He is Risen

Rev. Chris Snow

North HIll Christian Church

April 4, 2021

Luke 24:1-12, Psalm 118: 17, 21-24

As is the case every year on April 1st, in the various forms of print and electronic media there are these stories that seem a bit too good to be true, until we do a bit more digging. Those moments when we remember that it is April 1st but still a part of us hopes that the story is indeed true. It gets our hopes up. It gets us excited, until we dig a bit deeper and find that it was just another prank. 

It is with these same types of emotions that I imagine Peter hearing and responding to the news of the empty tomb by the women who had first witnessed it. Hoping that this news is indeed true but not believing it until it can be fact checked. 

But let’s back things up a bit. Let’s not jump too far ahead. As we begin to remember the Easter narrative, we don’t start off in a time of celebration or hope. Rather we find ourselves in this moment of mourning. This moment of taking care of what needs to be done to lay Jesus’ body to rest. As many of us have experienced the loss of a loved one or dear friend we can probably relate to what is happening.  

As we hear of the women making their way to the tomb to care for the body of Jesus, I can only imagine the conversations that took place. Those conversations of remembrance of all those moments that they had with him. Those moments of sharing stories. Sharing with one another those personal details and things that they learned from him. Reminiscing in those moments of great joy.

But as they find themselves in front of the tomb with the stone rolled away, I can only imagine their initial reaction. Time to do damage control. Time to figure out what went wrong here. Time to figure out what needs to be fixed so that everything can be in its proper place. Making sure nothing has been desecrated and that they can continue on with their responsibilities.

But that is when everything goes awry. Nothing is desecrated, or needs fixing, except the body of the savior is missing, and before they could start their search two men in dazzling clothes show up. In the New International Version it describes the clothes as gleaming like lightning. This visual effect that tells us of the importance of these two men. 

These men show up and the women instantly know to avert their eyes. Something special is happening, so it is proper to show reverence. In that moment the news is delivered that Jesus has risen. But it isn’t simply breaking news, but news as a reminder. “Remember, he told you this was going to happen.” Remember all that he said about his death and this is the day he said he would rise again. In that moment all the women, who had been sharing their memories on their way to the tomb, remember together all that Jesus had told them. 

As the women returned to where the apostles were, they shared all that they had seen, but the apostles didn’t remember quite as easily. Was it the messengers of this news? Was it too far fetched for them to believe? What ever the case, they did not believe them and continued on with their mourning. Continued on with the remembrances. Continued in their conversations. 

That is all except for Peter, who hoped so much that it was indeed true that he got up and ran to the tomb, to verify this news. Putting all reason aside, and instead relying upon his hope that all that had been said was true. 

It is in that moment that we find ourselves this morning, and each time that we continue on relying upon our faith that gives us hope that God does indeed know what is going on and has a plan for us. 

That like the disciples who answered the call, putting aside their nets to pursue a different path, we find ourselves in places that we may not have originally had in mind if it were not for our faith. Like the disciples, we put our faith in the divine and have followed where God has led.

Yet it is in the Easter narrative that we hear good news of God’s power over death, that gives us hope. Not in hearing the good news for the first time but in remembering God’s faithfulness to God’s promises. That even in the darkest of times, the holy followed through in the resurrection, as Jesus had declared would happen. 

But as we hear Peter’s reaction and celebration, I feel it is important to point out that according to Luke, Peter did not encounter the risen Christ. Just the empty tomb and maybe the two men. But he found enough confirmation in the empty tomb to believe. He found what he needed to, to remember all that Jesus had said about his death and resurrection to return home in amazement. 

As we hear the narrative of the resurrection anew today, let it not simply be a time of remembering the divine’s triumph over death, but also a recognition and remembrance of God’s faithfulness to God’s people. That the divine continues to stay true to their word. That the holy follows through even in the darkest of times with a bright light of hope. Hope that is worth pursuing. Hope that is worth laying reason aside to run after it as Peter ran to confirm the news that we celebrate this day.  

“Keep Moving”

Rev. Chris Snow

North Hill Christian Church

March 28, 2021

Psalm 118:19-23, Luke 19:29-44

Over the past several weeks as we have been making our way through Lent, we have been following Jesus’ journey towards Jerusalem. Each year we make this journey in some form. Whether it is intentionally taking on or giving up something for the season, or finding significance in following this journey from the mountain top to Jerusalem. However we have embraced this season, we do so with intentionality, knowing the events that we will be remembering this week. 

For some, we like to skip from celebration to celebration, not allowing ourselves to dwell too much on the events following the Last Supper until the stone is rolled away. Others may dwell more on the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. While still others focus on each step of the journey towards the resurrection. No matter how we each approach this time of the church year, we find ourselves here, together, on Palm Sunday. 

As I have journeyed with you this season, I have sought to bring you along on the journey with Jesus and his disciples each step of the way. Each step, that Jesus knew, brought him closer to his death. Each step, that I hope from our perspective we can imagine ourselves in the shoes of the disciples as they wanted to hold onto all the great things that have happened, while at the same time knowing that the ministry of the Gospel is not always pleasing. 

And as we see ourselves in the narrative of the text for today, we can’t help but recognize that if things were done differently maybe Christ’ wouldn’t have died. Maybe we wouldn’t have to remember the brutal treatment that he underwent at the hands of the authorities. Yet, it is because even in the face of extreme opposition Jesus continued to preach the good news of the kingdom of God, knowing full well what was going to happen. He continued along the path that he know would lead him to the cross. 

A few years ago during the 11th season of Dr. Who there were a number of episodes that flung the main characters into significant events in the world’s history, that were born out of broken systems. One of which was the events of Rosa Parks on the bus in Montgomery that kicked off the bus boycott. Following along with the main characters as they struggled between stepping in when injustice was occurring, but also knowing that would change history. Watching as these individuals that we now honor, kept moving forward, knowing the backlash that they would experience. Pushing forward none the less. It is with this perspective that I find myself experiencing the scripture. Watching, and knowing what is about to happen, but also seeing the strength of conviction in Jesus’ eyes has he continues to move forward. 

