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Sunday, June 21, 2015

Today’s Reading | Luke 13:10–17

Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 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. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. 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.” 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? 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?” 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. (NRSV)

Eighteen years is a long time.

Eighteen years is how long the woman in this gospel story had been suffering with a debilitating and frustrating condition that must have greatly diminished her quality of life. Yet there she was in the synagogue on the Sabbath. We don’t know if she was there because she went every week (given her cultural context, I suspect this was the case) or because she had heard that this Jesus, miracle-worker and teacher, was in town. No matter.

We can infer a few things about her from her presence and actions. She must have been determined. Movement could not have been easy or quick (just ask anyone with arthritis or back trouble), yet there she was. She had gotten herself there to hear Jesus preach, perhaps consciously or unconsciously hoping that he would see and cure her. She must also have been faithful. She believed that placing herself in the right place at the right time could lead to good. She had the kind of faith that time and again Jesus pointed to as that which allows miracles. After she was able to stand up straight, we see that she was grateful. Her spontaneous response of “glorifying God” shows us her orientation outward. Instead of being bitter about a bad eighteen-year stretch, she told others about Jesus’ compassionate love and mercy, defining her as a disciple.

That’s who I want to be. No matter the length of a trial or tribulation, I aspire to these qualities and pray that they are the ones others will see in me—one, five, or eighteen years from now.

O healing God, whose splendid deeds are born from deep compassion, hear us. In your time, heal us from all that binds and cripples. Make us stand up straight to more clearly proclaim your glory and witness your power. We ask this through the One who alone knows our hearts and the hearts of all. Amen.

Written by Susan Quaintance, Program Coordinator,
   Center for Life and Learning

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