Proper 4, Year B: Mark 2:23-3:6: Rules Made for People

You can see all the lectionary readings for Proper 4, Year B by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Mark.

This week will be a little different, because on this week I did the homily for our church’s family service, so I’m going to copy over the written version of my homily.  I write everything out in Word and check how it reads aloud. Then I make note cards with just a few words on them to glance at while I’m speaking. I have not yet found the confidence to talk without the notes, but what I end up saying can vary a lot from this original written version. But here it is, anyway.

Let me tell you about the only two rules we have in my house.  OK, there are more than two, but I tell my kids these are the main rules that all the other rules fall under.  The #1 rule is Don’t hurt yourself or anyone else.  That makes sense, right? That’s a good rule for everywhere, not just in my house. And the #2 rule is, Don’t make a mess your mom has to clean up. I do a lot of cleaning of bathrooms or laundry or washing dishes, but this is specifically about them not making a bigger mess and leaving it behind when they’re done playing. I think that’s a good rule because I have a lot to do and I don’t need more work.

What are some good rules you can think of that you have to follow at home?

Is it ever ok to break a rule?

What if we had a rule that no one should get up and come up here in the middle of the service? (we don’t really have that rule but let’s imagine).  Then what if I was up here speaking and I tripped on the stairs (this could totally happen as I’m pretty clumsy—I’ve ended up in the emergency room after just slipping on the sidewalk).  So there I’d be lying on the floor and maybe I need help to get up—but the rule is no one gets out of their pews. Is it o.k. for someone to get up and come help me up off the floor?  Of course it is! It would be silly to follow the rule at that moment if someone needs help.

Today’s gospel story is about Jesus breaking a rule.

What do you know about the Sabbath? It’s often Saturday but in our church our Sabbath is on Sunday. The Sabbath is a day to worship God and to rest. We don’t have very strict rules in our church but in Jesus’ culture and in some religions today it’s very serious and strict. Certain leaders didn’t like that Jesus let his disciples pick some grain on the Sabbath (because it was like a form of work) and they really didn’t like it when he healed a man on the Sabbath. Do you think the Sabbath was made just to give people a hard time and a rule to follow? I don’t think so—I think it was designed to teach people to rest and set aside a time to spend with God.

So let’s talk about the Sabbath (bring out poster).  For us it happens to fall on Sunday, the same day as the Resurrection. I’ve thought of some good things to do on a Sunday that are about spending time with God and resting. Go to church. Pray. Have brunch.  Spend time with your family. What are some good things to do on a weekday—write them. How about on a Saturday? Now, what’s a good day to do a good deed—like Jesus healing? ANY DAY. Does it make sense to say you can’t do a good deed on Sunday because that’s not worshiping God? What would God love more than us helping other people? Showing love to people could happen on any day. (Draw in a cross or a heart in each day of the week.)

Now this part is really for the adults. We have a real problem with this in our country, even though we don’t have the same rules they had in Jesus’ time. People are being mistreated every day and many times the mistreatment is justified by some arbitrary rule. But Jesus said the rules are made for people and the people are not made for the rules. If rules mean that people are often imprisoned for years for minor offenses and if those people are disproportionately people of color, something is wrong with the rules. If our rules mean that parents are separated from their children just for wanting to enter our country, then something is wrong with those rules. If rules are made about how people protest, and nothing is done about what those people are protesting, something is wrong with those rules. The rules are best when they help people and we should rewrite them if they are hurtful or we should elect new rule-makers. I was talking to my husband Brian about this subject and he put it very well: “Don’t miss the principle of ‘loving your neighbor’ by blindly following a rule.” The bottom line is to love your neighbor.  Love the people and not the rules.

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