Wednesday, August 04, 2010

When Jesus doesn't play by the rules

Another good article that came my way this morning is this one by Gordon MacDonald. It centres on the healing of the crippled woman, a story only Luke records, ad how the synagogue ruler reacts with "indignation" to the routine of his Sabbath worship being rudely interrupted by the audacious healing of the woman in question. Why couldn't she wait and get healed tomorrow or any other day of the week. It was just plain wrong of Jesus to do this on the Sabbath, it didn't fit with his version of reality.

Recognise his attitude in anyone you know?

The truth is, we are all in danger of becoming like the synagogue leader. We are all susceptible to reducing worship to what we can handle, and the unexpected isn't usually part of it. We like slick, orderly, well-planned and well executed worship. Without appearing to espouse chaos and disorder, where does the supernatural find its home in that kind of box? Where is the flexibility to respond to the prompting and leading of God's Spirit?

Here's some of Gordon's reflections:

Then I realized that, on occasion, I've been there, done that. I have known, experienced, perhaps even, regrettably, contributed to this kind of dead, out-of-touch kind of religion. Not always, but sometimes.

I thought about how the kind of institutionalized religion in this story slowly loses all of its humanity, its compassion, its ability to flex in the moment of great surprise. And that is exactly what Jesus brought through the door of the synagogue that day: humanity, compassion, and flex. What bothered the ruler was that the woman's healing wasn't done his way, according to his theological understanding, at a time that didn't interrupt his Sabbath. But for Jesus, even a sermon was "interruptible" if a person like this woman was in the room.

The story is also about systemized thinking, a kind of logic that takes on a life of its own over a period of time. It is demonstrated in the reaction of a religious leader who is so trapped by an analytical way that he can actually bring himself to believe that her healing is an unfortunate thing. It leads me to ask how does a mind get so locked into a system of thinking that it can take in the specter of a healed woman—bent over for eighteen years—and call it a violation of God's rules?

Somehow we must protect ourselves from ever becoming religious leaders who define what God can do and when he can do it. Roll on Sunday and the opportunity to be surprised by God if not by the congregation or even the minister!!

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