Arguments about what we can do on the Sabbath (Sunday) have been around for years. I have heard stories about people going to church three times on a Sunday; two in the morning and then in the evening. They were not allowed to do anything in between. This included playing cards, sport and other similar pastimes. I remember things relaxing in the 70’s when we were allowed to play non-organised sport on a Sunday afternoon. We are familiar with the arguments about football being played on Good Friday.
These arguments echo the controversies in today’s gospel. Jesus is confronted about his actions that he did or allowed to happen on the Sabbath. Those objecting were the religious leaders, the Pharisees, who were seeking to uphold the custom and law regarding how one is to honour the command “you shall not work on the Sabbath”. This was one of the 10 Commandments given by God. These were designed to provide a framework as to how God wanted his people to live.
The issue for Jesus was that the rules had overtaken the original purpose. Instead of the rules honouring God the practice of the Pharisees had now become one of obedience to the rules. Instead of being a celebration of God’s love in providing rest from toil and labour, it had now become a burden and labour as one tried to avoid doing work so as not to dishonour God’s command.
It raises the question as to what other rituals or legalisms we have adopted that overlay or hide the original intent. Look at some of the attitudes we hold around vestments, style of worship, what we do in worship and ask how important are they to true worship. Preferences are one thing. Are they necessary to impose as the only way of doing things? We need to understand why we adopt the attitudes we have and compare them to scripture. If we do, we may be surprised and confronted.