Jesus Heals a Crippled Woman
—Margaret Bird, 21 Aug 2016 (13th Sunday after Trinity, baptism service)
Luke 13. 10–17
Have you been watching the Olympics over the past few days? Have you noticed how many of the athletes have said that they were inspired by a past competitor whose efforts so impressed them that they sought out their nearest gym or swimming pool or track. Seeing that world record beater or Olympic champion was a life changer for them.
We all crave heroes—they focus our minds on something greater, a motivating and inspiring instant in a hectic life—just a moment that shows us how the world could change, what we could become and how we can make a difference to someone else’s life.
Over 50 years ago, Martin Luther King Jr stood in front of 250,000 people on the front of the Lincoln memorial in Washington DC and made his unforgettable ‘I have a dream’ speech. That was one of those life changing moments that come along every now and then.
Think about Isaac Newton in 1690 (tradition tells us that apple fell on him) whether that is the truth is not important. Isaac Newton’s inspiration that day led him to understand that the force we call gravity existed.
Or Neil Armstrong taking that first step on the moon in 1969: how many young boys and girls wanted to become an astronaut after that or just became interested in astronomy or science.
Or Malala, the young girl from Pakistan who was shot in the head because she saw the importance of education for girls and stood up for a freedom that didn’t exist for her and her contemporaries at that time.
Most of us will not achieve such public life changing events that are the catalyst for another’s vision.
But we all can remember those wow times of wonder and amazement—the birth of a child, fantastic displays of colour in nature and just the joy and happiness we find in the love and the companionship of others. These are encounters that alter our perception of the world, those around us and what we could achieve.
In Luke’s Gospel, we discover many life changing encounters such as the one in this reading today.
First, we have this poor woman; she is crippled, bent double. Think of the difference that meeting with Jesus that day made to her; how different her world would have looked from her bent position. But now - what lies in store for her now that her life has been returned to her and she is able to see the world from a new perspective.
Secondly, there are the witnesses to this miracle. They see this amazing transformation in her and we are told that people were delighted. They were rejoicing, the Gospel tells us. Even those who criticised Jesus must see that he is changing their world; their way of interpreting the laws is being challenged and they will have to deal with it for good or bad. We know in the end their jealously, their fear led to Jesus being arrested and being led away to be killed. It was Jesus who brought about those life changing experiences especially for those who lives were oppressed through illness or disability or just by being poor or not the right sort.
Just think how you might have felt—might have reacted—if you were a witness to all of the miracles, the healings, the wonderful stories that have been passed down to us through the generations in the Bible.
As Christians, as disciples, followers of Christ we are still witnesses to the ability of Jesus to change lives.
Jesus comes to us in those moments of wonder and amazement to shake us out of our complicated lives. He encourages us to think in a new and liberating way about the society we live in and he asks us to make a difference. We are invited to become the life-changers, the example of what Jesus can do in the life of everyone; he asks us to be the inspiration for others.
We are told we live in a secular society, but each day many come into the Parish Church to light a candle to pray for someone, to leave a prayer request or just to sit and enjoy the peace of a place where God has been worshipped for hundreds of year. We are in the business of making a difference, to offer space where anyone can encounter the living God who is still active in the world today and transforming lives.
Jacob’s baptism today marks the beginning of his journey. His time of transformation as he becomes part of the family of the church. His Baptism is a life-changing experience for him too. Baptism comes from a Greek word that means to immerse completely in water, to drench, to be changed and transformed. Though we are not going to completely cover Jacob, we will use water during his baptism as a symbol of that change—imagine a cool drink of water when your gasping and how it refreshes you. Think of that shower after you’ve been jogging or working in the garden; how wonderful it is to feel clean and you again. Baptism is a new beginning, refreshing, cleansing, transforming and renewing that invites Jesus to come into our life and encourages us to respond, to bring about change in ourselves, our communities and in our world.
We may not be another Isaac Newton, Neil Armstrong or Malala—we may not be another Mo Farah, Michael Phelps or Nicola Adams—or an inspirational leader like Martin Luther King.
Jesus invites us to react to his invitation—to recognise that he can bring about change in Jacob and in each of us too.
Rosa Parks—the women who refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger on the Montgomery City bus in 1955, said, ‘I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free... so other people would be also free.’ Jesus inspires and transforms us so that we can be set free from all that restrains us and weighs us down; all that prevents us from being the person that God asks us to be. He shows us we all have the potential inside us to be life changers and encouragers of others.
In a moment, Jacob’s parents and godparents will make promises—to help him see the world with all its marvels through open eyes and to see the humanity in everyone he meets so that he will be inspired through those experiences of wonder and exploration and see God working and active in the world and in each of us. We pray that he and all of us will be inspired by the power of Jesus to change lives.
The vision of Team GB is to inspire the nation. ‘Believe in Extraordinary,’ their motto says.
Jesus ask us to believe not in the extraordinary but in the ordinary, the everyday experiences in all of our lives of what is beyond our human understanding.
To be inspired by his ability to change and transform lives—to change us.