Posted on Sun, Aug 21, 2016
August 21, 2016
Gospel Text: Luke 13:10-17
Jesus Heals a Crippled Woman
10 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, ‘Woman, you are set free from your ailment.’ 13 When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. 14 But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the Sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, ‘There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the Sabbath day.’ 15 But the Lord answered him and said, ‘you hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the Sabbath day?’ 17 When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.
Have you ever had an experience you felt was ‘meant just for you to experience?’ An event or experience you couldn't have planned for but after the fact, it felt that this particular experience was intentionally planned FOR YOU, FOR A REASON, by someone, by God, by fate… I think every person we meet, every experience we have, and everything we see, hear, taste or feel becomes a part of who we are. That makes every moment in our lives precious and an opportunity to learn, be blessed, be taught, and made stronger and hopefully wiser. It also tells us that it is very important to be aware and mindful of all that is going on around you. There may be important messages in our experiences. In Greek this is called, ‘kairos,’ meaning: “opportunity,” “season,” or “fitting time.” Or ‘a propitious moment for decision or action.’
I think about this truth all the time, and sometimes it really helps me to focus on what is important right now, or what I can leave alone and leave for later. When we are not focused, balanced or aware of what is really going on, little issues can become meaningless mountains and energy will be wasted on issues that really don't matter much to you or anyone else.
For example; recently, we purchased a new bed; it is really nice made of real wood, not particleboard! The guys from the store came to our house, late; they put it together and then rushed off. Whoosh! I thought everything was good, until Yuriko discovered one of the drawers was stuck. A little while later, I also noticed that the bed is not straight and wasn't put together properly. How could they miss this and just leave? Aargh! Now I have to call the company, have more guys come over and fix it… why can’t people get it right the first time… aargh!
And on another day, right when I need my copier to connect and communicate with my computer, again… it decided not to cooperate; no matter what it was advertised to do… Another, Aargh!
And then, as is everyday, my computer was going so slow in my office and I was on a ‘deadline!’ COME ON COMPUTER!
As these “issues” were boiling in my head, I was preparing to drive to the Hawaii Kai Retirement Community for Prayer Circle. Just as I was pulling out of the parking lot, I came out of my self-induced pity-party and looked up to a long line of ever-growing number of people waiting to receive food at Angel Network. Now, that was an issue that needed attention… the problem of hunger, houseless-ness, care for our seniors, these were real issues that ‘ought to’ have been filling my mind.
Also, at that the very same moment, I was listening to NPR to a story about the little boy rescued from a bombed out building in Syria sitting expressionless in an ambulance. The photo of the boy was going viral, and people were wondering what was it about this particular photo of the injured child, that finally got the attention of the western media?
The story was about a wounded 5-year-old named Omran Daqneesh covered in dust and blood. http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/08/18/490461992/a-wounded-child-in-aleppo-silent-and-still-shocks-the-world#
I listened to a doctor in Aleppo talking about how strange it was that it took this one particular photo of this injured boy to finally attract the attention of the western nations to the suffering caused by this tragic war. The doctor said, “I see dozens of children are killed or maimed by Syrian ‘Barrel Bombs’ everyday, and until this photo of this boy was published no one from the west has reacted.” Towards the end of the story, the journalist added rather cynically that, “the photo will be viral for a day or two, then we in the west will get bored or distracted again by some gaffe by Donald Trump, or what Kim Kardashian just tweeted.” This too, is a tragic “First World Problem” I thought…
By the way, since the photo of the boy was released, his brother has since died. https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search;_ylt=AwrTcdhjZLZXwucAADoPxQt.;_ylu=X3oDMTByNWU4cGh1BGNvbG8DZ3ExBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzYw--?p=Syrian+War+Casualty+Statistics+2016&fr=yhs-iry-fullyhosted_011&hspart=iry&hsimp=yhs-fullyhosted_011#id=11&vid=dd894169eaa9f623ca17a490d8fb25a4&action=view
At that moment, I realized that I was just given a very important teachable moment; A Kairos moment. Just a little earlier I was fretting about a slightly crooked bed, making a paper copy that I probably didn't really need, a slow computer, and so many other insignificant issues. But seeing the hungry and hearing about the innocent children dying, reminded me of the issues I OUGHT to have been thinking about. The things Jesus has called us to do, feed the hungry, comfort the afflicted, clothe the naked, teach grace and mercy with authority, and speak boldly for acts of justice.
