The message for today was not exactly as the text is printed. I went off script a few times. My ear microphone piece went dead and I just grabbed the regular mic and went with that. It sort of threw me a bit, but after I took the mic in my hand and held it I was fine. It seems that speaking into a mic and getting it close enough to pick up without shouting makes it hard for me to follow my script. At any rate, you are getting the original intent of the message if not the part with all the little extras in it.
The scriptures used today were: mainly Luke 13:10-17 with Hebrews 12:18-29 and Jeremiah 1:4-10 in the background. The title or focus was supposed to be “God’s Healing.”
Here is what the original script was:
Tonight marks the closing of the 31st Modern Olympics. I am actually ready to say hurrah because I will be free to do things other than sit glued to the television. I understand that no one was forcing me to watch, but it is one of those things that I enjoy doing and since they are only once every four years, it has been a real treat to take them in this year. Being a women’s advocate since I was young and someone who started high school about the same time title IX was passed in 1972. And since it (title IX) began being seriously implemented in our area when I was in college I really enjoyed this year’s Olympics. It seems, and one of the commentators even brought it up, that this was the year of the US woman at the Olympics. And, OK, I will confess that one of my, well not nick names, but a term I was given in college by some of the guys in my college graduating class was a female chauvinist. Now that we have that established I can get to my point.
So as much as you can get things on the internet, I wasn’t able to find an exact update, for this morning, but I dug this out in a story on Saturday afternoon. As of 4 p.m. on Saturday, according to an article I found, the US had 107 medals. Just a bit over half of them by the woman, not such a big deal, really, but in the gold the total was well over 50 percent by the women. I guess the proportion becomes far more obvious when you look back to the 1900s, and you read that in the 30’s if a female competitor was caught tipping a bubbly in celebration, she was removed from the team. In light of the debacle by a few of the male swimmers, that might need to be a general rule in the future.
I start with these facts to show what sort of world we live in. We have or at least are beginning to move past the idea of gender inequality issues, or the idea that one gender is necessarily above or below the other. We live in a time where our daughters are not hindered in terms of what field they are encouraged or even allowed to enter. They can do or be almost anything they desire, but that was not the case in the time of Jesus, and sometimes even though we know this to be a fact, we need to be reminded of it when we study certain of the stories. We need to look at our lesson, like we are taught in college education classes, from the known to the unknown in order to grasp what we are studying. In order to get the full measure of this lesson, we need today, to be reminded of the status of women in the past. We remember that when Jesus saw in the temple was it was in the outer area, and not in the more inner part of the building in which only men were allowed to go.
In fact, before I get totally off the Olympic thing, I should mention that though the young women in our country have these freedoms not every country does, and some not for as long. One case in point was the story of the young man from South Africa who won the 400 meters. His mother was an outstanding athlete, but was never allowed to participate in the Olympics because women were not allowed to compete outside of their country.
And when you think about it, we have not always had these advantages here. As we go back to when track and field first began in the high schools in our area, boys’ meets and girls’ meets were held on separate days in separate places. I only remember one meet, and that was the Aberdeen Relays in which the girls and the boys competed at the same place on the same day. Even in college we were mostly separate. Of course I am showing my age. My freshman year was the first year girls were allowed to run the 800, and it took a couple of years more before we had the mile, and hurdling was another story in itself. I remember studying women’s sports in college and learning that there were some people who felt women should never be allowed to hurdle because doing it would damage a woman’s insides to the point that she would never be able to have children. I guess we have come pretty far.
Ok, so all of that aside, the point of our scripture lesson is that when Jesus healed the woman who Luke mentions in this chapter, it wasn’t just about healing someone who was infirmed, it wasn’t just about healing someone on the Sabbath, though that was a pretty big deal in this story, it was really about healing someone on the fringes of society, someone who really didn’t matter, someone who a true religious leader might not have bothered with. And so there we are again, at the very basis of the ministry of Jesus, to come to those who are left out, over looked and considered nobodies by the world around them. Jesus died for all of us.
