10 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 11 And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” 13 When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. 14 But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.” 15 But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?” 17 When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.
Today’s readings are a little divergent at quick glance a story of healing in Luke and a story of the presence of God in the OT compared to the NT. However, the setting of both places is important in our understanding of the word today. The setting or the place where the story happened is the key. When we travel or plan a trip to a new place it takes some planning. How many of you have used an online site like Travelocity or Trip Advisor? That is where we start usually in today’s world of travel. Everything is right there on line for instance you can book your flights and hotel accommodations. You can look at restaurants and find ratings. Often you can click on the site link and find online menu’s and prices. Things have changed in the way we get ready to travel.
How many of you can remember the days of travel agencies? Remember their little offices with the pictures of sunny beaches, city skyline, and mountain ranges. They were all the rage and people would go in and book their trip exclusively with them. The travel agent would get a commission on what they were able to sell you. They also had books and pamphlets that were probably only 2-3 years old of places to eat and hot visitor experiences. When you showed up the place maybe gone or changed owners but it made for a part of the experience.
When I was a kid and we traveled which was not often, we would arrive in a town and pull into a motel if it “looked clean.” Dad would go in and find out how much a room was and availability. It always meant two double beds and I slept on the roll-away. He would come out and talk it over with Mom. If the price was OK then he would go back in and get the room. If it was too expensive, he would hop back in the car and we would go find another place. Sometimes finding a room could take a couple hours, all the while us 3 kids sitting in the backseat windows rolled down because we couldn’t leave the car on and waste gas for the A/C.
Remember these were the days before fast food places to take a family into that could be cheap. We only had meals out on these trips. Lunch was in a cooler and breakfast was PBJ or cereal that the bowls would be rinsed out at a park or in the room. When we went out, buffets and smorgasbords were sought out first. Occasionally a diner was to be had next to the motel so life was easier. They would give us a couple option to choose from and then they would order for us. When we learned to read and saw all the options on that menu, it became quite the dance to order what we wanted to based on the budget for that trip. Yet we traveled in luxury compared to the woman that Jesus met in the synagogue.
It is a unique story of healing only found in Luke’s gospel. Jesus had traveled to a synagogue; we don’t know which one. He is teaching and a woman who has been crippled by an evil spirit for 18 years comes in. She had been stooped over and could not see anywhere except straight down. She could see the faces of people, loved ones or those she met on the streets. She could not see if she was about to hit by another person or even and animal until they were right on top of her. Being deformed like this also meant she was unclean and unsightly to those around here. When she came to worship that day, she would be forced to stay in the back of the gathering.
Throughout the ages people have been bent over by the burdens they bring to worship. The elderly woman who sits in the back but can’t stand up very straight either and uses a walker and her memory fails so she tells the same stories every week. The homeless person who sneaks in after the passing of the peace and leaves before the benediction to go unseen. The young mother who has been up all night with her children and sends them to Sunday school quietly drifts off during the sermon for just a moment of rest. Women who always wear long sleeved tops even in the heat of summer to hide the bruises that might be underneath. Caregivers and sandwich parents raising kids and caring for their own parents. The list can go on and one of people whose burdens are so heavy they bend us in two as well.
Jesus rises and goes to her, something that few if any had ever done for the one who was bent over. Jesus proclaims, “Woman you are set free from your ailments.” More than just the miracle of healing, Jesus sees the woman and acknowledges her needs. Jesus acknowledges the needs of all who gather for worship, no matter the joys or the sorrows—Jesus sees them.
But the leader calls Jesus out for healing on the sabbath. “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.” There are people in our midst who travel everyday just to make ends meet. The woman who get put off for too many times trying to get help from social services or Rising Up. The mountain of forms and paperwork to complete just to get SNAP benefits to help with the electric bill, takes several trips so that all the right documents are completed and copies made. Heaven forbid she have to go to the doctor or other health care professionals and deal with that set of rules and regulations there. That’s not traveling for fun, that’s traveling to survive. Then the craziest thought is all of these things that are so maddening in our society are not even hoped for in many countries of Latin and South America because the corrupted government and cartels run the place. So out of desperation they pack up all that they can carry plus their babies and they begin the journey for a better life in America. We know what happen when they get here: some don’t make it across, some get caught and are detained in camps separated from their babies. Worse yet they are here for a few years and then caught and sent back to a place that is no longer home for anyone in the family and they face death because they ran away.
When we don’t want to see them anymore—God sees them. Jesus gets up, walks over to them and says, “Woman, you are free from your ailment.” It is trip that no one wants to make, yet it’s for the best. Moses didn’t want to go to the wilderness but it was better than his people being slaves in Egypt. He didn’t want to be a shepherd and didn’t want to climb Mount Horeb and didn’t want to face God who was in the burning bush and giving the Ten Commandments, but it was better than worshipping the almighty dollar, I mean the golden calf. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that we have come to Mount Zion, the city of the living God. Our travels are what makes us and our reward for all the miles is the city filled with angels and the first born—Jesus.
We are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken. When our times of trial and being bent over become too much to bear, we know that our hope lies in the Lord. Knowing that and getting to that point is all words unless we are ready to travel. When Jesus tells the Pharisee that when a donkey is tied up on the sabbath even the pharisee shows mercy by leading it to water. What more could we do then for one of God’s children? The letter of the law is fine and good, but when it becomes more important than human rights and caring for those in need, the law is just a piece of paper with words scribbled on it.
When Moses climbed that mountain to receive the Law from God it was never meant to remove the humanity of others, humans did that. We are the ones who sit in judgement and decide when and where certain laws will be upheld and when to look the other way. We as humans can never follow the law perfectly and God knew that. God sent the love of his life in Jesus for our redemption so that we would not have to be bound by the law ever again. In this day and age, we are binding ourselves to rules that are taking away dignity, respect, justice and love. There are no borders on the earth that God created, we drew the lines and tried to call it good. When we travel and leave the country, do we worry that we will not be let back home? How many people can say that? How many people should be able to say that? God gives us lots of advice in how to travel. I pray that all of your journeys will be safe.