22 August 2010Luke 13:10-17
"When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame." (v.17)
This passage comes in the middle of a section in Luke's Gospel
that is full of challenge for those who have ears to hear and eyes
to see. The Law of Moses prohibited Jews from working on the
Sabbath day, but Jesus saw freeing the woman from her bonds of
illness as more important than upholding old fashioned laws. Christ
is challenging his listeners with truth - particularly those
religious leaders who legislate for the masses in a way that keeps
them at a distance from normal worshippers and allows them to
continue to hold on to their power base. So, from a defensive
position, the Pharisees (including the president of the synagogue)
are waiting and watching to catch Christ out.
Jesus' response and direct actions, however, make them confused and cause them to feel ashamed at their initial criticisms.
Sometimes we behave as though our faith is full of certainties; as though our convictions are everyone's. Often, we in the British Methodist Church can act as though other expressions of church and Methodism are somehow not quite right, and we try to legislate to make us all the same, or siblings of the parent Church, by subsuming difference into our model.
For instance, in one of my local churches some people from an African background wanted to take the collection in the manner in which they had been used to back home. When it was suggested that we sang, clapped and danced around the church when we got to this point in the service the stewards told them this was not the way we did things here! It is human nature to join with those who are similar or like-minded and when we join a church community that is usually what we are doing. But when we are challenged from outside our comfort zone or community of choice, we might become confused and may lose our sense of identity and belonging.
Today's passage describes those who are perceived as Christ's opponents as being in confusion and shame after Christ had spoken, and yet the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.
Would you be with the confused and shamed or with the delighted if you looked from the 'outside in' at the contemporary Church today?
To what extent does our confusion about our faith and Church doctrine deny other peoples' experience or beliefs?
Consider which Church laws or styles of leadership prohibit the Church from taking liberating action. What would you do in this case?