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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

Sunday of Women's Liberation

Emmaus Celebration for Sunday: October 23rd, 2016.

Theme: Our pilgrimage is a walk toward freedom

Remember pilgrimage: a journey with deep meaning. When I think of pilgrimage today I think of our national pilgrimage – some might call it a walking nightmare of the presidential race that has lasted about one and a half years too long. I know lots of people who just couldn’t bear to watch another debate. They just wanted to escape the whole thing.

In thinking back through all the twists and turns and images from the endless news programs and papers and magazines. There is one image that stands out to me. It is from the 2nd debate and the specter of Donald Trump lurking behind Hillary Clinton. That really disturbed me because I thought it showed total disregard for her as a person and even the desire to physically dominate her – a tired male tactic of the bully.

I imagine that for every abused woman and child there is an image burned into their memories of a similar kind – a lurking male ready to do damage with an angry word or worse.

I know that many other people feel exactly the way I do and that’s a hopeful sign that we’re walking in the right direction – toward equal rights and dignity for women.

In thinking about this road toward liberation for women and for men it made me think of a revolutionary story from the New Testament about the twisted woman who walked on her pilgrimage every day seeing only dirt – having to turn to the side to see anything but the dusty road ahead of her.

She was in need of liberation for her body and her spirit and her liberator, our brother Jesus, came and freed her. He blessed her and touched her and she stood upright after two decades of looking at nothing but the dusty earth beneath her feet.

Importantly he called her Daughter of Abraham and in so doing recognized her and every woman as an equal. That was a revolution – a step too far on this pilgrimage for the chief priests at the time and for many men and women down through history.

The struggle for equality has been long and tortured. We cannot see the end of this pilgrimage. And so we walk on hopeful of a good outcome and lifted up by the words of Jesus: Rise and

stand straight now my love, unfurl your arms, grasp the sky and dance.

I call you sister, mother, divine, equal. Your faith has set you free.

Opening Song: City of God

Awake from your slumber

arise from your sleep

a new day is dawning

for all those who weep

The people in darkness

have seen a great light

the lord of our longing

has conquered the night


Let us build the city of God

may our tears

be turned into dancing

for the lord

our light and our love

has turned the night into day

We are sons of the morning,

we are children of day.

The one who has loved us

has brightened our way.

The lord of all kindness

has called us to be

a light for his people

to set their hearts free.

The Reading: Jesus lifts the woman up:

Perhaps the most liberating of all the Jesus stories and the one I’m 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 yearning for a cure, 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 the fate of women in this world who have been bent down, who do stoop labor in the fields, who often do two jobs and continue to be excluded from so many places - including in our Church structures. This Sunday we celebrate liberation!

Luke 13:10-17:

Jesus Heals a Crippled Woman on the Sabbath

On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, 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 she passed through.

After many long moments of painful struggle, the woman 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.

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:

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.”

Jesus 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.

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?”

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.

Offering Song: You Raise Me Up

When I am down and, oh my soul, so weary;

When troubles come and my heart burdened be;

Then, I am still and wait here in the silence,

Until you come and sit awhile with me.

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;

You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;

I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;

You raise me up… To more than I can be.

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;

You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;

I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;

You raise me up… To more than I can be.

Group Homily:

What does the reading evoke for you?

Prayer over the Gifts:

Please extend your hands over the gifts: We bless these humble gifts of bread, wine and grape juice. We are thrilled to be together and to celebrate the gift of our kinship which we offer each other. We have so many gifts to share! So much wisdom, such clear vision, so much humor, dedication and love. We bless our generous and giving hearts which have carried us along this pilgrimage so far and which, with a little grace, will carry us to our journey’s end.

Prayer of the Faithful:

We also remember the challenges we face, the sadness and the gladness. For whom and what do we pray?

Spirit of Love hear these prayers and all the prayers of your people who hope for a better future. Let us carry these intentions in our hearts.

We Remember those who have gone before us on this walk:

Spirit of Wisdom we give thanks for this humble meal and for our companions who have decided to be here tonight. We lift our thoughts to those who have walked before us and we remember them by name.

And so now: Please join me in our prayer of thanks:

For this wine and bread

We give thanks

For the rains that nourish the land

We give thanks

For the light that lights the autumn leaves

We give thanks

For the road we travel together

We give thanks

For the words of liberation, we hear today

We give thanks

For the spirit to endure the challenges we face

We give thanks

For the friends who help us endure our heartbreaks.

