Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.” But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! 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?” from Luke 13
As I sit resting in my family room on a Sunday evening, the youth from our church are at the Hope Center, a facility that houses and assistss men who are struggling with substance abuse. Once a month, when these teens could be hanging with (or texting) friends, playing video games, watching TV, reading a book or any number of other restful things, they are instead wearing hairnets (way uncool) and spooning mashed potatoes onto cafeteria trays.
More important than that, these young people are sharing smiles, conversation, and their presence in a place where some are doubled over from the weight of life circumstances or poor decisions.
In a world that is for many of us too full of things to do, is Jesus really challenging us to do even more? Do we not get a rest even from helping?
Jesus started that day (an ordinary day unless you were the woman) being close to God in worship. And his eye moved over all the other worshipers and fell on this particular person he knew he could help. When he was challenged he seemed to say, in part, “What is the big deal? You do more than this when you unbind your animal on the sabbath to water it. I didn’t even use that much energy, and a woman bound for 18 years is now free. This isn’t work.”
Whenever I ask members of our youth group why it is that they give up a Sunday evening to go to the Hope Center, they shrug as if to say, “No big deal.” Maybe not to them, but to the men who have been bound by drugs or alcohol, it is a big deal to see the bright faces smiling at them from beneath hairnets, to have someone engage them in conversation, giving them a sense of home and feeding their souls as well as their bodies.
That’s not work. That’s almost pure joy.
© Melissa Bane Sevier