Over the past year the seasons of the liturgical calendar that I have identified with the most have been Advent and Lent. These seasons where we know there is hope. There is indeed good that will come forth. But in order to get there we have to under go this journey with one another. That in order to get to the Easter story we must be willing to journey with Christ from the mountain top to the cross.

I have identified with these seasons of waiting and journey, because this is how the pandemic has changed our view of the world. Waiting for the end to be near so that things can return to normal. So that life may flourish after this dark time. Journeying with one another as we have seen so much suffering, death, and despair, hoping for good news. Hoping for the journey to end with something good. 

But we aren’t in that moment of celebration just yet. Rather we find ourselves holding onto the good that we have known so far in this journey. That as we walk together in faith, we hold onto the relationships that we have built together. We hold onto the ways that we have continued to reach out to our community as we serve those whom we may never know their names. We hold onto those moments when we can wrestle with our faith and come out of it stronger. We hold onto those moments when a phone call or a card from another brings warmth into our lives.

We find ourselves in the shoes of the disciples making our way, hearing news of impending doom, yet holding onto hope, that is the good news. Continuing on, focusing on the tasks immediately in front of us. Seeing the walls of Jerusalem rising before us. But as we watch the crowds streaming into the city for the celebration of Passover, we see those reminders that keep us on our toes. Those reminders in the presence of the Roman soldiers standing watch. Those reminders to not let things get out of hand. 

That’s when we hear it, the crowds chanting “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory to God in the highest heaven!” Words that put the authorities on edge, and yet we keep moving forward. A celebration fit for a king, in the face of the Romans. A celebration that if it got out of hand could lead to a revolt. Yet we journey along with Jesus to the city. 

We hear the Pharisees tell Jesus to stop what is happening. To tell them to stop this proclamation of the King who comes in the name of the Lord. But Jesus responds, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.” 

This movement cannot be stopped. The declaration of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem cannot be stopped, even though we see the cross in the distance. Even though Jesus sees and names what will happen years from his death, as the Romans will destroy the Temple because the people revolted, which is referenced in vs. 41-44. Even with all this knowledge we continue to journey on with Jesus and his disciples into the city. 

I have been reminded throughout this week of the movie Frozen 2, where near the climax of the movie, Princess Anna finds herself in a dark cave, alone, mourning the loss of her sister, of Olaf, and of Kristof. She finds herself in deep darkness and despair, but knows she needs to keep moving on. It is in this moment that she focuses on doing the next right thing. One step after the other.

Even as we see impending doom. Even as we know deep grief, worry, suffering, and despair, we remember Jesus continuing to move forward. Doing the next right thing. Doing the next task that needs to be done. Continuing to embody the ministry of the good news in each and every step. 

Even as this week progresses and the weight that we feel with each day leading up to the cross seems to be heavier and heavier, let us keep moving forward. Let us keep going for this calling that the disciples heard from Jesus on the lakeshore, has brought them to this place. This calling that we have heard throughout our lives to come and follow Jesus, continues to bring us to the gates of Jerusalem, where we hear that this movement will not be silenced. That the ministry of the kingdom of God will not be stopped, for we continue to keep moving forward. Step by step. Doing the next right thing. Even if it leads us towards the cross, because we know there continues to be good news beyond the cross. 

Eyes to See

Rev. Chris Snow

North Hill Christian Church

March 21, 2021

Psalm 84:1-4, 10-12, Luke 18:31-19:10

From time to time I have these what if scenarios running through my mind. What if someone comes into worship and creates a disturbance? What if someone breaks forth into an intense conversation causing a disruption? What if during class someone comes in, who doesn’t fit our typical demographic? What if, what if, what if? All of these scenarios work around the assumption that someone from outside creates a disruption to our defined norms. That someone, whom we have deemed as other, in their desire to worship God creates a disruption. That in their desire to learn more, causes us to become uncomfortable. And with this honest look at ourselves we hear our text this morning. A text that is made up of three different narratives that all speak to those moments of spiritual blindness. Those moments when in our overconfidence in our spiritual lives, have become blinded to the complexities of living out our faith.  

The first one comes from Luke 18:31-34:

“Then he took the twelve aside and said to them, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again.’ But they understood nothing about all these things; in fact, what he said was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.”

As I hear this narrative in the  context of our whole text for today I am reminded that throughout all the Gospels we have this image of the disciples simply not understanding or grasping the extend of Jesus’ ministry and death until after the resurrection. In this moment though I find myself in the shoes of the disciples. As we journey along with our teacher and savior, we see him do all these amazing things. We find great joy in the ministry that we have become a part of and for the most part haven’t had to face any intense struggles other than being turned away now and then. 

I can imagine the feeling of being invincible when one is traveling with Jesus. That everything simply turns out alright and that Jesus has helped them avoid issues with the Pharisees and Scribes. But now Jesus continues to remind them of something horrible that will be happening soon and they are walking straight towards it. How could they not simply shrug this warning and declaration off as no big deal.

How often do we get lulled into complacency when things are going well, and refuse to see the reality of the world? How often do we intentionally stay in those nice and cozy places with God, and allow ourselves to ignore reality? We love to dwell in those mountain top moments. Those moments in which we have this grand experience of who God is in our lives, and yet it is separated from reality. 

For me this often happens in times of retreats and camps. Those moments when I intentionally separate myself from the routines and connections that come with my every day life to instead be present with the divine. But the hard truth is that we can’t stay there for too long. We can’t remain separated from the world, because it is the world that we are called to minister to. It is in those moments of retreat that we refine our faith practices, but must be cautious to not focus too much on purification or else we become separated from the real world. 

In those moments when we have the purest intentions of following God, we become blinded to reality, and the complexities of what God calls us into. Those moments where we are enthralled in hearing the words of Jesus, that we then become blind to the cries of others in the crowd. 

Our next text continues on in the 18th chapter through till the end. (Luke 18:35-43)

“As he approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard a crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.’ Then he shouted, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Those who were in front sternly ordered him to be quiet; but he shouted even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Jesus stood still and ordered the man to be brought to him; and when he came near, he asked him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ He said, ‘Lord, let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Receive your sight; your faith has saved you.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him, glorifying God; and all the people, when they saw it, praised God.”

