In church this morning, I had a higher-than-usual number of interruptions by Mr. Dimples, who is now 12, and in that nearly-adolescent twilight zone of giant babyhood familiar to any of you who have raised boys. (Girls, in contrast, are terrifying grown-ups at that age.) We had chosen the 11 o’clock service, due to Spring-ing Ahead, and it happened that he also had an invitation to a birthday party, which began at noon. His mother received all the pre-worship questions about the potential length of the service (no extras today), and now it was my turn as information-giver.
I’m a pretty easy-going parent, aided by the fact that the older three were pretty easy kids. They sat quietly in church, and for the latter part of their childhoods, they sat with each other while I sat in the chancel. If they ever slipped below impeccable behavior, I never knew. Yet there are specific times I don’t like to be distracted in worship:
- During the parts of prayers that aren’t written down, when I have closed my eyes.
- During a sermon, particularly if kathrynzj is preaching.
I explained these things as we headed to our car after church. I especially mind being interrupted during his mother’s sermons, I said, because (a) I want to hear them, (b) she notices when he talks and might get distracted, and (c) people around us notice, too. At other times, and in a genuine emergency, whispered interruptions are fine.
Really, he just wanted to know what time it was so he could do the backwards math and calculate minutes until the party. I get it. I just have limits. And to be fair, he was nowhere near getting on my last nerve, unlike Jesus, whose own Sabbath behavior infuriated the Pharisees.
On another Sabbath, Jesus entered a synagogue to teach. A man was there whose right hand was withered. The legal experts and the Pharisees were watching him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. They were looking for a reason to bring charges against him. Jesus knew their thoughts, so he said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and stand in front of everyone.” (Luke 6:6-8, CEB)
It’s not his first Sabbath offense (Luke 6:1-16), and he knows it gets attention. The authorities are already looking for their reason, and we might think it’s a set-up if Luke’s Jesus didn’t have the power to read thoughts.
Here’s what I find striking. When he does heal the man’s hand, the Pharisees and legal experts are FURIOUS. Here’s another translation:
And they were filled with madness; and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus. (Luke 6:11, Greek Interlinear New Testament)
The literal translation is “they yet are filled of un-mind (or folly).” These guys really lose their shit over healing on the Sabbath. Imagine being *that* furious!!! What would have to be at stake? What are they so afraid of? They must not have much confidence in their own power if they are so worried about the effect of a rambling teacher who performs some healings in the name of God.
We see the same kind of fury all the time in our contemporary leaders who fear anyone else getting control of things. I suspect they do “commune” together about what they might do; they are organized. They draw on their fury to do the worst things possible. What is at stake now is the economic security of everyone who is not well-off, the potential healing of many whose health care is threatened, the peace of the world as our leaders clear out the State Department in order to draw in the circle of trusted individuals.
I can’t imagine being angry enough to let preserving my own privilege take precedence over the safety of others, at least not without some reaction from my conscience.
Mr. Dimples listened to my post-church explanation of acceptable times and reasons for interruptions and said, “Oh, those were the times I interrupted you.” After the slightest hesitation and with genuine humility, he said, “I’m sorry.”
If the religious authorities could have heard and understood Jesus, if human authorities in all times and places could put the love of neighbor ahead of their own security, we would have a different world.
Help us, loving God, to know when problems are real, and not to put our own security, pleasure, or authority ahead of genuine need. Amen.
I’m reading and blogging about Luke for Lent. Want to read along? The full schedule can be found here.