Reverend Rob Lamerton
22 August 2004, Pentecost 12
Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath.
Synagogue and Sabbath—had their beginnings in Babylon. (Jerusalemites exiled from the Temple)
groups met to read the law in the absence of the temple.
By Jesus' day it had the Torah shrine containing copies of the Torah (the law of Moses).
and writings of the prophets were kept.
The Torah box may have been in the shape of the Ark (don't rely on Raiders of the Lost Ark for your info here!)
…the Ark which symbolized God's presence way back in the time of David.
There was a veil or curtain screening the ark and a cloth spread over the ark.
There was a bench[?] or podium where the reading and prayers were said.—the seat called a "Moses seat" may well have replaced the podium.
A couple of stone benches along two or three walls were the only seats—none in the centre of the synagogue. (Like Orthodox churches still today)
The synagogue had various officials
The principal part of Synagogue worship was the reading of scripture. There was a three year calendar for the reading of the Torah (like our calendar for reading the gospels in three years)… After the reading of the Torah the choice of reading of the prophets appears to have been left to the reader. Though the archisynagogos—the head and the Hazzam—minister or administrator—probably exercised some guidance.
In Palestine and Babylon, the reading was accompanied by an Aramaic translation and if a competent person was present there was some explanation—exposition of the scriptures.
(The synagogue also fulfilled some secular and semi secular functions—it was sometimes the place for political gatherings and the focus of the local community.)
It was in a synagogue on a sabbath as Jesus was teaching that he saw a woman crippled for 18 years. He called her over and healed her: "Woman, you are set free from your ailment."
But the archisynagogos—the leader—is unhappy with his visiting preacher and objects to the healing—the liberating of this woman on the sabbath. The sabbath celebrates the completion of God's creation and the end of God's work—it was also when the Law of Moses, reading from the prophets and some explanation was given.
The Purpose to reflect on God, and on the people's calling as God's people.
There seems to me to be three points in the story:
all of which are illustrated by the healing of the woman.
healing, wholeness, completeness,
and practical action as the expression of worship.
BUT in our story the synagogue leader is only interested in the rules of worship and the sabbath.
It reminds us that although we aim for beauty and joy, deep spiritual meaning and dignity in our worship, there are always people's needs to be considered. I hope we are never too stiff and stuffy to remember the human aspect to our gatherings.
Our own experience
Recently the Intinction Cup,
Also coeliac bread 100% gluten free BUT
at the same time we must keep the dignity and beauty of our worship.
Recently we were left money for new white vestments.
We are in need of new server robes. [and welcome to new server Liz!]
I think we are a congregation which values these as a means of giving drama to our worship.
So often today I wonder what the Church offers to a society which has everything available and my answer is WORSHIP
Our task is to get people to refocus on God. Recall Jeremiah—he had a strong sense of call—of who he was before God and although it wasn't at first clear—his path became clear!
In our worship we remember and retell the story.
We celebrate acceptance
forgiveness of Christ
restoration and healing
and we must feel free to express them.
Our worship is actually modelled on the synagogue worship.
and the Eucharist—doing what Jesus said we should do.
and we need to recall that many Christians do not have the liberty to worship and practice their faith—encourage Bibles for the Persecuted.
The synagogue was the local church for the Jews of Jesus' day and I always wonder how many quietly sided with Jesus and said "I'm not going back to that church—the leader doesn't care about people."
Let us be a people of rich, joyful and beautiful worship, but at the same time able to care for one another's needs.