When The Rules Get In The Way
There is this amazing story from the life of Jesus that is found in the Gospel of Luke chapter 13. It's the story of how Jesus healed a woman who had been crippled and hunched over for 18 years. He healed her in a synagogue, during worship on the Sabbath day.
The Scripture reads, "And when Jesus saw her, he called over and said, 'Woman, you are free from your sickness." First of all, I could preach a whole series of sermons on that one sentence--a sentence that is packed with implications of grace, calling, healing, gender equality, and so much more.
This woman in the story had undoubtedly been part of this community for her whole life, and for 18 years had been afflicted with no release. But then Jesus showed up and changed everything.
But the point of the story that stuck with me today was not the healing. It was what happened after the healing when the leader of the synagogue begins freaking out because Jesus healed her on the Sabbath.
The text reads, [The leader] said to the people, 'There are six days when one has to work. So come to be healed on one of those days, and not on the Sabbath day."
This guy was so fixated on the rules that he missed the miracle. He was so caught up in maintaining the form of his faith that he lost sight of the freedom that comes from a relationship with God. The synagogue leader had all these ideas about what was right, proper, and good, and I am sure genuinely thought he was being a faithful person, but in the end he completely lost the plot.
I wonder how many of us (those who call ourselves Christians) fall into this same trap. We get so stuck in our ways, our traditions, our own understanding of how things ought to be in church, or our faith communities. And in our midst are people who are bent over with burdens, weighted down with cares, and problems--people who just need healing.
The Church needs to move beyond practices that are too inward focused, obsessed with form and blinded by selfishness. We need to be ready when Jesus "shows up" to recognize his healing power, and celebrate it with joy--no matter what it might cost us to do so.
May you be open to seeing and celebrating Jesus' healing power in your own life, and the life of your faith communities. May you find joy in the moments when your comfort gets rattled by the work of the Spirit. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.