Once more we have this group of people who have come to celebrate and experience the presence of Jesus. Presumably they do this because they have either already heard him speak and seen him do amazing things, or because they have heard all of this from others. Yet as they are entirely focused on Jesus, there is this cry from the back of the crowd. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” This cry that persists no matter how many times people tell him to be quiet, now is not the time. 

As the crowd’s entire focus is on Jesus and trying to shut down any distractions, it is Jesus who sees all that is happening. It is Jesus who sees this man crying out for mercy that he interrupts all that is going on to ask what the man wants. 

How would we respond as individuals if someone came into this space, in the middle of worship crying for mercy? Crying for help? Crying out for someone to hear them? 

Do we have eyes to see, even when our focus is on worshiping God, that we can see someone in need crying out for help from the same God that we find ourselves worshiping? Do we have eyes to recognize the need to stop and listen to the one crying out so that the holy can do something remarkable? 

I would like to believe that we would respond in a compassionate way. I like to hope that if that were to happen we would see the importance of taking a break from what we are doing to listen and care for the needs of another. But what happens when we are asked to show compassion and mercy to one that the community despises?

Our final narrative is from Luke 19:1-10

“He entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was. chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.’ So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, ‘He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.’ Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Look half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and save the lost.’”

Once more we have a crowd gathered to welcome Jesus to Jericho, celebrating this man that they knew or had heard of. A crowd that has gathered to be so large, that in my mind I imagine a grand parade through town that if you hadn’t staked out your spot early on you wouldn’t be able to see anything. So, we have Zacchaeus who is short in stature struggling to see anything, and since he is the chief tax collector for the area, he has not made any friends with the crowd that had gathered. More likely everyone felt some kind of satisfaction by blocking him from seeing Jesus come walking by. 

So, Zacchaeus wanting to see Jesus, climbs up into a tree. He goes through extraordinary lengths just to see Jesus, not to ask for anything, just to see him. And it is in that moment Jesus sees him and declares that he will be staying in his home that night.

Now, predictably all those that had gathered to see Jesus begin to grumble. Well that is the wrong type of person to be staying with. I know the Jones’ are such good Christians, that would be a better place to stay. Not with this man, whose sins are so well known by everyone in town. This man who has taken our money to pad his own pockets and to amass his own wealth. This man who has abused his position doesn’t deserve to host Jesus in his home. 

Yet, it is because Jesus invited himself to Zaccheaus’ home that his life was transformed. That he found something that caused him to repent of his sinful actions and declared that he will give half of his wealth to the poor and repay anyone that he had defrauded  four times as much. This transformational moment will not only effect Zacchaeus’ life but also for the whole of the community. All because Jesus saw him and welcomed him. 

In the full extent of our text for today we have this struggle with living out one’s faith while also seeing what is truly happening. Those moments where we can easily be caught up in those grand moments with the divine, that we feel as if everything is perfect, but if we aren’t careful we can become blinded to the realities that surround us. Those moments when in our excitement to worship God, we become blind and indifferent to the very needs that we worship God for tending to. Or those very moments where we become so focused on being the perfect community that we become blinded to the possibilities of transformation in those that we too easily exclude. Do we have eyes to see and ears to hear what God is calling us to recognize in our world today? 

Paying Attention

Rev. Chris Snow

North HIll Christian Church

March 14, 2021

Psalm 41:1-3, Luke 16:19-31

Our lives are filled with physical barriers. Those things that separate ourselves from others. Gated communities desired to keep the undesirable out while allowing those in who are deemed worthy. Locked doors that are only opened to those who are allowed. And even our cars. Heavy machines designed not only for transport but to keep us safe from that which is outside. A separation that we feel and embrace at intersections where we advert our gaze if someone is seeking help. 

While we can all agree that some physical barriers that are put in place are solely for the safety of those on one side or another. We keep the doors to the church locked throughout the week, to ensure my safety since I do spend most of my time alone in the building. That doesn’t mean we prevent people from coming in, it just means I know when someone comes into the building. But other times these separations help to make us feel comfortable about our lives while separating ourselves from others. This ranges from gated communities, where access is restricted to those who are invited, to how we embrace the safety of our vehicles. 

The holding of these barriers within our lives is not necessarily a bad thing. Rather, it is how we live with these barriers that the parable for today calls us to consider. Throughout the parable of the rich man and Lazarus we have these visual barriers that have been put into place. From the gate that separates the rich man and Lazarus in life to the chasm that separates them in death.

In life, the gate acted as that barrier that allowed the rich man to ignore the suffering of Lazarus. It acted as a shield of comfort, as the rich man feasted every day, while Lazarus’ heath was in a steep decline due to hunger. 

Growing up in Lebanon Missouri, I have this strong memory of driving through downtown and always seeing this elderly gentleman standing on the same street corner, seemingly directing traffic. He was such a fixture of the community that just about everyone knew of him. As I look back on him now, I can remember the tremors in his arm movements. I can remember he did not look to be in the best of health. I wonder what his life story was. I wonder if he was homeless or just found comfort on that corner. I wonder what ever happened to him and if he was surrounded by family at the end or if he died alone. 

None of those questions arose as I saw him, time and time again from the safety of my parents’ car. I was in my own little world as a pre-teen, and yet, if we look around each day there are those individuals that show up from day to day in our own lives. There are those that we come to recognize as those fixtures of our lives that we may or may not invest part of ourselves into. 

But that is not what the rich man does. Instead he sees himself as above Lazarus in all aspects even when he finds himself in Hades. Even in death the rich man continues to make demands of Lazarus, whom he names, and of Abraham without remorse all the way to the end of the parable. He demands that Lazarus be sent to quench his thirst, and then sent to warn his brothers. Not to warn the whole community of their selfish and pride driven ways, but instead to warn just his brothers of their fate if they do not repent. 

No where in the parable do we hear the rich man acknowledging his own sins. More so, the structure of the parable calls us to confront those long held assumptions of righteous and sinful people. We like to believe that righteous people will live great lives and have all that they could ever want. We like to think that if we do everything right then our lives will be great because we lift up the opposite as the way the world works. That if you are a sinner then bad things will happen to you. You will deserve that which falls upon you. 

