The Sunday Sermon – August 21, 2016 – Walking Upright
Sermon Proper 16 C 2016
+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
In the ancient world, evil spirits or demons were often understood to be the root cause of physical ailments and diseases. In some cases, it was thought that disease and physical deformity were punishment from God for sin. In some cases, they even thought that if a child was born with a problem, this was a result or punishment for their parents’ sins.
In our gospel this morning, we encounter our Lord teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. A woman appeared, we don’t know where from, but we are told that for 18 years she had been suffering under a disabling or crippling spirit, that caused her to walk bent over. She was unable to fully straighten herself and walk upright.
Our Lord called her over to himself and simply said “Woman, you are freed from your disability” and laid his hands on her. Immediately she was healed – she could stand up straight and in response to her healing she began to praise God.
The reason that Luke includes this story of Jesus healing is not really to demonstrate his power to heal. If you’ve made it this far in the Gospel, 13 chapters, and you’re still reading, you already know the power of God in Jesus to heal the sick and cure the lame. Rather, Luke includes this story for other reasons.
Jesus heals this woman on the Sabbath. As we’ve talked about before, the Sabbath, Saturday, was the seventh day, the day of rest. The commandment to Keep the Sabbath Holy meant that one couldn’t work on the Sabbath – bakers couldn’t bake, seamstresses couldn’t sew, and according to this “Ruler of the Synagogue”, the healer couldn’t heal. Actually, and perhaps even more shamefully, he rebuked not our Lord who had done the work of healing, but the woman who came to be healed! “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath” he told the sick.
But Jesus rebuked them, he called them hypocrites, who allow people to lead their livestock to water, but refuse to permit the healing of a daughter of Abraham on the Sabbath. Rightfully so he adversaries were put to shame, and the crowd rejoiced at the glorious things done by our Lord.
Even though the healing itself is not itself the chief point of the gospel this morning, I want us to have a closer look at it, and see what we might glean from it.
The first thing we notice is that the woman just appears. Hobbled over, unable to stand upright. She didn’t come to Jesus to heal her. Maybe she had heard of him, of his works, and his powers, but nowhere does it indicate in our text that she sought out healing from Jesus. I wonder, did she think of herself as in need of healing. Perhaps she didn’t like to be thought of as someone having a disability. One of those folks who refuse to ask for help, sometimes doing things which other think she couldn’t as a source of pride for herself.
But Jesus did notice. Jesus knew her ailment, her problems, and he knew her need. So he called her over to himself, and so she came. She responded to that voice by coming before him. He laid his healing hands on her, and she stood upright.
I want to suggest that there is a pattern in the healing of this woman which we might meditate on. Many of us walk around with disabilities, ailments if you like, that we don’t even realize. Some of us walk around with physical problems which we won’t go to a doctor to get looked into. We need to be mindful that God gave us the medical sciences and the intelligence to have skilled doctors as a gift.
But not everything that cripples us and keeps us from walking upright is a physical problem. Our problems can also moral, spiritual, and emotional. Sometimes these are the most difficult of all our problems to face. They might come from deeply held anxieties, fears, habits or addictions.
Socrates, and if you’re a Greek philosophy student, you’ll forgive me for taking him a little out of context, once said “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Hindsight, they say, is twenty-twenty. How often have we said that? How often have we said to ourselves, “if only I had realized beforehand”? The things that keep us from walking upright, living health lives are not just physical. They are moral, spiritual, and emotional. How often have our own short comings led to problems for us?
Perhaps the hardest thing of all is realizing that the problems which cripple us effect not only ourselves but the lives of those around us, even the ones we love. Too often we don’t recognize how serious our own crippledness is until it begins to affect others.
The hardest truth of all, which we need to understand today, is this: We can’t solve the crippledness of ourselves. Nor can we solve the crippledness of others. We can only seek forgiveness from God and those whom we effect, and most importantly, walk by faith in the grace of God, so that like the woman in our Gospel we can be healed, restored, and made to stand upright by the power of his love.
So what is keeping us from walking upright? Do we even know that we’ve got a problem? Are we willing to respond to the voice that is calling us to himself? Are we willing to let him into us, that he might lay his hands upon our hearts, and make whole.
The voice of Jesus is calling us – in Word, in the Sacraments – Calling us to himself that he might lay his hands – those wounded, scarred hands, those hands full of blessings and grace and love, upon us, to heal us. So that we might walk upright in his Kingdom, to the honor and glory of his God, and our God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.