Seems like everywhere we turn these days, someone is stirring up trouble. There’s trouble from the right and there’s trouble from the right. There’s trouble in the Middle East and there’s trouble in Washington. Yet while stirring up trouble just for the sake of making trouble can be seriously damaging, and so much of human trouble making is negative and hurtful, trouble making in and of itself isn’t always a bad thing.
Take, for example, our Gospel lesson today, in which we see that Jesus is stirring up trouble for all the right reasons!
Oh that Jesus - traveling through the fields and gleaning food for his disciples on the Sabbath - stirring up trouble.
That Jesus - curing a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath, right under the nose of the temple authorities who were waiting for him to make a misstep; that Jesus, stirring up trouble.
And when those in authority questioned whether his actions break the Sabbath commandment outlined both in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5, Jesus reminds them of how David and his followers, when they were hungry, had gone into the temple on the Sabbath, and taken the Bread of the Presence that was unlawful for any but the priests to eat, and they’d eaten it. When they were questioned, David declared that, “the Sabbath was made for the people, not the people for the Sabbath.”
Yep. That Jesus - that troublesome Savior of ours is always stirring things up. When people want to put their heads down and let the status quo do its thing, Jesus is modeling another path for us to tread as would be followers of Jesus.
We should delve into scripture like Jesus, looking for how God’s blessings are being poured out for people and the world. We should look for the truth of God pointed to in these stories. And so often these Christian principles and truths, well, they trouble the waters of the world. These Christian principles and truth trouble all the stuff of the world built on foundations of falsehood and selfish ambition.
Any thing built on less than the grace of God trembles when Jesus walks by.
In the case of today’s Gospel story Jesus is reminding those around him – and us – that the Sabbath is intended as a vehicle for God’s blessings to come to God’s people; that the Sabbath is intended as a vehicle for restoration and renewal for the sake of the individual and the community.
So of course feeding hungry people and healing those with infirmities makes sense for the Sabbath! A man whose hand is no longer withered is able to go back to work, to feed his family, to contribute to the good of the whole community.
When the love of God is received and perceived there is healing and restoration that flows out as a blessing to the world. This is part of what a Sabbath rest can give to us – the opportunity to drink in deeply God’s desire for healing and restoration. And receiving this blessing we can go out into our days and lives to share it with others: restored, if you will, to our holy purpose as would be Jesus followers, of bearing the good news of Christ’s healing and love to others, of being holy troublemakers seeking to break down all that separates us and the world from the love of God in Jesus Christ.
Eternal truths and Christian principles, such as the Sabbath being intended as a vehicle for blessing, and other truths and principles that we read and study again and again - love your neighbor as yourself, forgive not just seven times but seventy times seven, care for the poor and the needy, the widow and those marginalized - these eternal truths and principles don’t ever go stale or sour.
Oh, they do and have been and are being forgotten by us - and others; they have been and will likely continue to get subsumed in headlines and tweets and scandals.
But then the cross, that symbol and source of eternal blessings realized most fully by God in Jesus Christ; the cross finds a way to reclaim us from where we have been creating our own false narratives and inducing our own folly on a local and global scale.
The love of Jesus from the cross reclaims us, and plants in us the knowledge of God’s principled ways of love and blessing. The love of Jesus reminds us that there are principles of blessing that will always overcome those who would distort truth and deal callously with those in need of healing and feeding. It was true in David’s time and it was true in Jesus’ time and it is true in our time.
That’s thing about truth: it’s always still true.
As Christians we serve Jesus, who in today’s Gospel names himself Lord of the Sabbath. And Jesus is Lord not only of the Sabbath, but Lord of Truth and of all Creation, including what we call our lives. And so on the Sabbath we have the opportunity to remember to whom these lives really belong, and who, in our every day schedules we are really called to serve.
Sabbath is probably best known by Christians as a time for rest and renewal; time for going to church to be fueled up again. While that definition of Sabbath is certainly true, our scripture passages today remind us that we not only being refueled by Jesus, we are being refueled for Jesus.
We’re being refueled so that we can go out and tell the story of God’s blessings and live this story as Church in the world, Church for the world.
That’s why we’re feeding the hungry and caring for God’s earth and reaching out to students, faculty and staff on SUNY’s campus. That’s why a number of us from Redeemer will march with humble pride as allies and members of the LGBTQ community this very day. With God’s help we’re proclaiming that Jesus heals and feeds and loves and is giving this love to all people. While half-truths and human brokenness may try to obfuscate this fact, God in Christ brings us holy rest and restoration so that we may pick up the banners of truth time and time again and carry them with love to the world.
So Jesus is stirring up trouble, and we want to be right there with him! We want to be right there with Jesus, so that the truth of God in Jesus Christ might become our only truth, our only song, our only desire for our lives and for the healing of the world; so that we can be on the right side of the right kind of trouble. Amen.