Uniquely Positioned for Healing

Wesley Chapel Episcopal Church, Wesley Chapel, FL
Preacher: The Rev. Adrienne R. Hymes
August 25, 2019
Proper 16C: Luke 13:10-17

Posted by Wesley Chapel Episcopal Church on Sunday, August 25, 2019

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

“I am the Lord your God who brought you out of bondage. You shall have no other Gods but me…Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.”[1]

Days after I had been ordained, friends and family had returned to their homes and I was so looking forward to a Monday of quiet time with the Lord resting and reading scripture—my first Sabbath Day as a priest! And on that Monday morning a text came through at 6:00 am from the chaplain at Moffitt Cancer Center requesting an Episcopal priest to administer the Sacrament of the Sick for a dying cancer patient.

I stared at that text, longer than I should have, thinking to myself, “Oh my goodness, you’ve only been a priest for a few days and you’re already over-functioning.” And then, I thought about the numerous times, when I was a hospital chaplain, when I witnessed the hurt and disappointment of patients and families who had called for their own spiritual leader to walk with them in their time of need, and so often at the end of their lives, and no one showed up.

This Episcopalian couple had no church home, no priest of their own to call on, but they called for their church to show up for them.  So, this brand-new priest, suited up, packed my BCP and anointing oil and went to the bedside. Showing up as the embodied love of Christ, proved to be a mutual blessing. And, in service to God’s beloved, at that bedside, my spirit experienced Sabbath—a holy space of rest and worship and peace in the Lord. Sometimes, you just need to show up!

The crippled woman in our passage today showed up at the synagogue, where Jesus was teaching, presumably to worship on the Sabbath Day. The scripture does not say that the woman came to the synagogue to seek healing or even to ask Jesus to heal her. She had been crippled for 18 years after all, and perhaps she had accepted her enslavement by her illness. The crowd in the synagogue, including the woman, would not have expected healings to take place in adherence to the Law.

Scriptures in Exodus and Deuteronomy[2] operating in the devout Jews’ lives stated, “For six days you shall labour and do all of your work. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work…”.

There were six days on which healing could be done in the synagogue, and yet the need to alleviate human suffering was ever present. One would assume that those needs had always been there, but the difference on this Sabbath was that the healing balm, Jesus, was teaching in their midst.

It was Jesus who initiated engagement with the woman. He noticed her with what one of my mentor’s calls compassionate curiosity. Jesus was curious about a fellow human being’s struggle, and instead of ignoring her, or assuming that she was fine, he acted on his curiosity.

Not one person, Jesus pointed out, would refuse to untie their ox or donkey so that it could drink water, and yet a woman, a human being, a daughter of Abraham—one of their own—would be denied that which would restore her body and unbind her spirit—on the day set aside as Holy unto God—human compassion was absent.

And Jesus’ actions in pronouncing her healing and conferring blessing by laying his hands on her, immediately freed her from her illness and immediately ignited a crisis. This crisis angered the leader of the synagogue who admonished the people, and in a passive aggressive way, scolded Jesus for blatantly ignoring the law.

The synagogue leader was right. On that seventh day, Jesus labored. But the type of laboring Jesus did could not be perceived by the synagogue leader. Jesus did not come to destroy the law; he came to fulfill it. He saw Jesus performing healing work, but he was so blinded by the letter of the Law that he missed the miracle in the fulfillment of the law through Jesus’ labor.

Jesus’ healing was a labor of love which reflected the fullness of God’s law, grounded in God’s essence—the essence of Jesus. The healing of the crippled woman had to happen so that she, with a newly-freed spirit, could experience true Sabbath rest and worship, along with her community.

This points to the last parts of the Deuteronomy and Exodus scriptures, which extended this day of restfulness to all human beings and animals used as beasts of burdens so that they, “may rest as you do.”[3] The rest is intended for all of God’s creatures.

The message for us is clear. Care for humans who are suffering is critical, and on that Sabbath Day, Jesus reacted with urgency. His reaction resulted in a woman, once hunched over, standing up straight, with her reclaimed dignity as a daughter of Abraham, and her praise to God. And, we can be instruments of God’s grace which cause others to stand up straight and reclaim their dignity as children of God.

How often do we miss miracles unfolding before our eyes, and become complicit in the spiritual bondage of others because we are bound by legalistic obligations and not by our Baptismal Covenant, which compels us to respect the dignity of every human being.

Perhaps you showed up to church today—on this Sabbath—seeking healing. An inner spirit of shame, guilt, unforgiveness, resentment, self-centeredness, anger or jealousy, can cripple an individual for years, even a lifetime.  In the midst of all of the souls that surround us, Jesus sees the bondage of the inescapable human condition of suffering.

And, just as he saw the woman in the synagogue, and called out to her, he calls out to each one of us to pronounce freedom from whatever crippling spirit that binds you, and reaches out, to confer his blessing with the laying on of his loving hands upon you.

The woman showed up to the synagogue without any expectation for healing, and she was uniquely positioned for healing from the source of all healing. How much more are we able to live deeply in Christ when we expect His presence and His healing?

Whoever you are and wherever you find yourself on your journey of faith, expect that you will meet Jesus when you show up. Show up in faithful individual and communal prayer; show up in your church; show up in your community and workplace; show up so that you may be reminded that through your faith in Jesus Christ, you have been set free from ailments that keep you from living life abundantly.

As carriers of the Gospel message we are to bring the healing message that sets free that which is bound. Let us labor on in love. And, in this journey of life-long healing in the Lord—each day, may we be empowered by the Holy Spirit to stand up straight and praise God Almighty without ceasing.

Amen.

[1] Decalogue II, BCP, p. 350

[2] Ex. 20:9-10, Deut. 5:13-14

[3] Deut. 5:13-14