- Jeremiah 1:4-10 & Psalm 71:1-6
- Hebrews 12:18-29
- Luke 13:10-17
Introduction: Lectionary Logic
It is always fascinating to observe the choices made by the lectionary designers as they select certain passages and omit others from the list of texts to be read in the Sunday liturgy. This week we see the RCL and RC/ECUSA lectionaries diverging in their choices for the Gospel.
The table outlining Special Luke's narrative of the journey to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51-19:28) shows that all three major Western lectionaries skip the difficult passage in Luke 13:1-9. However, this is because they each used that passage on the Third Sunday of Lent. Not surprisingly, then, all three skips those verses at this point in the year.
What is not so clear is why the RC and ECUSA lectionaries jump over the healing story in 13:10-17 and go instead to the series of sayings in 13:22-30.
Gospel: Healing on the Sabbath
One of the hallmarks of Jesus' ministry seems to have been his activity as a healer. While Hal Taussig challenges this aspect of the Jesus tradition (on the grounds that healing would not be a core activity for Jesus the wisdom sage), others—such as Marcus Borg—point to the multiple attestation for this activity, and the historical parallels with other Spirit persons.
Jesus as Healer
See also: Jesus as Healer
In Conflict, Holiness and Politics in the Teachings of Jesus (1998:160-62), Marcus Borg provides some insights into the healing of the crippled woman on the Sabbath day:
The non-Markan sabbath conflict stories all follow a common pattern. Jesus, taking the initiative, healed a person in the presence of opponents and then legitimated his action with a rhetorical question that referred to common human behavior. Two are peculiar to Luke:Luke 23:15-16: Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?
Luke 14:5: Which of you having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well will not immediately pull him out on a sabbath day?
... In each case, Jesus invited them to consider what they naturally did when they saw an animal in need (thirsty) or suffering (fallen into a pit) on the sabbath.In none of these cases did the healing seem to be a strategic suspension of sabbath law, as neither danger to life nor particular exigencies of the mission were involved. Instead, these violations of sabbath law as then understood seem to be programmatic, flowing out of the alternative paradigm which Jesus taught: the sabbath was a day for works of compassion. This change did not mean that the sabbath was abrogated, rather, it was subordinated to deeds of compassion rather than to the quest for holiness.
Interestingly, Jesus' argument was not halakhic, that is, not based on appeal to legal deduction or precedent. In all likelihood, there was no legal ruling on the matter within the mainstream of Judaism. In the absence of a legal ruling, commonsense compassion would naturally determine the course. Compassion -- the movement within humans (within the bowels or the womb in Hebrew thought) in the presence of creature-suffering -- would lead to attending to the animal's needs. Thus compassion in the presence of human suffering became the implicit criterion for exceptions to sabbath law. The movements of compassion took precedence over the requirements of holiness.
Luke's account of Jesus' response in the story of the crippled woman adds two further details. The explicit identification of the woman as a "daughter of Abraham" did not mean simply that she was Jewish, as if that needed underlining. Rather, it may point to the inclusiveness of Jesus' concern, just as the explicit identification of Zaccheus as a "son of Abraham" did. Describing the woman's healing as an untying from Satan's bondage (besides being parallel to untying an animal so that it might drink) links her healing to the plundering of Satan's kingdom, which elsewhere in the synoptics is associated with the power of holiness understood as a transforming energy, notably in the confrontations between the "holy one" and the unclean spirits. Though one must be careful not to press the detail, perhaps the sabbath is seen as an especially appropriate day for the holiness of God to be active.
The selection set for the RC/ECUSA lectionaries is basically drawn from the Sayings Gospel Q, as the list of data from the Jesus Database indicates.
The hypothesis of a lost written source (a "sayings gospel") that preserved sayings of Jesus from a period prior to the composition of our extant Gospels is widely -- but not uniformly -- accepted by critical scholarship. The discovery of the Gospel of Thomas confirmed that such a genre existed in early Christianity: a collection of sayings without any reference to the story of Jesus' death and resurrection.
One of the best online gateways to information about the Sayings Gospel Q is Peter Kirby's Early Christian Writings - Lost Sayings Gospel Q page:
- 455 Cripple and Sabbath - (1) Luke 13:10-17
- 456 Going to Jerusalem - (1) Luke 13:22
- 163 The Narrow Door - (1) 1Q: Luke 13:23-24 = Matt 7:13-14
- 164 The Closed Door - (1) 2Q: Luke 13:25 = Matt 25:1-12
- 165 Depart from Me - (1a) 2Q: Luke 13:26-27 = Matt 7:22-23 (1b?) 2 Clem. 4:5 (1c?) GNaz. 6
- 125 Gnashing of Teeth - (1a) 2Q: Luke 13:28a = Matt 8:12b (1b) Matt 13:42b (1c) Matt 13:50b (1d) Matt 22:13b (1e) Matt 24:51b (1f) Matt 25:30b (2) Dial. Sav. 14e
- 166 Patriarchs and Gentiles - (1) 2Q: Luke 13:28-29 = Matt 8:11-12
- 031 First and Last - (1) GThom. 4:2 & P. Oxy. 654.4 (2) 2Q: Luke 13:30 = Matt 20:16 (3) Mark 10:31 = Matt 19:30
- Jesus as Healer
Liturgies and Prayers
For liturgies and sermons each week, shaped by a progressive theology, check Rex Hunt's web site
Other recommended sites include:
Traditional hymn suggestions:
- All people that on earth do dwell - AHB 10
- From all who dwell below the skies - AHB 42
- God whose farm is all creation - AHB 94
- Disposer supreme and judge of the earth - AHB 355
See David MacGregor's Together to Celebrate site for recommendations from a variety of contemporary genre.