Church of England Diocese of Chester Lostock Gralam

Reflection for May 16th

“On another Sabbath he went to the meeting place and taught. There was a man there with a crippled right hand. The religion scholars and Pharisees had their eye on Jesus to see if he would heal the man, hoping to catch him in a Sabbath infraction. He knew what they were up to and spoke to the man with the crippled hand: “Get up and stand here before us.” He did.

9 Then Jesus addressed them, “Let me ask you something: What kind of action suits the Sabbath best? Doing good or doing evil? Helping people or leaving them helpless?”

10-11 He looked around, looked each one in the eye. He said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” He held it out—it was as good as new! They were beside themselves with anger and started plotting how they might get even with him.

Luke 6: 6 -11 The Message.

This is the set reading for Morning Prayer for Saturday 16th May which marks the end of Christian Aid week when we have, hopefully, through whatever means available to us, made a donation to the admirable cause.

The focus for Christian Aid Week changed and the website states:

“As this virus spreads across the world, love rises up in response. You have already shown incredible kindness to your neighbours. Now is the time to reach out to your neighbours both near and far.

Your love protects. From storms, from drought, and now from coronavirus. Your love protects our global neighbours battling the spread of this illness. Your love protects. With soap, clean water and medical supplies.”

The current Coronavirus has hopefully sharpened our focus on the need for compassion and made us aware of the need for community cohesion and an increased understanding of the needs of the local and wider world.

The account of Jesus healing the man with the withered hand is an example of Christ’s compassion and concern for those who are disadvantaged and in need. And in this account Jesus is willing to stand up to those in authority and to challenge their ideology. “Let me ask you something: What kind of action suits the Sabbath best? Doing good or doing evil? Helping people or leaving them helpless?” We think of the references to Jesus as being ‘meek and mild’ but in fact he was in many ways confrontational, constantly challenging perceptions.

The saying goes: “Rules are made to be broken” but Jesus is not saying that, he is saying, ‘Yes, there are rules, but they should be applied with a degree of common sense.’ And perhaps that is what we are called to do in the context of the current Covid 19 pandemic.

I have a recording of John Adams, the American composer’s work ‘Christian Zeal and Activity,’ which uses the soundtrack of an American evangelist referring to and preaching on the cripple with the withered hand over a quiet musical background. It is an interesting work and I love the dynamics, with the repeated use of the phrase ‘the man with a withered hand’. As a musical piece I find it both reassuring and yet uncomfortable: persistent words over calming music. And that, in a sense, reflects the nature of the teaching of Christ: it is both reassuring, but also challenging. How we live out our faith requires that same sense of achieving balance by applying common sense and yet living out the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5), reassured and yet challenged. And it is true to say that often, when we live out our faith in this way, we are likely to find ourselves perhaps scorned orb isolated. But we know what is right – to stay faithful to Christ and to live out his commandment: “That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbour as well as you do yourself.” (The Message)

May we continue to be bold and strong in our faith and throughout the challenges of this pandemic.