Scripture Reading: Luke 13:10-17
This week I was participating in the Vacation Bible School hosted by St. Andrew’s. In total, over 80 children passed through the doors during the week. The average daily attendance was roughly 60 kids. There was a great amount of energy throughout the week as the kids sang, learned and played together.
Now all these children don’t call St. Andrew’s home. In fact, very few do. They came from many different churches, including our own as Anna, Anthony and Jamie were there.
It was great to see the smiles on all their faces each and every day. I was a popular person because I was in charge of their recreation time. So I set up games for them to play!
What I saw were children from different schools, different churches, different family backgrounds, they all came together and shared and learned together.
One of the things that struck me was the amount of sharing going on. Many of the children made sure their friends all had chances to play. They watched out for each other, and they worked together very well. It just showed how, no matter what their background, the children saw each other as equals and worthy of each other’s time.
There are times when we might catch ourselves thinking differently. We might think we can’t associate with that person because they live on a particular street, or are related to so-and-so, or work at such a place, or live a certain lifestyle we don’t agree with.
Is that right? Of course it isn’t. But we all do it.
Somewhere, sometime in our lives we learned to treat people differently. We’ve lost the child-like innocence where we know we’re all the same and all worthy of the same treatment.
We’re continuing to look at the Genius of Jesus and this week we’re looking at how Jesus crossed lines.
In our reading from Luke, Jesus came upon a woman who had been disabled for 18 years. Her back was such she could not stand straight, she was constantly bent over. Jesus called her to him, laid his hands on her and healed her of her disability.
But this was not the big news.
The big news was he healed her on the sabbath. A day of rest. A day where no work is done at all. The ruler of the synagogue said, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.”
In other words, she should have waited until tomorrow to be healed because there is no work done on the sabbath.
Many of you have shared how you remember Sundays being days of rest for your family. Days where no work was done. All the meals were prepared on Saturday. There was nothing that could be perceived as work to be done on Sunday. Sunday was church day, and that was it. Some of you even came three times every Sunday!
But did you feed your animals if they were hungry? If you had a farm, would you not go out and tend to the animals in the barn?
This is the point Jesus is making. He challenges those religious leaders who say she can’t be healed on the sabbath. Jesus says,
“You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?”
The line Jesus crosses is the one as to how we react to the needs of the world around us, regardless of the day.
Our animals can’t feed themselves, so we feed them even on the sabbath. You can’t just leave out a pile of food on Saturday night, because it won’t last into Sunday, especially if you have a dog!
There are needs in our world that cannot be ignored. There are lines which say we cannot associate with those people because they are different than us.
Jesus showed these lines to be a problem, and he showed us how to fix it.
The way to fix it is to ignore the lines.
This is no easy ask. We’re conditioned to live in our comfort zone. Our comfort zone is made up of people we are comfortable with. Work we feel like we’re good at. Things which make us feel good and can even help us relax.
But when we move out of this comfort zone, things get hard. We get uncomfortable. We get uneasy, anxious.
Yet Jesus crossed lines of expectation all the time. He touched unclean people in order to heal them. He worked on the sabbath. He talked to sinners. He associated with foreigners. All these things were forbidden by the religious establishment.
All the things those in authority said were crossing uncrossable lines.
What are the lines that exist in the world today, and even here on the Northside, that we dare not cross? Where going there takes us to places we don’t want to go. Places which challenge us and take us out of our comfort zone.
They most certainly exist.
One of the benefits of being involved with Community CARES is that I get to hear stories. Stories of young people who, because of where they live or who they are related to, get marginalized by the wider community. Young people who have had such low expectations placed on them, there’s little chance they can ever succeed in life. These young people are expected to remain in the cycle of drug and alcohol abuse many of them have grown up in.
Yet this spring 3 of our alumni graduated with post-secondary diplomas and degrees which enable them to get good jobs and provide for their children.
All because they were seen as people with potential by an organization which seeks to help them discover the abilities they have and enables them to develop and share these skills.
An organization which crosses lines put in place by society and helps these young people erase the lines from their lives.
There are many examples of lines we choose not to cross.
How many of us would feel comfortable walking through Clifford Street or Johnstone Crescent? Not many I’d imagine.
Jesus showed us these lines are to be not only crossed, but eliminated.
He met a woman who was disabled with a back injury for 18 years. Was he going to say to her, “I’m sorry, it’s the sabbath, can we meet tomorrow instead? I’ve got an opening at 11am if you can make it.”
No, he met her where she was in that moment. He saw her great need and knew he was able to help her, so he did. He didn’t care what lines he crossed in order to make it happen. He didn’t even think twice about it. He just did it.
Sometimes lines are hard to see. Sometimes they are faded, and have been like that for a long time. But we know they still exist, so we don’t go near them.
Other times the lines are painted so boldly we don’t realize they are actually lines. Yet we still never cross them because they are such a constant presence in our lives we would never choose to cross them. There are more like walls than lines.
May I take a moment to talk about walls? Or more specifically, church walls?
What if our church walls were the hardest drawn lines around?
I know I’ve told this story before, but it’s such a great example of a church drawing lines I have to repeat it.
I was part of a church which was having a potluck dinner one evening. Someone thought it would be a great outreach opportunity and placed a sign on the front lawn, “Church dinner, all welcome.”
A church member saw the sign as they made their way in and mentioned it to some others in the hall. They decided that the sign had to come down. Someone might come in!
You know as well as I do that church potluck dinners always have too much food. But these people decided there was a line which was not to be crossed and the sign was taken in.
The walls themselves became impenetrable lines between the church and the community. A community full of low income families who could have used a hot meal and some fellowship with people who call themselves Christians.
The walls in our churches are not meant to be lines of separation.
Jesus showed how lines impact the lives of people over and over again. How these lines cause unneeded pain and suffering for many people.
So instead of being lines, what if our walls were simply just walls doing what walls do? Keeping out the weather and holding up the roof.
If we do this, if we drop our guards and look for ways to cross lines to serve just as Jesus served, then these walls become something different.
These walls then become a safe refuge for those in need of healing. These walls become a place where we are inspired to move out into the world to cross lines put in place by society to manipulate and control a certain demographic of people.
A people Jesus showed are worthy of love and grace. A people Jesus showed are worthy of healing and hope. A people, as Jesus showed, are just like us.
A people Jesus was willing to die for so that we all may know the love of our God and how far He was willing to go to show it.
Jesus showed there are no lines when it comes to human suffering. There are no lines he would not cross in order to offer love, grace, mercy and hope to those in need.
That’s the genius of Jesus.
May we too be willing to walk with him, crossing lines, offering hope, being good neighbours to those we meet.
As the old hymn says, “Walls that divide are broken down, Christ is our liberty!”
And he offers this liberty, this freedom, to all who follow him, as our Saviour and our God. Amen.