This morning we continue our yearlong exploration of the Gospel of Luke. You may be aware that this is Year C in the Common Lectionary which determines which readings we examine on each Sunday. The Lectionary is on a 3 year cycle A, B, and C. In year A, we read Matthew, in B, Mark, and in C, Luke. (John does not have its own year but is read at specific times in each of the other three.) So today (since we are in year C), we continue to read Luke this morning.
Now earlier this month, I mentioned that the whole of Luke’s Gospel could be read through the lens of decision making. This morning I would suggest that we are meeting another theme in Luke and that is the awesome and loving power of God.
Very early in Luke’s Gospel, an angel comes to Mary to tell her she has been chosen to become Jesus’ mother and as he reveals this news, the angel says “with God, nothing is impossible” – “with God nothing is impossible.” So in Luke we find the theme of God’s power and trust worthiness. Which brings us to this morning’s story.
As the story begins we are told it is the Sabbath and Jesus is in the synagogue teaching. Now, as he is doing this, a woman enters. She is bent over and is unable to stand straight as she has been for 18 years, we are told. When Jesus sees her he says “woman you are set free from your ailment” then he goes to her, touches her, and she is given the power to stand straight. As she stands…the woman begins also to praise God.
Now be aware – in this story the woman has not asked for help – she has not hoped to be cured but neither has she resisted the power that will cure her. When she hears Jesus’ words she trusts she stands up and she praises – nothing more. This woman, like Mary before her, is surprised by the power of God – accepts it – trusts it – and is made better by it.
As I read this section of the Gospel this week I was struck by the nature of the woman’s ailment. She is bent – she has buckled under the weight of some heavy burden. And then I began to think about the burdens that we carry. Burdens like health problems, family issues, fear and uncertainty in our future, women alone, work or financial security or safety in this unpredictable world. I don’t know about you…but for me the image of being bent under some unseen burden is a powerful one.
So – in this morning’s Gospel, when Jesus lifts the weight that bends the woman – well, that feels like good news to me. It makes me think about another popular story on the Internet about a woman who wishes to have a lighter burden than her own. Then one night in a dream, she finds herself standing before Jesus with her own cross in her hands – its weight is heavy and her name is engraved on it. As she puts it down before Jesus she asks that she be given another, different burden. And Jesus, who has an array of other people’s burdens in the form of crosses at his feet, agrees that she should take a look and pick a different one.
She sees a cross that has Barbara’s name on it and she knows that she is rich and calm and seems to have it all together, but when she takes the cross in hand, she finds that it is really, really heavy and decides that’s not the one she wants.
She sees many other names on crosses, and recognizes some, but eventually decides they are all too heavy and puts them all down and comes back to her own. As she tries to raise it she sees that it is comparatively light, but Jesus stops her from leaving and says “Let’s see what we can do with your burden.”
And one by one they unpack her worries together. First money, a hyperactive child, and then another embarrassment about her appearance. Finally they come to a large unattractive brick hidden in the bottom of her cross. The woman demurs from his taking this burden out. It is the weight of her sin. “I will take this one,” Jesus tells her. Just leave it here with me.” But she is still reluctant – “No” he says. “This one is mine; I bought it with my blood”. And so she takes it and places it at his feet. And he blesses her and sends her home rejoicing in the lightness of her cross.
All of us have burdens – things we carry which perhaps others cannot even see – but God knows them – God sees them – and even before we ask, God has made it clear through the life and death of his Son that God has already acted to lift them.
So today as we pray, let us remember Luke’s message: “With God, nothing is impossible” and let us also accept the loving help of our most powerful God.