Sabbath, we’ve seen, can be twisted when we fear its freedom and try to over-control it, turning rest into regulations. It can also be twisted when we forget that it is meant as a gift for the whole creation, whole communities, not any one person.
As you read this story again today, imagine ignoring a desperately thirsty animal or even a crying baby, ignoring their distress for hours and hours, and trying to justify it because you need rest - God wants you to have rest. No, God wants his whole creation to experience life together, to get into healthy, life-sustaining, freedom-creating rhythms together so that together we can experience a deep and true rest.
Where do you notice a temptation within yourself to make your patterns of rest something less than true sabbath? Maybe you tell yourself it’s what you need after a hard day or hard week, yet it leaves your soul or the people around you feeling thirsty and neglected.
On the other hand, what practices have you noticed are life-giving for you and the communities you’re part of? Think of times alone and with family, friends and neighbors where you have sensed not just happiness, but joy, a deep and even holy peace. Sacred moments in perhaps simple circumstances - that restored your souls. How could you intentionally make more time and space for true sabbath?
Luke 13:10-17 (NIV):
On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.
Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.”
The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?”
When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.