Sermon Notes 082122
Suggested Lectionary Texts
Jeremiah 1:4-10, Psalm 71:1-6, Hebrews 12:18-29, Luke 13:10-17
4 Now the word of the LORD came to me saying, 5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” 6 Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” 7 But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you. 8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.” 9 Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the LORD said to me, “Now I have put my words in your mouth. 10 See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”
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 \aa5:6from 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.
After several weeks of harsh prophecies from Amos, Hosea, and Isaiah that made us uncomfortable, today we heard from Jeremiah and we are comforted by the understanding that God is with us. It is written that John Wesley’s final words were “best thing of all, God is with us.” We love to celebrate that God is with us and we are not alone. This is a powerful message that we should celebrate today and always.
So, the question for us to consider this week is how much of your lives are we really willing to surrender to God? One the one hand we celebrate our independence, on the other hand we surrender ourselves to God. Yet God chooses to use the gifts that are within us to direct our paths. This means that God works with us, with the best in us, to help us fulfill our calling and our potential. Like Hosea and his desire to love us into wholeness, Jeremiah claims that God knows us into service and witness. Through the Holy Spirit, God works within us to make us what we already are and to grow into what we will be.
In Psalm 139:13-14 we read, 13 For you created my inner being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made, your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. 17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! 18 Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand— when I awake, I am still with you.
As part of my candidacy process, I spent much time discerning my call. One of the activities through which I was most enlightened was creating my river of life. In this activity I was asked to think/draw my river beginning with my birth. During this process, I examined how my river changed directions (i.e. going to college, getting married), when my river flowed freely and when I had obstacles blocking my path, when my river became wider and when branches diverged into different directions. Along the way, I was asked to indicate my relationship with God along the way and to add the names of those who help direct my journey. All of this work led me to consider how and where God was leading me.
So what does it mean to be called by God? We readily celebrate our life and partnership with God, our creator and our parent. How does God speak to us? How do we know God’s direction in our lives? There is a lot of uncertainty about how this works. Jeremiah and all the prophets make it sound like there are voices in the night. And maybe for some, there are. But for most of us, there is a warm heart, or a persistent urge, or something that brings tears or hope. For me, I felt this nudging in my soul that it was time for me to sing a new song through preaching the Word. In all of these ways, God through the Spirit, makes God’s will known for our lives. Because God knows us so intimately, God is always on our side.
As we move forward to Jesus in our passage in Luke, we find Jesus teaching in one of the synagogues. The passage doesn’t specify where they are, but we should note that Jesus is still welcome into some synagogues despite the rising opposition from the Pharisees.
This woman is afflicted with a spirit of infirmity which implies that her physical condition of being bent over was due to some spiritual cause which filled her with pain and humiliation.
Listen as Charles Spurgeon, noted theologian describes her: “For eighteen years she had not gazed upon the sun; for eighteen years no star of night had gladdened her eye; her face was drawn downward towards the dust, and all the light of her life was dim: she walked about as if she were searching for a grave, and I do not doubt she often felt that it would have been gladness to have found one.”
Now imagine standing and looking out on a crowd, who do you see? Maybe you’ve done this when you were searching for someone you were to meet or someone who was lost. You see the tall, the strong, but what about those who are hidden by the crowd. Who sees the meek or the small: “the least of these”? Christ, in the midst of his teaching, saw the woman and immediately called her forward. The needs of this woman are most important at this moment. Christ stops and devotes his being to this woman. This woman, who is known only as “the bent woman”. Think for a moment how we react when we see someone with an infirmity, we typically look away so as to not be rude, but Jesus’ eyes locked with this woman and gave her the hope that allowed her to slowly move towards him.
Let’s consider the Laying on of hands.
“Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity”: Jesus spoke a word of both compassion and authority to the woman. He also laid His hands on her, giving a compassionate touch. This woman went to synagogue this day tied within her bondage. Could she have imagined that she would be freed? Did she go to synagogue every week? What was her expectation? Had anyone ever attempted to heal her?
“He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God”: Jesus showed His complete mastery of illness and disease and deformity, no matter if the cause were spiritual or physical. “He might have called to her from a distance, and said, ‘Be healed,’ but he did not, for he wished to show his special sympathy with such a sad case of suffering.” (Spurgeon)
In immediate response to the healing came the indignation of the ruler of the synagogue. It may surprise us that the ruler of the synagogue was so upset at such a wonderful miracle, but it is important to remember how strongly many of the Jewish people held to their Sabbath laws and customs. He was angry “because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath”. (Sabbath means rest and liberation, not only for God’s people but also for the ‘ox and the donkey’ that Jesus mentions. He argues here from the lesser to the greater; if you are prepared to offer Sabbath rest to your animals, surely you cannot withhold this from a person? The Sabbath itself is a reminder of the release from captivity that God has effected—and so Jesus’ release of this woman is a sign of the new Sabbath as a result of the new Exodus that Jesus will accomplish (Luke 9.31).)