In today’s text, Jesus healed a woman because she was terribly handicapped, Jesus was present, and BECAUSE HE COULD heal her. The issue wasn't the particular day; the issue was her need to be healed and the fact that Jesus had the power to do something, to do what he OUGHT to do, at that very moment. (Luke likes the word, “ought.”)
If you read Luke chapter 13, you will read about Jesus teaching because of some rather uncomfortable or difficult questions. But in today’s Gospel, Jesus enters a village and there is an immediate healing. It seems as if it was meant for her and Jesus to be in a specific place at that specific moment. It appears that Jesus appears in front of her SO THAT, Jesus could heal her on a day that Jesus knew would make the local ‘ruler’ of the synagogue upset. It was a ‘teachable moment’ for everyone. Let’s call it one of those “God Moments,” a Kairos Moment, because it was moment where God in Christ Jesus, makes the circle of mercy and grace a little bit bigger for everyone, regardless of the rules or stature, but by acting according to what he ought to have done in the moment. Jesus makes it clear that showing compassion and doing justice are more important than the Law. It was not a moment for excuses as to why he couldn't or shouldn't heal her; it was a moment where God in Christ Jesus had to act … Even on the Sabbath. Luther would say, “if you are going to sin at a time like this, Sin boldly!” The moment was a perfect “teaching moment.”
12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, ‘Woman, you are set free from your ailment.’ 13 When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God.
Luke tells us that, “a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years.” The number eighteen really just means, “a very long time.” Her ailment kept her bent over and probably unable to do most of the things anyone else could do. She was trapped in her “bent-over body.” But the healing was sudden and beautiful.
So, when Jesus said, ‘Woman, you are set free from your ailment!’ It must have felt like she was being set free from that broken body. But now she was HEALED, SHE WAS RELEASED, and SHE WAS FREE! And what did she do? She immediately began praising God. I wonder how she praised God? After being set free, there must have been movement, singing and many surprised faces surrounding her … “How could that have come about?” The people must have thought.
I must admit, as I was getting ready for this sermon, I found myself siding with the ruler of the synagogue, and taking issue with Jesus. There is a reason for keeping the Sabbath. For the ruler of the synagogue, keeping the Sabbath was tied to their very identity as the People of God, the People of Abraham and Moses. When they kept the Sabbath, they were telling the world, that God was more important than work or wealth, and this is how you show your faith, by Re-Create your person through rest, just as God did after Creation. No other culture in the region thought this way. Keeping the Sabbath was part of their identity as the People of Israel.
We have created this busy unbalanced, Sabbath-Free, life-style. This is a very real “First World Problem.” We only value people who seem to be able to multi-task, work 36 hours a day, eight days a week with no vacation … Almost every time I ask someone, “how are you doing?” I either receive an, “ugh,” or “I am sooo busy!” or if they are retired, “I’m more busy with my kids now!” We admire the martyr that works so hard for some other persons company…
So, in light of the crazy demands and skewed values of our present society, the ruler of the synagogue was making catching my ear…
But that is not the message Luke would have for the new church. The Sabbath is important, it is a great gift created for our wellbeing. But we weren’t created FOR the Sabbath. We are no longer servants of the Law, it has been fulfilled in Christ, our responsibility is to be the Body of Christ now, in order to live according faith and thankfulness, by caring for the hungry, suffering, lonely, and rejected, just like Jesus did. The Church is the Body of Christ, and in today’s text, we see directly how we are to respond when there is suffering and need.
Jesus took a huge risk on that day. First, he knew it was the Sabbath and it was against the rules to work/heal, he knew the ruler of the synagogue would be upset, he even laid his hands on the woman which could have been construed of doing something that would deem him unclean.
Speaking up for the houseless, and the great wealth divide that continues to cause houseless-ness, inadequate schools, health care inequities, and even the caring of our environment can be thankless and even dangerous work.
Taking time to visit and care for those who cannot take care of themselves requires money, time and sometimes putting yourself in some very messy situations…
He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
But the rewards are priceless. When the woman was freed from her bent over body her very first reaction was to praise God! This is a teachable moment that focuses us on what is most important. In this holy place, at this moment we are the woman Jesus so quickly identified and then healed. Through the Cross of Christ we are healed and set free to be the People of God, worshiping, celebrating and doing God’s work through our hands. Amen.
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