Too often I have heard arguments around homelessness forcing the whole of the blame on the individual, when in many times it is much more complex than that. I hear too often regarding individuals experiencing homelessness or drug addiction, that they need to get their act together and be better, while at the same time ignoring all those things that brought these individuals to this point. But in those beliefs that have been passed down in one way or another from generation to generation, we have this understanding that if someone is suffering in such a way then it is their sins that brought them there. 

But this parable flips that entire idea on its head. For Lazarus finds great comfort in death, and the rich man finds torment. The rich man finds a torment that also creates a chasm that separates himself from Abraham. In verse 26 it says, “Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed…” I imagine a great ravine or gap has been put into place. much like the walls and gate were fixed in their lives. This separation has been fixed into place that separates the man not only from Lazarus but from Abraham whom he names as father. As his kinsman. He sees his relation to Abraham but at the same time refuses to see any relation with Lazarus. And it is that refusal to recognize their relationship that I see as fixing the gate and the chasm in place. It is the rich man’s refusal to recognize his own sins that fixes that chasm in place. 

But what is at the heart of the rich man’s sins? Prior to this parable in the 16th chapter we have another parable and a rebuke of the pharisees, both of which name that one cannot serve God and money at the same time. That the pharisees who love money have become corrupted and led astray from what God would have them do. Nothing within this chapter calls wealth evil but rather where our focus is. Is our focus on gaining more and more stuff, or is it on God and how we are in relation to all of God’s children?

We have many kinds of physical barriers that we have fixed into place within our lives. Today’s parable calls us to recognize if those barriers become chasms that cause us to not see others as our brothers and sisters. Do those barriers become shields of comfort, blinding us to the needs of others? 

We hold before us in scripture, warning of the chasm that separates ourselves from the divine, when we seek after selfish pursuits rather than the Kingdom of God. But if we are willing to pay attention to Jesus, the laws, and the prophets then perhaps we can break down those barriers and unite ourselves with all the children of God. 

“Lost and Found”

Rev. Chris Snow

North Hill Christian Church

March 7th, 2021

Psalm 119:167-176, Luke 15:1-32

The opening scenes of a narrative sets the stage for everything that comes after it. It is that key piece of telling the story from which the rest follows, and here in the 15th chapter of Luke, we have the author providing a clear foundation on which the following parables are situated. 

In the first two verses we hear this clear distinction of two groups; the sinners and tax collectors who were coming to listen to Jesus, and the Pharisees and scribes who were grumbling about who Jesus eats with. I see in my minds eye these two groups. The sinners and tax collectors who are being greeted and welcomed, while the Pharisees and scribes are present but are in a corner grumbling to themselves. Yet, as we dig a little deeper we can recognize that the scribes and pharisees are the ones that Jesus relates to the most. Religious leader, teacher, righteous, knowing the torah. Jesus is more like the scribes and pharisees than those deemed to be the sinners and tax collectors.  

Bringing things closer to home the pharisees and scribes in modern day church language could be compared to the cradle to the grave Christians. Those who have known God’s love, faithfulness, and mercy for as long as they can remember. Those who have had the opportunity to learn, to experience who God is in their lives, and has made that conscious decision that God is the one whom they will devote themselves to following. 

On the other side we have the sinners and tax collectors, who could be described as those who have not been a part of the church. Those who have only known judgement from the typical Christians. Those who have lived their lives not knowing or hearing the good news, but in hearing about what Jesus is preaching come wanting to know more. Approaching and finding a welcome, and someone who will sit down and eat with them. 

This is what sets the stage for the parables that we have before us today. In both the parable of the lost sheep and of the lost coin, we have this item or individual that is lost, and the person searching has identified its high value and significance for them that they go searching. Almost going to extreme lengths to find it, and in that moment of bringing it back to be restored with the whole calls the community to rejoice with them. In both of these we have a reference to the sinner that repents, but in these two narratives, the sheep nor the coin have the ability to repent or promise not to do it again. Yet, in being restored to the whole we have this celebration that they were once lost, once separated, but now they have been found and restored. 

Many churches that still keep a firm understanding of church membership, also have this formal way in which individuals declare their faith and become members of that community. Often times the response is to rejoice and celebrate. This moment of welcoming an individual, couple, family, whatever, into the larger community of faith, and it is worth celebrating. There is this change that takes place for everyone and we celebrate that in the Love of God the community grows and is made better with each person. 

It isn’t until we get to the parable that we often times refer to as the Parable of the Prodigal Son, that we hear the viewpoint of the Pharisees, and scribes. Those church people who have been a part of the church for a long time and grumble when someone that doesn’t fit the mold is found and brought into the whole. 

Even more than that, we have this parable of a son who disrespects his father and his brother by demanding his inheritance well before it is proper to do so. He ends up living beyond his means and hits rock bottom, and in that moment wants to return home, not as a full member of the household but rather as an employee. He doesn’t intend to restore what he had before leaving home. He just wants to survive. And it is the father whom we imagine is at the window of the house keeping watch. Waiting and looking for this son who has left. Hoping for him to return. 

In the moment of spotting his son off in the distance he runs out to him and embraces him. Cutting off his son’s rehearsed apology, and claims him as his son. Even though the younger son has very clearly stated that he is no longer worthy to be called son, the father names him as such. 

The older son however, finds out about his brother’s return and is upset by the rejoicing and celebration that has been given to this one who abandoned the family home and left to squander his money. This older son, is frustrated, because he has known his father’s compassion and love all these years, but has never been given such a party. 

How many of us get frustrated with the gifts and offers that tech companies give to new customers, but not to those who have been loyal customers for years. How often do we get upset when we have been faithful all these. years and have not received such a celebration. How much do we wish for a celebration of our own in the life of the church?

The older son has been in full relationship with his father, and his father’s house all these years, and has known that love. In the return of the younger son, we have this person who has been struggling. Who has been separated. Who has seen and lived through things that the older son has not. This younger son who didn’t ask for all this rejoicing but because of what the son’s return means to the father and to the whole, the father saw it as necessary to celebrate. 

