Emmaus Celebration for Sunday: October 23rd, 2016.
Theme: Our pilgrimage is a walk toward freedom
Perhaps the most liberating of all the Jesus stories and perhaps the one I am called to at this time of our history is the story of the woman who is set free from her infirmity. We all know the one - how Jesus understood her, called her from the women's section in the synagogue and set her free - breaking all the rules of the Sabbath set up by the chief priests. And then Jesus has the gall to call her a Daughter of Abraham -- meaning she shares fully and equally in the life of the community. What a revolution in thought!
She symbolizes, for me, the fate of women in this world who have been bent down and excluded from so many places - including in our church structures. This evening we celebrate liberation!
Here's the reading which I hope will inspire us to discuss our own liberation.
Luke 13:10-17: Jesus Heals a Crippled Woman on the Sabbath
10 On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues,
11 and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit of infirmity for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all.
For eighteen years all she could see was dirt. There had been different kinds of dirt, it was true;
but it was still dirt. Sometimes the dirt was dry and dusty filling her lungs and making her choke.
Sometimes the dirt was muddied and thick, coating the feet of all who passed her by.
Sometimes the dirt smelled of human waste and animal waste, making it difficult not to vomit
the small amount of bread she had managed to swallow. For eighteen years all she could do
was see dirt. With each day that passed she could feel herself move closer to becoming part
of the very dirt that had so covered her world.
Her body was twisted and bent. Her eyes looked forever into the dirt. But she remembered a
time so long ago now, of white desert flowers and skies bursting with the light of the heavens.
She remembered a time so long ago now, of happiness in children’s eyes, of love, and
possibilities, of another’s touch and the warmth of human relationship.
In silence she suffered for 18 years feeling only shame in her affliction. Her twisted body could
only be a curse from God, a judgement for some unknown wrong. No sound of complaint
came from her lips; She filled her mouth with only the daily rhythm of her prayers. But hard as
she tried, the woman could not control the ever present ache in her heart. It happened on the
Sabbath day, outside the synagogue where Jesus was teaching, that from the depths of an
aching and broken heart came the suffering cry of the beggar.
Jesus began to teach. Unlike any other man she had ever heard before, Jesus spoke with
authority and compassion. For the first time in her life, someone explained the Scriptures in a
way that made sense to her. He explained spiritual truths with everyday examples that made his teaching come alive.
“Oh I wish I could see his face,” she silently prayed. No sooner had the words raced across her mind, when Jesus stopped. She could not see him, but he could see her. A hush fell over the room.
“Woman, come forward,” he instructed. She turned sideways in order to see to whom he was speaking. “He’s talking to you,” her neighbor whispered. “He’s looking right at you.”
She wasn’t exactly sure what she should do. Jesus was asking her to leave the women’s section of the synagogue and walk up the steps that separated the women from the men. He was calling her into forbidden territory. After a few moments of internal struggle, faith overcame fear and the woman was out of her seat. She couldn’t see their faces, but she knew all eyes were on her slow, dragging gait forward.
Women gasped at her courage. Men glared at her audacity. Both parted as Mariah passed through.
After many long moments of painful struggle, Mariah finally arrived at the front of the crowd – center stage. Jesus bent down, placed his hand on the mountain that had become her. She felt warmth surge through her frozen muscles as years of stiffness melted away.
“Woman,” he spoke, “You are set free from your infirmity.” The bent over woman was free. She was made free by Jesus the teacher, Jesus the healer, Jesus the liberator.
13 Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.
His hand touched her and she was no longer alone. Drawn by the connecting touch of the Liberator, she was filled with a power she had never known. The sound of his voice filled her Slowly her eyes moved upward. She became tall again. Her arms once hanging only inches from the dirt began to reach high for the mysteries of the heavens. Her body uncurled like a tree in spring. With body erect and arms opening to gather in all the wonders of creation, the woman began to sing the praises of the Spirit and to dance and to touch the people around her with deep affection in her heart. She was finally free of the demon that had twisted her body and held her captive.
“And the woman praised God”
But not everyone was happy for the woman who had been healed. In fact, the priests of the synagogue were deeply shocked, their hearts frozen in fear. They took the easy way out. They cited the law:
14 Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.”
15 The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water?
And then Jesus said something revolutionary. He called the now liberated woman a daughter of Abraham, not a son, or a child but a daughter which elevated her and made her fully equal.
16 Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?”
17 When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.
When Jesus saw her he called her forward. “Woman you are fully free”.