Today I read a wonderful children’s book to our parishioners called Library Lion. Here is the plot summary from Wikipedia:
“What should the librarian do when a lion shows up for story hour? Well, as long as he follows the rules, he is welcome. Each day he shows up early to help the librarian with licking stamps, dusting books, and doing anything else she needs. Everything is wonderful until the librarian falls. What's the lion to do? He knows that he is not allowed to roar, but Miss Merriweather needs help. For her, the lion breaks the rule and lets out his loudest roar. After helping his friend, he sadly leaves knowing that he has broken the library's rules.”
Our library lion understood the rules but he also understood that compassion was more important than rules. The lion roars as loud as he can to get help for Miss Merriweather. Listen to how Jesus does the same thing:
One of the ten commandments is to keep the Sabbath holy. There were many rules about how to do that and Jesus breaks the rules so that he can heal a woman. The synagogue leader snidely announces that ‘one should come on a different day to be healed, not on the Sabbath day’. And Jesus roars, like our library lion; “You religious leaders are such hypocrites! You care for your farm animals so they can get water on the Sabbath. Do you care more about them than you care about this woman? Can’t we untie her from her oppression on the Sabbath?”
Jesus breaks the rules because he understands that his compassion for the suffering woman is more important that the law. His love trumps the law. The essence of the gospel and of all of our teachings is compassion. Jesus has two big rules he tells us to live by: Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. That’s compassion.
Jesus is confronted time and time again with the accusation that he is breaking Jewish law when he heals on the Sabbath, or when his followers gather grain from a field on the Sabbath, or when he eats with people who are considered unclean. In all of these instances he is showing by his actions that love, that compassion trumps the law.
We are called to make choices every day about all kinds of things. If you’re unsure what to do, just apply the ‘love test’. If it’s not about love, it’s not about God. Jesus shows us that the law of his time was no longer about love so it was not about God.
Today we learned about two things: the importance of showing compassion and the importance of keeping the Sabbath holy. We at St. Mark’s make at least half of the Sabbath holy by coming to church, hearing God’s word, feeling God’s love through our fellowship and experiencing God’s love through the bread and the wine. We sing praise to God and give thanks. We seek forgiveness for our sins. We bring food for the hungry and school supplies for the needy. We support the poor however we can.
In these ways we are about love, we are compassionate, like the library lion, like Jesus. In these ways we keep the Sabbath holy. In these ways we honor and worship God.