of maintaining the law.
The Pharisees desire for order is a very human thing. Their understanding of the law and rhythms of Jewish faith and the temple traditions were the liturgy of their lives. Not only were they threatened by Jesus and worried that their place in society was in jeopardy, they were also facing a change to the familiar ebb and flow of their lives.
As people who worship in the liturgical tradition we, too have a certain fondness for the familiar ebb and flow. Our worship has been shaped by ancient traditions, some of which date back to the days of the temple in Jesus’ time and before. It has also been shaped and reshaped by new and evolving language, theology, music and technology.
Whether we have ever thought about it or not, the ebb and flow of our lives has its own liturgy or pattern of habits. My morning coffee follows a fairly strict liturgical pattern including half a pot of strong, dark roast coffee, with cream. I am almost always up first and enjoy the time alone with my coffee and a little study, the newspaper or Morning Prayer. There are probably of many parts of your day which follow a set pattern, too. Our patterns are comfortable. They guide our time. Some of them are even keys to good health.
You have likely noticed that we are now using a projection system as a tool in worship. This new device offers tremendous promise and so many options. It is not unusual for this kind of a change to be met with some hesitation when introduced in worship. I am so grateful that Andrea Eppenauer is working with me to learn how to use this new tool. In some congregations there is a fear that adding modern technology will mean abandoning ancient liturgies and well-loved traditions, but, as we have already seen here over the last month, tools like this new system are useful regardless of the form of worship.
Change, by the way, is nothing new to the Church. Imagine the reaction of the congregation AND of the Pharisees had Jesus stepped to the center of the temple and opened… a BOOK! The sacred texts were preserved in written form on scrolls at that time and continued to be so even after books as we know them had become common. More recently we have been blessed by new formats for reading. An e-reader, tablet computer, or smart phone can easily accommodate books and many of us now read using these tools. I take the Sedalia paper in electronic form and usually read it on my phone. I chose this format both for convenience and as a part of my effort to reduce my consumption of paper. Several years ago I noticed that one of the members of Grace Episcopal Church in Jefferson City was constantly on his phone during worship. It took me a long time to realize that he was reading the Bible passages from his phone and following the worship service using the online prayer book. Many of my colleagues come to the pastor’s Bible study with nothing but their smart phone and some preach using a manuscript that is read from an iPad or similar device. I can (and have) preached from my tablet but need a lot more practice before I will be able do so gracefully.
So what, if anything, does all of this have to do with our Gospel about working and the Sabbath? Well, the Pharisees were not likely so concerned with what Jesus and his friends were doing as they were concerned with the law. They would not likely have been following and watching him if they hadn’t heard reports of the remarkable things he was saying and doing. They had become slaves to the law and through their slavish following of it the law had changed from a means for following God and into an idol. Jesus showed, by his presence and works of mercy, that the law was a tool, but not the way to God. He let his compassion and actions show the way.
We are blessed today to be putting a wonderful gift officially into service. The gift of our new projection system, given in memory of Richard and Irene Ehlers has blessed us and that blessing will be tangible to us for years and years to come. I am so grateful for the generosity of this family. Our worship and other activities which grace this sacred space will be enhanced as our imagination for the use to this wonderful tool continues to grow. Thanks be to God for all of these blessings! Amen!