Sunday, August 14, 2016

Luke 13.10-17: Women Freed

The gospel reading (Luke 13:10-17) for Proper 16C/Ordinary 21C is the story of Jesus healing the woman who has been unable to stand up straight for eighteen years. There are images that illustrate that story, but two other biblical stories consistently show up in internet searches for the story. The three stories have some interesting commonalities. All have to do with women and freedom.

On the morning of the resurrection Mary stands weeping outside the tomb where Jesus' body was laid. John 20:11 says that as she is weeping she bends over (stoops) to look in the tomb. By the end of the scene she has seen the Lord and understands that his resurrection is real. Jesus has conquered death and she (and all of us) who share in his death will also share in his resurrection. Freedom!

In the other story, it is not a woman who does not stand up straight, it is Jesus. The text (John 8:1-11) is the account of the woman brought before Jesus in hopes of trapping him in a theological argument. The woman, apparently the only guilty party in an accusation of adultery, is made to stand before a group of men that includes Jesus. Rather than hurling the expected accusation (and stone), Jesus bends over and writes in the dirt at his feet. The other men begin to wander away and Jesus is left with the woman. He straightens up, and speaks freedom to her.
 Above left: Rembrandt/Style of Rembrandt. Jesus and the Woman Caught in Adultery. Drawing. Above right: Mary Magdalene at the Tomb. (Searching for further documentation and links for these two works.)

The use of these two other stories is in no way meant to belittle the pain of the woman in Luke 13. If today (2016) were the end of the eighteen years she has been unable to stand up straight, her affliction would have begun in 1999. In 1999 Bill Clinton was POTUS and Boris Yeltsin was President of Russia. In 1999, Star Wars Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace opened. Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" was Grammy's Record of the Year. Think of everything you have seen since that year. Eighteen years is a long time. At the midpoint of this week's gospel reading, however, her adversity has ended. Woman, you are set free from your bondage. It was not the last time Jesus would equate standing up straight with freedom.

For thoughts on Jeremiah 1:4-10, click here.
For thoughts on Hebrews 12:18-29, click here.

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