Luke 13:10-17, Psalm 46. For September 25, 2016 at FMC
"I can't wait!" If you have driven somewhere with a small child you dread these words. You are familiar with the whole frantic discussion that ensues; "Can you hold it for 5 minutes? Why didn't you say something sooner? Why didn't you use the washroom before we left?"
None of the talk changes the fact that something must be done. It's not fair to the child to blame them and ignoring the problem invites worse issues. Sometimes there is a convenient and conventional solution, like a handy gas station. Other times you have to get creative-a detour, a ditch, a lone bush in a park....the situation simply must be dealt with no matter what passers-by might think.
Jesus treats the woman's situation with this "it can't wait" kind of urgency. He is teaching in the synagogue when he notices her. He interupts his teaching and calls her over, puts his hands on her, and she is healed. She immediately praises God. But this was a Sabbath, a day when good Jews refrained from work. The leader of the synagogue goes after Jesus for breaking with this tradition, berating the woman for coming on the Sabbath and categorizing Jesus' actions as work. This leader uses complex rules and regulations and theological understandings to argue about what and how and who...leaving a woman outside of the community.... for 18 years.
Jesus has a great response. He reminds the synagogue leaders that if an animal needs to be untied to be taken to the water on the Sabbath, they would do it. So why should this woman not be untied from her bondage on the Sabbath as well? She should not have to wait any longer. Jesus is thoroughly Jewish, accepted as a teacher, and is pushing traditional boundaries and understandings. He puts compassion ahead of proper "theology" as it was understood. Jesus pushes a deeper understanding of God's "rules."
Emerson Powery, a professor of Biblical Studies at Messiah College in Grantham, PA, says;
But this story is not told in order to discuss that theological issue. Rather this is a story about the role and function of our religious traditions, our claims about what could and should be practiced on the “Sabbath” or who is allowed within the walls of our synagogues and religious communities. Special religious practices may become hindrances to inclusion. We must be diligent to recognize what theological ideas we hold dear that disallow full participation from others.
I like Powery's question that urges us to think about how our traditions and ways we do things might become hindrances to us and actually block our effectiveness in responding to needs.
Our congregation is currently going through a number of changes, challenges, and re-examination of structures and ways of doing things. A visioning process is beginning. It is an opportunity to do things differently, but there is also a danger of simply putting a new cover on the same old book. How are we going to gracefully allow new things to happen so that we can allow Jesus to "untie" the things that cripple us?