Proper 16C: bent in half

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Gospels / Lectionary / New Testament

On Memorial Day this year I took my daughters for a hike at Jockey Hollow State Park. General George Washington’s army camped at Jockey Hollow for two brutal winters, and so it’s a place of great historical interest. It was also a beautiful day, and so getting out and enjoying the blue sky and warm air sounded like a good idea. The hike to the old replica-cabins that the troops would have wintered in is a good 1.5 miles from the parking lot. My 6 year old daughter walked by my side, and I put my 3 year old on my shoulders.

She sat up there for the whole 3 miles hike – there and back – taking in the scenery.

The next day I went to my car to get something out before I had to go and pick my oldest daughter up from kindergarten. When I reached into the car there was a pull in my back that felt like I had been shot. The spot of pain stretched into my chest, and for a moment I couldn’t breathe or speak.

Was I having a heart attack? Was something seriously wrong? Was this it?

I didn’t know.

But, about an hour later I was in an ambulance taking me to the emergency room, not far from where Washington wintered with his troops.

I was fine. I had strained my back, and I just had to take it east for a few days.

That wasn’t going to be so hard to do with the narcotic pain killers and the muscle relaxers that I was prescribed. I could barely talk and gesture at the same time.

I was fine, sure, but I couldn’t move. Everything was difficult. I had trouble feeding myself, going to the bathroom, and walking up and down the stairs. I had trouble laying down in bed, and I had trouble getting out of bed.

You don’t know how much you need your back until it hurts like hell to use it.

Needless to say, I have a whole new appreciation for the woman who was bent over. What could she do? What couldn’t she do? And what things caused her great difficulty that most of her contemporaries didn’t think twice about?

I’m a big believer that the healing stories of Jesus are true stories, AND that they contain deeper Truth. In other words, I think they actually happened to real sick, blind, paralyzed, and bent-over people AND I think they are also parables for a people and a society that are spiritually blind, spiritually sick, and spiritually doubled over.

You don’t have to read much further to see the religious leader who chastises Jesus for healing a woman by an act of God on the sabbath day to see the “bent-over” nature of the religious system of Jesus’ day.

It couldn’t move. Everything was difficult – including, apparently, rejoicing at the healing of someone else. The religious system was so bent over that it was crippled in terms of basic ministry and connection to God and neighbor.

And Jesus wanted to heal it. Jesus wanted to see the faith be straightened out and stand up straight.

Even on the sabbath. Maybe especially on the sabbath?

Where does your faith need straightened? Where does the Church need straightened?

Because, when it’s bent over, not much good can happen.