We give thanks

For the willingness to hear the call to action

We give thanks

For the faith that we will help our sisters and brothers who are struggling to stand

We give thanks

To see the divine in everything and everyone

We give thanks

To make our way by walking

We give thanks

For the invitation from our sisters who are burdened and who can see only the dust beneath them.

We give thanks

Celebrant: First Invocation:

In the power of the creative Spirit, Jesus lived his life’s journey with his friends whom he chose to be family. We, too, are blessed in the power of that same Spirit, which we now invoke upon this family gathered here, to celebrate the transformative energy symbolized in our gifts of bread and wine given to nourish and sustain us along our journey.

Invoking the Memory of Tradition


While sharing a meal of friendship, Jesus took bread, Blessed you God of all good gifts. Our brother broke the bread, shared it among his companions and said:


Take this all of you,

For this is my body which will be given up for you.


After the meal, Jesus took the cup, poured out in a spirit of solidarity and freedom. Jesus gave thanks and shared the cup with his friends, saying:


Take this all of you and drink from it;

This is the cup of my spirit, poured out for you and for all who follow you.


As a people called to the challenge of pilgrimage, we invoke upon

all of us gathered here, the empowering Spirit of courage and wisdom,

So that we, too, are empowered to share our light without hesitation. And we sing:

Affirmation Song: Gather you People O God

Gather your people, O Lord.

Gather your people, O Lord.

One bread, one body, one spirit of love.

Gather your people, O Lord.

Verse 1

Draw us forth to the table of life:

brothers and sisters,

each of us called to walk in your light.

Verse 2

We are parts of the body of Christ,

needing each other,

each of the gifts the Spirit provides.

Our Mother / Our Father

Presider: When Jesus was asked how we should pray to he told his friends to offer this prayer:

Heavenly Father, heavenly Mother,

Holy and blessed is your true name.

We pray for your reign of peace to come,

We pray that your good will be done,

Let heaven and earth become one.

Give us this day the bread we need,

Give it to those who have none.

Let forgiveness flow like a river between us,

From each one to each one.

Lead us to holy innocence

Beyond the evil of our days —

Come swiftly Mother, Father, come.

For yours is the power and the glory and the


Forever your name is All in One.


Kiss of Peace:

We are grateful for the family assembled here around us. Let’s reach out now and give each other a sign of our love and solidarity.

May the peace of Christ be with you.

All: And also with you

The sound of the bowl calls everyone to the meal.


We welcome you to our family table.

To eat and drink together, sharing this humble meal

It is a table for all of us who are working on ourselves

For we who continue to struggle with the definition of the Divine

Come, you who are thirsty and you who are hungry,

Come, you who feel burdened and exhausted, and you who feel lost.

Come to The Table.

We are welcome here; it is our brother Jesus who invites us.

All: We are happy; we are blessed to share in this meal.

Blowin in the Wind:

How many roads must a man walk down Before you call him a man? How many seas must a white dove sail Before she sleeps in the sand? Yes, and how many times must the cannon balls fly Before they're forever banned? The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind The answer is blowin' in the wind

Yes, and how many years can a mountain exist Before it's washed to the sea? Yes, and how many years can some people exist Before they're allowed to be free? Yes, and how many times can a man turn his head And pretend that he just doesn't see? The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind The answer is blowin' in the wind

Closing Blessing:

On the day when

The weight deadens

On your shoulders

And you stumble,

May the clay dance

To balance you.

And when your eyes

Freeze behind

The grey window

And the ghost of loss

Gets into you,

May a flock of colors,

Indigo, red, green

And azure blue,

Come to awaken in you

A meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays

In the tiny boat of thought

And a stain of ocean

Blackens beneath you,

May there come across the waters

A path of yellow moonlight

To bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,

May the clarity of light be yours,

May the fluency of the ocean be yours,

May the protection of the ancestors be yours.

And so may a slow

Wind work these words

Of love around you,

An invisible cloak

To mind your life.

And Jesus our brother said:

Stand straight now my love, unfurl your arms, grasp the sky and dance.

I call you sister, mother, divine, equal.

You are free.

“A New Year Blessing”

Benedictus (To Bless the Space Between Us)


(Jan Sibelius - 1899 / Wds Lloyd Stone - 1934) Finlandia

This is my song, O God of all the nations,

A song of peace for lands afar and mine.

This is my home, the country where my heart is,

Here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine.

But other hearts in other lands are beating,

With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

My country's skies are bluer than the ocean,

And sunlight beams on clover leaf and pine.

But other lands have sunlight too, and clover,

And skies are everywhere as blue as mine.

O hear my song, thou God of all the nations,

A song of peace for their land and for mine.

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