As the author for Luke has put all of this into one chapter, and started with setting up the sinners and tax collectors in opposition to the Pharisees and the scribes, we can’t help but see the broader theme. We have those who have known God’s love for so long in the Pharisees grumbling because that love is being shown to others who haven’t worked nearly as hard. “It just isn’t the way it is supposed to be done.” “It’s not fair!” And yet in bringing the sheep, the coin, the lost son back into the whole there is reason to celebrate. There is reason to celebrate the love of God in those moments, rather than grumble at their return. 

Bear Fruits of Life

Rev. Chris Snow

North Hill Christian Church

February 28th, 2021

Psalm 122, Luke 13:1-9, 31-35

One of the most persistent questions of faith revolves around why do bad things happen to good people? Why do horrendous events happen to people that don’t deserve it? And there is the problem. Our minds constantly work on the notion that bad things happen as punishment. That those events are their fault. That they bear sole responsibility. 

Or, how about how many times natural disasters are blamed on the sins of that population. This idea that hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, and the like are all the result of the wrath of God. Calling to mind the events of the great flood in Genesis. That bad things happen to people because they deserve it. 

Yet, for all this seeking to blame others for their sin we loose sight of our own. We loose sight of our collective sin. We loose sight of our own collective responsibility when bad things happen to others. A responsibility for which we need to repent. 

In today’s text, as Jesus continues his march towards Jerusalem, we hear this request for comment from those who were with him, about Pilate’s profane actions against  Galileans who had been murdered within the temple walls. This action that was not uncommon for Pilate. Setting the tone for today’s readings as we intermingle the words death and judgement. 

But, Jesus avoids making a comment about Pilate, but instead asks if those Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans? Were they worse people and thus deserved such an horrendous death? Playing on this question of whether or not they deserved it. Then he brings up another tragedy that we can only assume was the cause of an accident that killed 18 people. “Were they worse offenders than all others living in Jerusalem.” In both examples, we hear this push back on this notion that these people deserved to die in such a way, but also not calling them perfect. Instead calling for all the people to repent, lest they perish as others did. 

We have this word play on perish as Luke opens up the 13th chapter. In our first hearing we hear perish as death, but as we make our way through our reading, we also hear perish to connect with judgement. But more than judgement on the individual, but also judgement upon a community. 

As I hear of Pilate’s actions in the temple, memories of shootings in churches come to mind. People of faith, practicing their faith, being shot and terrorized in what is supposed to be a sacred and safe space. Those victims did not bear the responsibility of the action, but does the community as a whole bear any of that responsibility? 

As I hear the reference of the tower of Siloam falling and killing 18 people, I hear a failure of infrastructure. A tower that may have been part of the defenses of Jerusalem. My mind recalls all those who have suffered due to lack of infrastructure within one’s community. Infrastructure to address mental health, physical health, homelessness, addictions, abuse, let alone physical structure failing. Failure of infrastructure that left so many in Texas without power. Doesn’t the community bear a responsibility in these cases? 

To make his point, Jesus leads us into a hearing of a parable, that we should hear with community in mind. The fig tree that we hear of in this parable, is constantly used as a metaphor for Israel. A whole body, not simply an individual. A whole group, not just one person. As we hear it, let us not simply hold it as, oh that’s Israel and not us, but let us hear it as a communal call to repentance. 

Let us hear the parable once more. “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone one more year until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”

We hear of a delayed judgement to allow the fig tree to bear fruit. This idea of mercy being provided but only for a limited time. Time to make intentional changes that should allow for the tree to bear fruit. 

As I hear this parable, I can’t help but reflect on how much of our conversations about repentance have been focused on the individual. This concept that once a person has repented and taken care of their own personal sins, then they are all good. This concept of individual salvation, which is focused entirely upon the individual’s personal relationship with the divine, and leaving out each individual’s responsibility and impact on the community. 

It would be easy to read the fig tree as the lone individual, and yet Luke calls out the constant failures of the whole to heed the word of God. To listen to the prophets. To pay attention to what the holy was calling them to be. This sentiment that is well stated in the final verses of this chapter, as Jesus himself is marching towards Jerusalem. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stone those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” 

Surely some of those in Jerusalem were good people, and yet Jesus uses this umbrella statement calling them all complicit. They are all involved in the systemic injustices that have plagued the people. We are all involved and complicit in the injustices within our own communities. We can’t say, that we don’t hold any responsibility if we are willing to sit back and point the finger at those in places of power. 

Let us rather stir ourselves from our complacency, and seek to create change. Not only in our faith lives but in the lives that we share with our community. Calling for communal repentance for the sins that we all contribute to, but claim no responsibility for. Let us be willing to recognize that as we lift our voices together we can create systemic change within our community. That as communities call for repentance of the whole, we can continue make headway towards the kingdom of God. 

Bare Minimum of Care

Rev. Chris Snow

North Hill Christian Church

Psalm 15, Luke 10:25-37

This week we are beginning a four week series on the parables in Luke, as Jesus continues his journey towards Jerusalem. we hear this series of parables within the context of this slow journey towards the gates of the city, as we ourselves find ourselves in this season of Lent. Calling ourselves to examine our own lives and our own brokenness. 

This week we hear a parable that is so well known that one doesn’t have to be a person of faith to summarize what takes place. But as I find myself hearing it with a different perspective, I first hear the lawyer who initiates the telling of this parable asking what he must do to inherit eternal life. In my previous interactions with this parable, I usually gloss over his question and yet, in this time, I hear this argument of someone trying to parse out the rules and requirements of eternal life. 

In my years of working with youth and children in various settings I have come across a number who for different reasons wanted to find the limits of the rules. To be honest I was and continue to be one of those individuals. Where we wanted to find the loop holes. Wanting to know exactly where that line was. To know what the bare minimum was to be justified in our actions. That is what I hear from the lawyer. What is the bare minimum that I must do in order to inherit eternal life? Who is really my neighbor? In response, Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan. A parable that we can hear from multiple viewpoints, each of which calls to mind different memories and experiences. 

