Lifting the Burden

Scripture: Luke 13:10-17

Let us pray:

Guide our minds, our hearts, and our very lives, O Redeeming One, that we might find comfort in these stories of calling and healing; in your name we pray, Amen.

Sometimes stories in Scripture paint so vivid a picture that we can easily find ourselves somewhere in it. It may be as a bystander or a member of the crowd, listening and watching what is going on. It may be as one of the characters or subjects in the story. Sometimes, if our life circumstances are right, we might even find ourselves as one of the main characters.

Jeremiah was “but a boy” when God spoke to him, commissioned him, and sent him out. None-the-less, God spoke and Jeremiah listened, accepted his role, albeit with trepidation, and was sent out “to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” Jeremiah went out and faithfully witnessed, just as God sent him to do. Reading through the accounts, we find that it was not an easy job. Jeremiah witnessed the fall of Jerusalem, the royal family being killed and imprisoned, and a trail of tears as his people, Jeremiah included, were extirpated; force-marched, as it were, from their homes, their homeland, and taken to Babylon to live as migrants among other subjugated peoples under the watchful eye of the world empire at the time. But he also received word from God. Comforting words about a future where they return to their own lands, where each man will have a vineyard of his own, eating fruit from his own land. So in a sense, even though he was among the captured, extirpated, and subjugated, he spoke from within these bonds of a freedom yet to come, of a time and place where the burden would be lifted.

Then there is today’s story of Jesus in the Synagogue. If you found yourself in that narrative, where would you be? Would you be one of the members of the congregation, observing this miraculous teaching metaphor unfold before your very eyes? Just how close would you be to the action?

Maybe you are in the back, seeing Jesus, the Bent-over woman and the Synagogue leader from afar, not quite hearing the conversation. Suddenly there is a stir toward the front and the Bent-over woman (haven’t you seen her before?) is standing up straight and tall and shouting praises to God! You crane your neck to get a better look and see the profile of the Synagogue leader, frowning as he bends toward the profile of Jesus to say something, and Jesus responding.

Or, are you closer to the action? Maybe in the third row back where you are able to hear the guest Rabbi’s teaching clearly and watch the inflections on his face. Suddenly, you notice the Rabbi’s eyes – incredible eyes, like wells of eternity looking with deep love and compassion on that Bent-over woman over in the shadows. You know, the one that shuffles awkwardly around the village, always just barely seeing where she is going next – the one who can’t lift her head on her neck to look up at the colors of the sky or even at passers-by.

He calls her over and she makes her painful way to the center where the Teacher sits, then – he lays his hands on her! Immediately a look of wonder passes over her face and she stands up straight and tall and praises God! What is this? A miracle healing right here in our midst! O My God! Good Lord and Alleluia!

Of course, there may be other characters in this vignette that we identify with: perhaps the Synagogue leadership, used to doing things decently and in order, trying to remind Jesus that today is the Sabbath day, after all and shouldn’t we follow all the rules? There are six days to do work, rest is supposed to happen on the seventh!

Then there is Jesus, the guest preacher, the Radical Rabbi with a new take on the Kingdom of Heaven. Or, there is the Bent-over woman, herself. Perhaps you relate to her? Is there something that has bound you up for years? Something that has a hold on your life you can’t let go of on your own? Whether or not we identify with her on a personal level in this story, there is definitely something to be gleaned from reflecting more deeply on her story and her condition; after all this is a story of healing, of setting free, of loosing bonds. On a deeper level maybe

“We are like the woman bent over and unable to look up and see the sun. We know only the dust and dirt underneath our feet. We struggle to see the path before us by straining and twisting, because we cannot look straight ahead.”[1]

So writes commentator Emilie M. Townes; she goes on to say,

“To ask for healing helps us step into Jesus’ invitation to mend our souls as we mend creation. There will be times when we will “know” this in ways that are too profound for words or reason. There will also be times when God seems far off and the pathway unclear, but seek healing we must. We are inheritors of the gift of healing of the bent-over woman who stood up straight and began praising God.”[2]

Ronald P. Byars observes that this story seems to anticipate two questions Jesus asks that immediately follow in the Gospel narrative: One begins, “What is the kingdom of God like?” and the other is, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God?” This story, he writes,

“…Provide[s] a kind of picture of what the ultimate reign of God will be like. Where Jesus is, the kingdom is. Where Jesus is, things begin to be made right. His ministry provides a foretaste of the coming kingdom…if this is the ultimate future God is preparing for us, how might we contribute to some manifestation of it wherever we find ourselves?” [3]

So we are brought full circle – from one who is called, to those who are challenged, and back to a calling to go out into the world.

May all glory be unto the One who lived, died, and rose again for us, even Him who is the Christ. Amen? May it be so.

[1] Townes, Emilie M. Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary – Feasting on the Word – Year C, Volume 3: Pentecost and Season After Pentecost 1 (Propers 3-16).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Byars, Ronald P. Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary – Feasting on the Word – Year C, Volume 3: Pentecost and Season After Pentecost 1 (Propers 3-16).

Questions for Reflection

When are times that you are not open to God’s healing?  How does the knowledge of God’s love and care for you open you more to God’s healing?  How do you seek God as a refuge in your daily life?

Household Prayer: Morning

God of life and love, we come to this new day refreshed from the refuge of sleep and rest.  Sustain us in the coming hours, that we might return this evening, inspired by your witness in the world and having done your will.  Amen.

Household Prayer: Evening

Lord and keeper of our days, give us your rest this night.  Release from us the burdens of the day.  Awaken us, refreshed for your service at the dawn, upright in our praise and thanksgiving.  Amen.

About Scottrick

Parent ~ Pastor ~ Poet ~ Author
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