Saturday, August 24, 2013

Stand up and praise the Lord

Luke 13:10-17

Who remembers Blue Laws? Blue Laws were – and still are in some places – laws that preserved Sunday as Sabbath; they were intended to maintain public decency; and little by little, the secular world has struck them down.
One Blue Law that still exists in many places is the law against selling liquor before noon on Sunday. I always remember that one because one Sunday the church discovered there was no wine in the cupboard, and it was impossible to buy any.
What are some other blue laws? … No work on Sundays, except where necessary, as in hospitals and public safety. Women don’t do laundry on Sundays. Stores are closed on Sundays and holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. No card playing/ gambling on Sunday. Car dealerships are closed on Sunday. No spitting, swearing, or cursing on public streets. Clothing must cover the private areas of the body.
I found several lists of “quirky” blue laws. Some of my favorites are:
  • ·         If a child burps during church, the parents may be arrested.
  • ·         Citizens may not greet each other by “putting one’s thumb to the nose and wiggling the fingers.”
  • ·         Beer and pretzels can’t be served at the same time in any bar or restaurant.
  • ·         The penalty for jumping off a building is death.

Are there good reasons behind these laws? Of course. They preserve the observance of the Sabbath as a day given to God. They help ensure that everyone gets a day of rest every week. They try to protect citizens from the bad behavior of others.
In Israel today, the Sabbath is observed. Stores are closed. Only necessary work is done. At hotels, food is prepared ahead of time and set out – the necessary work required for good hospitality.
Returning to the Gospel, the leader of the synagogue objected, not to Jesus healing the woman, but to his doing it on the Sabbath. In his eyes, healing was not necessary work. The woman did not suddenly become ill, and in need of healing to prevent death. She had been disabled for 18 years. She had been present at Sabbath worship all those years, and active despite her disability.
Why hurry to heal her now? Jesus should respect the Sabbath and do his healing work in a few hours, when the Sabbath was over. He’s not a bad man; he’s not against Jesus, it appears; he’s trying to preserve the observance of the Sabbath as God’s time.
But, in Jesus’ eyes, the synagogue leader doesn’t really understand the Sabbath. In his eyes, healing the disabled woman was one of the best ways to give honor and glory to God, especially on the Sabbath.
What was the woman’s response to the healing? … She stood up straight and praised the Lord. She recognized that her healing came from God, and she gave God praise. In that culture, she probably raised her arms and did a little dance as she sang a song of praise to God.
Imagine this: you are watching a baseball or football game, and the team scores enough points to take the lead. What do you do? … shout, clap, high fives, whistle, jump up and do a little dance. It’s easy for us to praise the team.
When we sing praise to God in church, what do we do? We stand and sing. We don’t shout or clap or do a little dance, or laugh out loud at jokes in the sermon. The customs in congregations like ours have taught us that those things are not done. We have been taught to not show our joy too joyfully. It seems we have some blue laws of our own here.
Imagine that Jesus came among us today and said, “Linda, you are healed of your cancer, and it will never return.” “Lee, you are healed of your heart disease and of your diabetes.” How would we respond? We might tell Jesus he was interrupting worship, and to wait until the service was over. We might offer some polite applause and say a loud amen.
Let’s try something a little better. Imagine that Jesus has just told Linda and Lee they are totally cured and totally healed. Raise a hand, raise it high. Now raise the other hand. Now, with both hands still in the air, say, “Praise the Lord for healing our friends.” … Say it louder, and as loud as you can. You can let your arms down.
I want you to notice that the roof is still above our heads. How did that feel? … good? Awkward? Against the rules?
Now, let’s praise God for something that applies to all of us. Jesus died to prove how much God loves us, and how fully God forgives us. Raise your hands and say, “Praise the Lord.” Again, and again, as needed.
This week, I invite you to consider why it feels so foreign to praise God with loud voices, with clapping during songs, with raised hands. Ask yourselves, “Why does it feel so strange to be joyful in church?”
We have been given the best gift we could ever be given, God’s love and forgiveness. We have been given hope, for the future, and for today. Yet we tend to hide our thanks behind what we think is proper behavior for Christ-followers. Is it time to change that?

Please pray with me. Jesus, you healed the disabled woman with a healing word and a gentle touch. Heal us of our proper decorum and help us to show our joy in your presence, in your power, in your love, and in your forgiveness. Amen and amen “Praise the Lord.”