We can imagine ourselves as the Priest and the Levite, who are traveling away from Jerusalem, for whatever reason seeing this man, stripped and beaten on the side of the road. Unsure if he is still alive or not. But we can already hear the excuses for why we shouldn’t stop and see if aid is needed. Well I am in a rush to get somewhere. Even if I did stop, I don’t know how I could be of any help. I am in my nice clothes and it would be a shame to get them dirty. All of the excuses that come to mind, seem to justify our not stopping to lend a hand. 

Those moments where we see someone in need, and make the conscious decision not to help. More than that, we go out of our way to ignore the issue, probably thinking, “Well someone else is better suited to help.” 

Then we can imagine the perspective of the Samaritan, the least likely, by social expectation, to stop and lend a hand. The one who is clearly framed in the language of the parable as the other, highlighting the deep divisions between the Jews and Samaritans. Yet, he shows kindness, and hospitality to this stranger in need. That hero of the feel good stories that we hear on TV. That seemingly special person who steps up in a time of need, even though they are just a regular person doing something good for another. This behavior that we celebrate, and yet have a hard time emulating when our turn comes along. 

This person who goes far beyond doing the bare minimum of showing compassion and mercy. But instead takes responsibility for his healing and well being while under his care. He ensures that all his needs are cared for while he is healing, with the promise to the innkeeper that all expenses will be taken care of upon his return. The Samaritan’s life didn’t stop completely to help this man, instead it was paused while he showed compassion, before continuing on down the road. 

Then our focus shifts once more as we imagine ourselves as the man on the side of the road. That moment when our survival or welfare is entirely reliant upon the kindness and hospitality of others. 

I can remember a mission trip some years ago, to San Antonio, TX, where on our return trip back to Missouri, our gear trailer lost a wheel. Now when I say it lost a wheel, I mean that literally, and the assembly that was left, was drug along the interstate for who knows how far. But once we pulled over to the side of the road, we have this moment of realization that without help from someone we could not continue on. There was no way that we could simply throw a spare tire on, and keep going. That was until a church group driving the opposite direction pulled over and helped us get set up with a mechanic who was able to rather quickly get us back on the road. Now mind you, this was before cell phones, and long before smart phones, so we were truly reliant upon someone stopping to help us out. 

In those moments where we can see through the eyes of the man on the side of the road, you see the priest and the levite, pass by on the other side of the road, with intentionality, avoiding you. That moment when there is no doubt that they saw you, because they are making this grand gesture, just so they don’t have to interact with you. Then you see the Samaritan stopping and tending to your wounds and needs. This person who, was just a regular person, is now the hero of your story. 

Finally, we are able to look on at the narrative, knowing everything that is taking place, and recognizing that the person who shows compassion and hospitality to this man in need is the true neighbor. 

So, what is the bare minimum to inherit eternal life? To love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself. To be the hero that your neighbor needs, just as much as the hero you yourself have needed or may need in the future. 

Cost of Discipleship

Rev. Chris Snow

North Hill Christian Church

February 14th, 2021

Psalm 5:7-8, Luke 9:57-62

This week we will be undergoing a liturgical shift of focus. This shift from Jesus seemingly wandering from village to village as he proclaims the good news, to being focused on the journey to Jerusalem. Normally on this Sunday I would be preaching on the Transfiguration narrative. That moment where Jesus is up on the mountain top with two of his disciples and they encounter Moses, Elijah and the voice of God. This moment that highlights this shift of focus within the Gospels. But instead I have chosen for us to hear the text that is titled by some translations as “Would-be Followers of Jesus.” 

As Jesus’ focus is now on Jerusalem and what we will be remembering in just a few weeks. That he will be arrested, tried, beaten, and crucified. This weight is heavy upon his shoulders as he makes his way towards the gates of Jerusalem. It is with this in mind that we hear our reading from Luke 9:57-62. 

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (NRSV)

We have three different would be followers proclaim their devotion to following Jesus, but in each instance we have this response from Jesus that 1) In their eagerness to follow him, they don’t recognize what will be required of them, and 2) they will have to put following Jesus above all other duties. I can hear the frustration in his voice, as he hears, what I can only assume is not the first time that someone commits with great excitement, but has to deal with something else first. “I want to follow, but first let me do this or that.” 

For the first individual, we hear this energetic declaration, “I will follow you wherever you go.” I hear in the back of my mind, someone who has heard all the good stuff about Jesus’ ministry, but not the rejections at Nazareth or at the Samaritan village that immediately precedes this text. We hear this excited fan, who is all amped up ready to go, but reality hasn’t sunk in yet. Jesus is headed to Jerusalem where he will die, and his disciples have already heard this news. 

So, in a way to bring this man back to reality we hear Jesus’ response, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” This reality check that reminds this man but also the hearers of the text that Jesus wandered from village to village not having a home to call his own. That while even the animals of creation had homes of their own, the Son of Man does not, nor does his followers. In declaring that the man will follow Jesus where ever he goes, does he really understand what he is promising to do?

It is easy to get all wrapped up in the excitement of the good news, while at the same time loosing sight of the cross. We celebrate the healing narratives, the feeding narratives, the teaching narratives of the Kingdom of God, while forgetting that all the good things in the gospels lead to the cross. That all those things that we celebrate go against the status quo. That if we want to continue with the good news, then there is indeed an impact on how we live our lives. 

The second individual we hear this promise to follow Jesus, but with the caveat that he first bury his father. Jesus responds, “Let the dead bury their own dead.” Now there are a couple ways that we can hear this text. The first is in the literal sense. That once the man has actually buried his father, whom we have no indication if he has died, and then he will follow. This understanding of the need to care for one’s parents was a sign of faithfulness, and yet Jesus declares that to declare the Kingdom of God is more important than even caring for a dead parent. 

At the time it was expected that a devout Jew would of course care for their parents and bury them in their passing. For us today, it is also expected that to be a good son or daughter we are to appropriately mourn the passing of a parent, and yet Jesus declares that to follow him requires a far greater devotion. That as we rank the priorities in our lives that being a disciple should be above all others. 

The second way in which we can hear Jesus’ response to this man is figuratively. That the dead are the spiritually dead. Those who have committed themselves to discipleship are no longer dead. That the kingdom of God is about life. So, we create this separation even within family units based on their commitment to the kingdom of God.

