Dear Gulf Coast Leaders,
After a number of false statements in the Brenham banner (July 31: and August 2:) the pastors and lay rostered leaders of the Brenham ministerium issued the attached statement. We’ll talk more about this and the situation at Welcome at the Fall Leadership Gatherings:
Fall Leadership Gatherings are a chance for council presidents to gather, as well as treasurers, pastors and so forth. Friday is for rostered leaders. Saturday is for everyone. The Brenham event last weekend had 30+ rostered leaders on Friday, and many more on Saturday. Synod VP Evan and Secretary Arthur met with council presidents. Synod Treasurer Paul and Bookkeeper Melissa met with treasurers. Workshops were held on worship, evangelism, stewardship, youth ministry, small group ministry and more. The New Orleans event is next, then Houston in less than a month. REGISTER NOW!
- August 27-28 at Christ the King in Kenner, LA (includes a Katrina Remembrance Service)
- September 10-11 at Zion in Houston, TX
For next Sunday’s Hebrew Bible readings we can choose from Jeremiah 1 or Isaiah 58. The former is Jeremiah’s call. It offers a chance to talk about calling. “Before you were in the womb I knew you… Before you were born I consecrated you… Don’t say I am just a youth…” Isaiah 58 is the continuation of God’s chosen fast, the standard prophetic call to justice. Forget all the religious mumbo jumbo; just feed the hungry and care for those in need.
If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, 10if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.
Both Psalm 71:1-6 and Psalm 103:1-8 pick up the youth theme.
In you, O Lord, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame.
In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me and save me.
Be to me a rock of refuge, a strong fortress, to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.
Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel.
For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits-
who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good as long as you live so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Hebrews 12:18-29 picks up fire themes that would have fit well with last week’s gospel: “You have not come to something that can be touched, a blazing fire, and darkness, and gloom, and a tempest…” Hebrews 12:18.
“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; for indeed our God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:28-29
In Luke 13:10-17, Jesus heals a crippled woman on the Sabbath. The religious leaders are indignant. Jesus points out you water and feed your animals on the Sabbath, right? In other gospels he says you pull your donkey out if it falls in a pit on the Sabbath, right? But maybe not. This was actually, believe it or not, a hotly debated topic. One of the Dead Sea Scrolls says:
No man shall help a beast give birth on the Sabbath day; and if it falls in a pit or a hollow, he shall not lift it out on the Sabbath.
Dead Sea Scrolls, Damascus Covenant (CD) 11.13-14
As for the feeding of animals on the Sabbath:
“Bundles which may be lifted with one hand may be moved; but they may not be moved with two hands. Bundles of savory, hyssop and thyme may not be used on the Sabbath, if they were brought in for fuel; (but if they were prepared) to feed animals, one may use them on the Sabbath.”
Babylonian Talmud, Shabbath 128a
It’s safe to say that Jesus found these laws to drive people toward more nit-picky religiosity, fostering religious fights over this and that rather than driving people towards a prophetic righteousness that centered on the big picture: justice.
The theme goes well with the prophetic message from Isaiah 58. Forget the religious mumbo jumbo and care for the needy. Compassion outweighs the law. Love is the fulfillment of the law. Love God. Love neighbor. On these two rest all the law and the prophets.
A sign that the kingdom of God is breaking in is when healing is brought to those in deep distress. A measure of the ministry of our churches might be our healing and care of those in need, rather than some unattainable religious ethic of moral purity.
There may be more going on here than an issue of interpretation of Sabbath laws. The woman had a spirit which had her “bent over” for 18 years. The hyperbole suggested here in Luke’s gospel, which is so concerned for women, is palpable. What spirit had kept her bent over I wonder? Could it be that religious leaders (who Jesus bluntly calls hypocrites in this passage) are part of the problem? With her Jesus encounter, she straightens up and begins praising God. Jesus refers to her as a “daughter of Abraham,” publicly restoring not just her health but also her dignity.
What has you bent over these days? In what ways are the outcast ostracized in your area? Who is shamed and cowed, that Jesus might want to lift up? Jesus is waiting for an opportunity to raise us up, so that you can sing God’s praises.
Michael Rinehart, bishop