Blogging Towards Sunday, August 22, 2010
I was driving through the MacArthur Maze on a pilgrimage to IKEA this week and found myself stuck in traffic behind a truck with a bumper sticker reading "The problem with religion is religion." It got me thinking, in particular about the lectionary texts for this coming Sunday (my first at a new church gig). HYPOCRISY seems to be the big thing that people comment about in terms of problems with religion, and in particular - in our context - with Christians. Against abortion but for the death penalty. For the peace of Christ and the war in Iraq. For religious freedom, but not a mosque near the former World Trade Center site. For morality, as long as it doesn't impede one's own personal choices and options. Where do we find the balance between faith and follow-through; between our egos and our authenticity? The texts from Jeremiah and Luke invite us to this dialogue.
The passage from the First Testament tells us the story of the calling of Jeremiah the prophet. Love is the primary thing that God communicates: a love that includes a knowledge too amazing to fathom. His vocation comes from that love. It’s to that love that he is called to serve as prophet.
The story from Luke 13 recalls several others that deal with the Sabbath: Luke 6:1-5 and 6:6-11. Sandwiched between a parable about the fig tree as an invitation to change, and the parables of the mustard seed and yeast, today’s includes an anonymous woman who appears and is healed without having asked for such deliverance. This radical and free gift of healing is too shocking for the synagogue leaders, not because they doubt the miracle but because it’s done on the Sabbath: the day of holy rest and worship as commanded in the 4th commandment (Deuteronomy 5:12-16 and Exodus 20:8-11. Ironically this is the only commandment that has two different justifications for being observed.)
The synagogue ruler is upset, even offended by what seems to be hypocritical on Jesus’ part. He takes issue with the fact that Jesus could have waited a day to heal the woman, but went ahead and did it on the Sabbath, knowing full that he was breaking the 4th commandment of God. Couldn't he have waited one day, she wouldn't have died in 24 hours? I suspect that underneath it's really about how we follow the God we see in our imaginations. It's about interpretation. Is God a ruler on a throne demanding our obedience to rules and laws? Is God known through love and compassion? Depending upon how we perceive God, our ways of living out faith will be interpreted differently, like the difference between this synagogue ruler and Jesus.
Maybe the question of hypocrisy for those of us that call ourselves followers of Jesus is really about our perception. Do we see God one way for ourselves, and another way for others?