The third man is one that is unique to the Gospel of Luke yet references the call of Elisha who was out plowing the fields when Elijah called to him (1 Kings 19:19-21). We hear Jesus calling to the man to come and follow, and the man says sure, but first let me say good bye to my family. To which Jesus responds, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” We hear this concept that if someone who is plowing a field, and is always looking back behind them, will end up doing a terrible job at plowing the field. The furrows will be crooked and uneven, thus creating issues with the yield of the crops. 

In my mind I hear young Anikan Skywalker’s standing before the Jedi council, looking back and missing his mother. An arc of his personal attachments constantly superseding his commitment to the Jedi order. This concept that if we approach this commitment to follow Christ with, “but first let me do this,” how likely are we to continue that pattern through the following years. Constantly putting the commitment to be a disciple aside to deal with another commitment. 

As we mark the shift of Jesus’ ministry within the life of the church this week, we are called to look within ourselves to see how we are doing with the commitment that we made to be a disciple of Christ. How are we doing with the commitment that we made to the divine? But let us not be bogged down by our failures, but instead let us be focused on putting one foot in front of another as we continue this journey together. Supporting and encouraging one another as we continue with our own self reflection on how we can follow Jesus Christ even better from day to day. 

The Broad Scope of Healing

Rev. Chris Snow

North HIll Christian Church

February 7, 2021

Psalm 119:105-107, Luke 7:1-17

I have this strong memory of one of my first interviews for a pastoral position over 10 years ago. In this memory, one of those gathered asked me about the overarching theme of my sermons. Of what I can remember from the time it was something to the effect of, “Jesus loves all of us.” But as I find myself years later reflecting on the various sermons I have put forth, I would change my answer to, “The nature of our being followers of Chirst is to be bound together in community as we journey together. If we wish to pursue the Kingdom of God that Christ promises, we must recognize that we are bound to one another. We can not seek to face the struggles of our lives and of the world alone for we are not isolated in these experiences.”

Today, we have two parallel healing narratives in which the healing comes at the request or for the benefit of someone else. In putting forth this lens on these two narratives before we even hear them, I hope for our ears to be tuned in to this focus of ministry that we can easily miss. This idea that when we overly focus on those who are directly helped by ministries, or social programs in our community, we may not notice the ripple effect that those ministries and programs create in the community. 

The first of the narratives broaden’s the scope of who can petition Jesus for help and in a way paves the way for a similarly framed story in Acts to become a defining moment of who can be baptized. Let us hear from Luke 7:1-10

“After Jesus had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. A centurion there had a slave whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death. When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave. When they came to Jesus , they appealed to him earnestly, saying, ‘He is worthy of having you do this for him, for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us.’ And Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, ‘Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.’ When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, ‘I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.’ When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.” (NRSV)

While this narrative does have some problematic elements for us today, namely the unclear motives of the centurion for wanting his slave to be healed, the entirety of this narrative highlights this centurion’s connections with this community. We don’t hear a single word directly from the centurion, but rather from the lips of the Jewish elders and his friends. There is both a physical separation between the centurion and Jesus, as well as a separation due to faith traditions. 

The centurion is clearly a gentile, and more than that a representative of the military occupation of the Romans in Israel. Yet even with all this against him we hear that he has gained favor with the Jewish elders by building a place for them to worship. By supporting the people in their faith. 

But still there is a separation that is hinted in the words that the centurion sent with his friends. That he did not expect Jesus to come to his home for he is not worthy. In reality it is more than this. In a parallel narrative in the 10th chapter of Acts where Peter is sent to the home of another upstanding centurion, it is highlighted that the home of a gentile is unclean and thus would defile a good Jewish person to enter into it. Instead the centurion, in Luke’s narrative, appeals to their shared experience of authority to name his belief that Jesus need only speak the words and his slave would be healed. This is a statement with such weight that Jesus names that this gentile’s faith is thus far a unique experience of faith, that has not been found in Israel. That even as word of Jesus’ acts have been shared across the countryside, no one had yet expressed their faith in the amount of authority that Jesus indeed holds. 

Our second text highlights an all too familiar connection between those who are healed and those who are impacted by their illness or loss. Let us hear the rest of our reading for this morning from Luke 7:11-17.

“Soon afterwards he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town. When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’ Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, ‘Young man, I say to you, rise!’ The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus  gave him to his mother. Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, ‘A great prophet has risen among us!’ and ‘God has looked favorably on his people!’ This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country.” (NRSV)

As we hear this text, I feel that it is important to point out that Jesus is the one that takes the initiative in this moment. He sees what is happening and knows what will happen to the widow in the days to come. Since she is defined as a widow, it is implied that with the death of her son, she has lost all means of support. Without a husband or male heir to watch over her and care for her, she would be left to the kindness of her community which could not be guaranteed. She had no power. No voice of her own in the public sphere and now with the loss of her son, no voice to speak up for her needs. The death of her son would have far reaching impacts on the rest of her life beyond grief and Jesus knows it. So, he acts. 

I can’t help but equate this woman’s circumstances to the state of the healthcare systems here in our own country. That when someone get’s sick and if their employment is in question there is this dilemma of take care of one’s health or work. When someone has to decide between their health or work, this leads to impacts down the road on those they interact with or the support systems they may rely upon later. Or, that the expense for basic healthcare continues to be so expensive that some have to rely on donations from strangers in order to get the care that is needed. 

I see on a daily basis stories of children much like my daughter, Ruth, who due to the limits set forth by their insurance don’t get enough supplies to care for their children so have to ask around to see if anyone has extras of certain items. We have actually mailed extra trachs that Ruth has outgrown to other families. This reliance upon others for help with one’s healthcare emphasizes the point, to me, that we are indeed all connected in caring for one another whether we see those connections or not.

Jesus, puts forth in his actions, his compassion for this woman but also for the larger community. In raising this man from his coffin, he sets into motion events that will lead to helping the mother and the whole of the community for years to come. This seemingly isolated incident begins to send out ripples through this community that is bound together in their reliance upon one another. 