“He,” the ruler, “said to the crowd”: He had not even the courage to speak directly to Jesus. He addressed his protest to the waiting people, although it was meant for Jesus.
a. Hypocrite! Jesus did not respond with gentleness. With authority he confronted the ruler of the synagogue who valued extreme extensions of Biblical commands more than the compassionate and life-changing power of Jesus to heal a long-afflicted woman. The rules of Sabbath are written by man as an interpretation of the commandments given to Moses.
Jesus’ reply was simple. If you can help an animal on the Sabbath, why can’t you also help a suffering person on the Sabbath? “The word ‘loose,’ as referring to the untying of the livestock, anticipates a play on words in v. 16; the woman ‘was loosed’ from her sickness.”
Jesus gave several compelling reasons why it was appropriate to show her mercy, and more appropriate than helping a distressed animal.
· She was a woman – made in the image of God, worthy of more care and concern.
· She was a daughter of Abraham, a Jewish woman, with a covenant connection to Abraham. This may also indicate that she was a woman of faith, as well as her attendance at synagogue.
· She was one whom Satan had bound, and every day is a good day to oppose the work of Satan and to set free his captives.
· She was afflicted for eighteen years, long enough to suffer greatly and to draw forth the compassion of Jesus and others. In a moment of looking into her eyes, Jesus knew this woman and all that she had endured.
d. So ought not this woman… be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath? Jesus used a strong word in the ancient Greek language; the idea was more that she must be loosed than she ought to be loosed.
e. All His adversaries were put to shame; and all the multitude rejoiced: The woman was so obviously healed, and the ruler of the synagogue was so obviously wrong that all rejoiced in Jesus’ victory.
Before we leave this story, let’s consider the woman once more. Imagine hearing maybe for the first time that you are worthy of God’s love. When Jesus calls her a daughter of Abraham, how many walls came tumbling down. For me, the waterworks would have been unstoppable.
For a moment, let’s enter her being: She has been broken and beaten down with pain and physical deformity. Children would make fun of her. Others have rejected her. When this goes on month after month, year after year, she began to think less of herself. She saw herself as hopeless, a failure, a cripple, as defeated, as small in our own eyes and in the eyes of others. And then to hear Jesus call her, “my daughter,” “daughter of Abraham,” “child of God,” It had to be so overwhelming and encouraging. Maybe I am a real person after all! If Jesus loves me, then I can be someone to be proud of. I can change. I can leave the past behind. If God is for me, then who can be against me? “Daughter of Abraham,” you’ve been bent over too long. Stand up, hold your head up and your healed back erect, for you are a child of God!
Wow! What about Jesus! Love just pours out of him, almost as if he can’t help it. He can’t help noticing the invisible ones, can’t help loving them, can’t help healing them. In the case of the bent-over woman, Jesus reaches out to heal without even being asked. He sees her, sees not just the obvious thing – that she cannot stand up straight. He sees whatever spirit has been keeping her life bent. He sees the totality of her suffering: the humiliation of her ailment, the way it has set her apart into a prison of loneliness. He sees how other people look away when she comes into their line of vision. He sees the emotional as well as the physical pain she suffers. He sees the whole picture, sees that she is too timid or too afraid or too hopeless to ask for healing.
Just as he sees the same things about each of us, sees deep into our need, sees what sometimes we cannot even see ourselves, that our anger at other people is so often really anger at ourselves, that we’re often afraid to look inside ourselves because we know there’s a lot of garbage there that we’d rather not deal with. He sees that the good front we sometimes put on when we’re out in public, even here in church, is often a cover-up for the hurts we have suffered over the years – the rejections, the disappointments, the betrayals, the failures, the losses, the fears. He sees the ugly stuff inside us – ugly things others have done to us, ugly things we have done to ourselves, ugly things we have done to others, ugly things that were nobody’s fault, but just happened.
He sees it all and, just as he did to the bent-over woman, he calls us over to him. He says to us, “Come here to me. Let me put my hands on you and heal you. Let me take all that is bent and crooked in your life and make it straight and strong. Let me wipe away all the ugliness inside you. You are a child of Abraham, you are God’s child, you are loved without limit, without reservation, without condition.
“I love you,” Jesus says. “I love you. I love you. I love you.”
As we rejoice with the Daughter of Abraham we must now return to our opening question, “How much, O Lord?” How much are we willing to give to God? Are you ready to give your life fully to Christ?
Father, when we read a story like this, we realize afresh that Jesus is motivated by love — nothing else. And he lets nothing and no one stand in the way of his love. He loves a deformed woman and she straightens up immediately. He calls her “Daughter of Abraham” and she knows restoration. Lord, we need that love, too. We need that assurance. Maybe it’s a sign of our own weakness and insecurity, but I think it is more a sign of our love for you and need for you. Thank you so much for challenging Satan’s hold on me and setting me free. In the glorious name of Jesus, I pray. Amen and Amen!
Benediction: Creator God, remind us of your great love for all people, and especially for those who are oppressed in mind, body, or spirit. Grant us courage to take our stand for them and with them each day. In Jesus’ name, Amen.