Lectionary Reflection: Mark 2: 21-28 + I Samuel 8: 11-18 Rules and Regulations

            What kind of world are we living in?

            I have wondered this often, and all the more these days as the King appears to be taking more and more and making us into a people who must do what we are told from birth to death, like slaves.  We can hardly breathe under all the rules and regulations coming out of Washington, out of the states and locally, or at least we cannot breathe without paying our CO2 tax.  (I Samuel 11-18).  We are under the hand of the kings we have chosen – and crying out to God to save us, and wonder if he is listening.

            What kind of world are we becoming?

            I remember some 20 or 30 years ago, some of us would sit around and imagine the most outrageous, exaggerated events we could think of, like the SWAT team shutting down some child’s lemonade stand.  And we would laugh.  How absurd!  But here we are.  Some 20 or 30 years later and what we thought was insane has become reality.  The King, the State, the Nanny government under the guise of helping us and saving us from our own stupid selves is taking over and changing the world right before our very eyes.  It is happening like an old vaudeville magic act full of misdirection and slight-of-hand.  Abracadabra, Presto-change-o.

            And here we go:

            There are older, preliminary examples from the 1990s, but an example from 2003, St. Paul, MN, the office of licenses, inspections and environmental protection shut down a 7-year-old drink stand for not first obtaining a $60 license.

            More recently, 8/6/11 in Portland OR,  a different 7-year-old was threatened with a $500 fine if she sold lemonade without getting a $120 permit.

            On 11/15/10 in New Castle NY, a 13-year-old not only needed a permit for the concession stand, but a $1-million insurance certificate.

            On 6/10/11 in Philadelphia, an Alex’s lemonade stand not only needed permits but also a hand washing station.  The thing about Alex’s is it is a nationwide charitable effort to raise $ for pediatric cancer research.

            So what?  We would rather have cancer than people selling lemonade on the street?

            Just this year on 4/16/2012 in Hopkington MA the Westbury family got shut down.  For years they sold lemonade, cookies and banana bread from the end of their own driveway to spectators of the Boston Marathon  Their proceeds went to the relay-for-life cancer charity.  Suddenly, they are no longer allowed to do this unless they purchase an expensive permit from the city.  Sort of defeats the purpose of raising money for charity, don’t you think?

            But that is not all.

            In Hazlewood MO the girl scouts are no longer allowed to sell cookies, even in their own driveway.  In fact the selling of girl scout cookies have been banned, in particular the door to door sales in many communities around the country.  Better get your thin mints while you can.

            How about a bake sale? Not if you live in MA or CA (or elsewhere to be named later).  Under the Health, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, with the cover of supposedly helping to combat child obesity, bake sales are no more.  Parent-Teacher organizations, cheerleaders and school bands are in a panic.  School bands?  Indeed, in MA the “kings” are considering banning holiday parties, banquets, door-to-door candy and even concessions at football games.

            Not to be outdone, Mayor Bloomberg of NYC has banned restaurants from selling any soda over 16 ounces.  No more supersize.  Not to say a person will not buy two 16 ounce drinks to make-up for the illegality of 32 ounce drinks.

            Sometimes these things are not well thought through, but the point is the kings we have chosen are telling us what we can and cannot eat, what we can and cannot drink, what we can and cannot wear.  A 6th grader in Freemont NE and a 15-year-old in MN were both recently banned from wearing their rosary beads to school because it was called a gang symbol.  I am not a catholic, but I always wondered about those 11-year-old catholic girl gangs and their prayer beads……….

            So I wonder what kind of world we are living in and what kind of world we are becoming, because you know the keeping of the Sabbath back in Jesus’ day was exactly like this.  People were swamped with rules and regulations to where they could hardly breathe.  No one could keep up with what was permitted and not permitted on the Sabbath.  Permits had to be obtained for certain things and fines were levied by the synagogues for breaking the rules, even inadvertently.  And more rules and regulations were being added all the time.  There were hundreds and hundreds of pages of rules that told the people what they could and could not eat, what they could and could not drink, what they could and could not wear, what they could and could not do from sundown to sundown.

            Of course they were ancient amateurs.  Our tax code is not hundreds and hundreds of pages; it is 73,000 pages, and good luck keeping all of those rules and regulations.

            Still, as with so many things, in one sentence Jesus set the whole thing on its ear.  (It is like the old hymn the British played at Yorktown when they surrendered to those rabble Americans.  “The World Turned Upside Down.”  That was what Jesus did regularly in a word.  He turned the world upside down).  So here Jesus said the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.  In short, the people could decide, each for themselves, how to keep the Sabbath without the need for any outsider imposing a bunch of stupid rules and regulations. 

            And for us?  Are our kings made for us, do our officials belong to us and are answerable to us, or are we in need of them to impose a bunch of stupid rules and regulations on us so we become no more than slaves to our kings?  I do not doubt the “good intentions” of all these city, state and federal officials and I do not doubt the road they are paving and where it leads, but the best thing these kings could do is get the harness off our backs.  Jesus was the master of breaking harnesses.  Take my yoke, he said, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.


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