We hear throughout the narratives of today’s text the connectedness across barriers and divisions that once sought to divide Jews and Gentiles, while also reminding us of the effects of illness and death have on a larger community. We are constantly bombarded with the reality that there are indeed divisions within our communities, based on politics, race, religion, gender and so forth. Yet, we are reminded by the ministry of Jesus, that to pursue the kingdom of God, is to pursue an existence that seeks to heal those divisions. To pursue a whole community rather than a divided one. To lift up and honor the ways in which we are all connected as we continue to support each other. 

When Rules Get in the Way

Rev. Chris Snow

North HIll Christian Church

January 31, 2021

Psalm 92, Luke 6:1-11

Over the years I have had the opportunity to write, review, and revise policies and procedures for a number of different contexts. A part of looking at policies is establishing and updating rules. Now anyone who has experience creating rules knows that each rule has a purpose, or even a story of why it is now necessary to write it down. But we also recognize that not all rules are absolute 100% of the time. There are those times when it is allowed or even encouraged to break the rules while still honoring the intent. 

Our text for this morning names two separate times according to Luke that Jesus along with his disciples break the commandment regarding the Sabbath, but in each moment we find ourselves in the midst of a narrative where the strict adherence to the commandment gets in the way of the spirit of honoring the sabbath. 

But before we get into our text let’s do a quick refresher of what I mean by the sabbath commandment. We often think about the commandment from Exodus that reads as such, “Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.” (Exodus 20:8-11 NRSV)

As you can probably imagine the definition of work can easily be open to interpretation and it has, throughout all the communities that have sought to live according to the commandments. But at its heart we hear this command to rest and devote the sabbath day to God. That the sabbath shouldn’t be simply another day to work. Another day for profit. Another day for employees to provide their time and energy to their employer. It should be sacred and devoted to God. With this in mind let us hear the first of the two narratives in our text for today. 

Luke 6:1-5 NRSV

“One sabbath while Jesus was going through the grain fields, his disciples plucked some heads of grain, rubbed them in their hands, and ate them. But some of the Pharisees said, ‘Why are you doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?’ Jesus answered, ‘Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and gave some to his companions?’ Then he said to them, ‘The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.’”

Not only does Jesus claim authority of the sabbath with that final phrase but also points to a need to deal with hunger even on the sabbath. Now the more I meditate on the example that Jesus chooses to share in this moment, I continue to find comparisons and overlapping themes. 

The text that Jesus is citing is from when David and his companions were on the run from Saul and he requests food from the priest at a shrine, and even though the only bread available was restricted to only be eaten by the priests this rule was broken to satisfy his and his companions need for food. 

As I imagine David running from Saul’s forces, I am reminded that in that act of fleeing they are dependent on the kindness and hospitality of others for they could not have prepared and packed for this sudden trip. In the same way as Jesus and his disciples are traveling from town to town they are not carrying a backpack full of gear but rather only that which they can comfortably cary. They don’t have a base camp to return to for supplies before heading out in a different direction. Rather they are dependent upon the kindness of others. On top of all this we constantly hear throughout the scriptures of the Pharisees lying in wait, hoping to catch Jesus in the wrong. Hoping to find a way to trap him. 

But in naming David’s story, he points to those moments in which the rules can be broken to satisfy the needs of the person. That if it means taking the bread of the presence or grabbing a handful of grain on the sabbath to tend to the need of one’s body. 

Those moments where the those things that are necessary to sustain life, allow for rules to be set aside for a short time. Those times where in order to preserve life those who are trained in CPR have to break rules of modesty and personal space to do what needs to be done. Those moments where speeding on the roadway is permitted in cases of emergency. 

Our second narrative speaks to and names how we relate to those in need on the sabbath. That when we are resting, are we not to help those who are suffering to also find rest on the sabbath?

Luke 6:6-11 NRSV

“On another sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees watched him to see whether he would cure on the sabbath, so that they might find an accusation against him. Even though he knew what they were thinking, he said to the man who had the withered hand, ‘Come and stand here.’ He got up and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, ‘I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?’ After looking around at all of them, he said to him, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He did so, and his hand was restored. But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.” 

We have this moment where everyone is looking on, knowing what the rules say, but also knowing that this man has been suffering from what I can only imagine is a hand overcome by arthritis so it has become un-useable. This tension as those who have heard of Jesus know of his compassion for others but also know of the strict adherence to the rules by the Pharisees. Pharisees who are well aware of this man’s condition and need of healing but have done nothing to help in the time that they have known him. In this moment the needs of another overcome the strict adherence to the letter of the law. 

Now Matthew includes a couple extra lines to this narrative that calls out the Pharisees that even they would do something similar on the sabbath. 

Matthew12:11-12 NRSV

“He said to them, ‘Suppose one of you has only one sheep and it falls into a pit on the sabbath; will you not lay hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a human being than a sheep!’”

While it is improper to do any work on the sabbath if one’s livelihood were at stake because a sheep was in danger, surely they would intervene. Why not then care for the needs of this man and make it so that he may also find rest on this holy day? 

When we consider how we observe the sabbath, so much of my thoughts tend toward how we do so individually. How we each behave. How we practice this time of rest separately. And yet this story brings to me a communal aspect to it. One in which the people are to help each other rest and devote the sabbath to the divine. That even if someone is struggling on the sabbath when we should be resting, isn’t it proper to lend a hand as we make each other’s life easier? 

There are so many unspoken rules within the church about when it is proper to do certain things. Of how we can properly serve others. I know I have been known to ask those who have come seeking help to wait until after the service when I can give them my full attention. Perhaps this was wrong of me. But we also have those other rules that tend to get in the way. No food in the sanctuary… Except for the communion bread… But especially in this time of pandemic, if someone comes to us hungry and wants to be where others are, will we not permit them to eat what we have to offer here in this space? 

As we continue to seek to live faithful lives devoted to God. Following the commandments and the instructions on how we are to live. Let us not be caught up in always following the letter of the rules. Let us not get tripped up by trying to be the best at following the rules to the point that we cause harm. To the point in which we forget our commitment to the needs of ourselves and our neighbors. Let us also not become like the Pharisees who used the rules to keep others down rather than lending a helping hand. Yes, rules are there for a reason, and at times they get in the way of doing good in the world. Let us be willing to know when it is proper to break the rules to bring rest to those in our community.