Luke 13: 10-17 You Can’t do that!
How many times have we heard or said the phrase- You can’t do that? More often than we can count. As a church and as a society we have more rules than we realize; some unspoken cultural norms, some which take 300 pages to write down all the details and some are just silly.
Don’t smack your gum, chew with your mouth closed, No food or drink in church, you must have rhythm to sing or clap in church, each person is expected to be in church at a minimum of once a week with only 2 excused absences allowed per calendar year. Any absences beyond this can only be excused when accompanied by the bulletin of an approved alternate place of worship for that week, all ushers must wear a tie and sport coat, candles on the alter must be polished weekly and placed at a perfect 42 degree angle to the chip of paint on the back of the sanctuary wall …. I am sure you have heard other rules like these in your life- some more serious and some just as outrageous.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Not all rules are frivolous. Some have a very good purpose. Some of our rules protect people from discrimination, physical, emotional and financial harm. They create order, provide for our safety and ensure our rights are not violated as humans and as citizens of this country. These, usually anyway, are the good kinds of rules and most of them make sense.
There are rules however, disguised as protective and normative, but instead of creating an environment of safety they work to maintain the status quo, control, elevating the value and status of some while suppressing the rights and freedoms of other individuals and groups. Some rules, were meant to be broken.
Jesus was a rule breaker. He not only broke the rule of healing on the Sabbath but he broke the unspoken cultural norms of the day too. This woman was oppressed because of her gender and her disability. She was not even supposed to be allowed in the temple but Jesus calls her out anyway-instead of ignoring her he acknowledges her worth as a daughter of Abraham and a child of God.
Where would we be as Protestants if people like Martin Luther and John Calvin hadn’t challenged the authority and rule of the church?
Where would we be as people called Methodists if John Wesley and others had not challenged the system of church and worship?
I would not be your pastor if over 40 years ago someone hadn’t decided to break the rule of male only church leadership.
What would life be like today if college students in the 1960’s hadn’t participated in the lunch counter sit-ins or if a tired seamstress had not broken the rules by refusing to give up her seat on the bus to a white man in Birmingham?
This week, we commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the civil rights March on Washington. Where would our society be today if people of all races had not fought for non-discriminatory hiring practices and a minimum wage? These people chose to break the sometimes unspoken but always present rules of segregation and white supremacy.
When we abide by these rules that cause division, discrimination, and oppression; we become like the woman in our scripture today. Crippled by demons with a field of vision so narrow we can see little more than the dirt on the floor and the wear of someone’s shoes.
We all know people like this. Maybe we are these people. We all have arbitrary rules of life. Some are seemingly insignificant like “always wash the dishes before bed” But some are still used to oppress and demean- even if we don’t realize we have them. Maybe someone isn’t helped on the side of the road because of the way they appear; maybe someone isn’t hired because of their gender, they have an ethnic name or an accent. We make up stories and assumptions about others because of preconceived notions and stereotypes.
Life doesn’t have to be that way. Jesus is calling us to break these rules, allow his presence to heal our lives and to stand up straight, break the bonds that cripple us and prevent us from seeing the Kingdom of God, understanding our capacity to love and grow in faith, loving our neighbor and being an active and willing disciple of Jesus Christ.
Most of you know I like to hike but I often find myself spending so much time looking down at where my feet are going- so worried that I am going to trip, fall or step in some mud- that I miss the beauty of God’s creation that surrounds me and sometimes miss my turn because I am not watching the blazes that mark the trails. If we walk through life, afraid, so overly focused on the rules, worried about doing it wrong instead of doing what is right- we too can miss the wondrous creation around us and get lost to the spiritual path God wants us to be on.
The truth is, Jesus can break these bonds on our lives. We don’t have to live that way. Only you and God know what your demons are. Maybe you have been bound for so long that you can’t imagine life being any different, maybe you can still hear the words of someone you admire telling you you’re not worth it, but Jesus sees you, has compassion on you and wants to offer you healing and freedom from your ailments.
If we are following Christ- we don’t have to worry about being led astray, getting lost or failing because we know we have a God who loves us and is showing us the right path and leading the way to a better future. We just have to look up and listen for the voice of God telling us to stand up.
There will always be those who don’t want you and our society to be healed and will advocate for us to keep looking down instead of seeing the God given hope, love and greatness that surrounds us. Every time the TV is on it seems someone is trying to scare us into believing that there is no hope- politics, crime, corruption and fear mongering stress that the worst case scenario is inevitable. Maybe it is the parent, teacher or boss that instead of building up and encouraging independence and free thinking fosters a sense of fear and dependence on the authority figure so they can maintain control and power. Attempting to scare us into believing that the only safe place to look is down.
This creation of fear binds us and prevents us from seeing the possibilities of hope and love God wants us to experience. Even though the voice that oppresses and insists on maintaining power and control at all costs may seem loud and authoritative; with Christ we know there is still hope.
It only takes one act of kindness, one opportunity to stand up for someone who can’t and one offer to help someone heal, to show the Kingdom of God to that person. Jesus Christ brought the Kingdom of God to earth one person at a time, one touch at a time, one word at a time (GP). But each person who encounters Christ is a new witness to that Kingdom and all those who see how God has changed a person’s life will be witness to a new life in Christ and together we can drown out the voices of fear and oppression.
We cannot live our lives looking down- scared to see the opportunities God has given us to change the world, the community or even one life. God is calling us to stand up, be healed, have faith and believe in the glory of God that surrounds us. I promise if we allow God to heal our broken lives and broken society there will be nothing left to do but praise God.
Maybe you are you feeling bound, crippled and unable to see and experience the glories of God. Maybe you realize you are one of the oppressors and you need God’s help to change your mind and your life. God can do that; God can heal your brokenness. Take these next few minutes to pray for healing.
Maybe God is calling you to fight against the status quo or stand up for someone who can’t. Maybe God has put it on your heart that you need to offer healing, wholeness and the Kingdom of God to someone. Spend this time asking God for guidance, courage and discernment to what is right and what steps to take next. – listen during these next few moments of prayer and meditation for the voice and will of God.
Prayer from GBOD.ORGLift us up, O God, as you lifted the bent-over woman in the synagogue. Deliver us from a lifetime of looking pessimistically at the floor as though we had no hope in you, as though you cared nothing for us.
Lift us up above the scowls of the critics and their loudly broadcasted pronouncements about the present and our future.
We choose to believe that even on the bleakest day you hold our families, our jobs
and everything about our future in your hands and we are reminded that you love us –
like the Good Shepherd that cares for the sheep, like one who lifts an infant to the cheek,
like Jesus when he saw the helpless crowds reaching out to touch him.
Hold our faces in your hands, O God. Comfort us and help us to look beyond what we see today,
what we overheard yesterday, and what we fear about tomorrow.
Lift us up, O God, and give us the power to walk upright again. Amen.