Let’s stop here, take a time out. Look up, look around. How much of the sanctuary are you able to see from your seat? As you twist and turn, you can pretty much see the whole building if you desire to turn that much. If you were to get up, and we will at the end of this conversation, you could/can/will walk out in any direction you wish and see any number of corners of the church building or even of the world outside. Let’s pause for a minute to look at the woman who receives the healing from Jesus in the story in Luke 13. (Demonstrate a bent over statue)
She is bent over and sees, likely nothing more than the 4×4 or 6×6 areas in front of her. I won’t try to compare myself to her too much, but after a half hour of bending over looking for cucumbers or trying to get between the rows of beans that I planted way to close together again, I can feel my back wanting to stay in this position for longer than I would prefer. How miserable that is, and how awful this woman must have felt every day, not to say what she was missing in life by not being able to stand up and see the world.
Because of her situation, this woman is not just infirmed, she is not just sick, she is not just lame or ill, she is marginalized. Just like many of the others that Jesus took the time to heal: the blind, the lame, the lepers, the demon possessed, the woman with the continuous hemorrhage, they were all marginalized, meaning they were ostracized to the edge of society. They were outcasts because of something that had happened to them, which for the most part was out of their control. Yet Jesus took the time to heal them, to comfort them, to care about them.
Last week we discussed how Jesus taught his disciples that following him would cause rifts within families and with those closest to them. We heard that loving our neighbors, as Jesus teaches us to, and in the way that he does can cause us rifts with those around us who think we should only love those who are like us. In this lesson today, it is clear that the Jewish religious leaders didn’t approve of that sort of love. This woman that Jesus healed didn’t even ask to be healed, but because he noticed her and had compassion on her, he reached out and made her whole. How easy it would have been for him to keep walking. How easy it would have been for him to ignore what he saw and think that since it was the Sabbath and it was not quite time for him to be finish his work on earth, he could have moved on, but he couldn’t ignore this woman who needed him, this woman who was a no body to any one and who certainly was not of any importance to the leaders so why bother. He did it because he loved her, just as he loves each of us.
And then when he healed her and the leader of the synagogue started throwing a fit, he has the most wonderful answer for them. He asks them if they ever untie one of their animals from eating at the manger on the Sabbath and take to drink. Of course they had to say yes because it would be considered cruel not to feed or water their animals, yet that could be considered work. I have to tell you a story on James’ family. Keeping the Sabbath is still followed fairly strictly in their area. You won’t see them in the field or the shop on their farms, and apparently in the early years a few of the families were so strict that they did not milk on Sundays. James’ dad said there was a limit to what was right and what was not, and he felt that not milking your animals on Sunday no matter how religious you were was just plain cruel. This is the point that Jesus was making.
Again going from known to unknown, Jesus then asked the temple leaders (after he called them hypocrites) how it was ok to feed or water an animal while allowing a child of God to remain imprisoned by the bondage of Satan. And in a little side note: with that question, he lets us know that all the evil and sin and harshness of the world comes through the Power of evil and not from God. And then Jesus lets them know that of all days that people should be freed from the bondage of evil, it should be on the Sabbath. In other words it isn’t so much that we should be at rest, but we should be allowed to rest, we should be free of all evil and ills and things that drag us down. Now wouldn’t that be nice?
In our reading from Jeremiah we learned how God chose and sent Jeremiah to be a prophet, even when he thought he wouldn’t be able to speak, God gave him the words and the abilities to do as he was asked, and so God is able to work through us to do and we are needed to go where ever we are needed. In the lesson in Hebrews, we read of a change from the old laws and rules to the new covenant in Christ and then in the final verses we hear: “Therefore since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; for indeed God is a consuming fire.”
Our time of worship, our day of worship, if we are to really hear Jesus is not singularly and simply about following the laws of Sabbath or any other laws, but it is about freedom from evils, freedom from being marginalized, as in freedom from being pushed away. Being with Christ, being in Christ and having Christ in us is what Jesus wants for us, that is the healing Jesus brought to this earth and that is what he wants us to share with all those around us. Standing up, being able to stand up and see all those around us who need God’s love and compassion, that is what Jesus was telling the temple leaders is the real meaning of Sabbath. May we go with that idea on our minds today and everyday and not just that we think about it, but that we also act on it. Go this week being ready to share God’s healing love when the opportunity arises. Amen.