O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
teach us to be faithful
in change and uncertainty,
that trusting in your word
and obeying your will
we may enter the unfailing joy
of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Blessed are they who have not walked
in the counsel of the wicked,
nor lingered in the way of sinners,
nor sat in the assembly of the scornful.
Their delight is in the law of the Lord
and they meditate on his law day and night.
Like a tree planted by streams of water
bearing fruit in due season,
with leaves that do not wither,
whatever they do, it shall prosper.
As for the wicked, it is not so with them;
they are like chaff which the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked shall not be able to stand in the judgement,
nor the sinner in the congregation of the righteous.
For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked shall perish.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now and shall be for ever. Amen.
Reading: Luke 13.10-17
Jesus 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.
In these few verses from St Luke’s gospel, expressed in so few words, there are some big issues for us to consider: issues of healing, faith, power, tradition and respect for human life. But, setting aside most of these issues for the moment, it is how we value the life of another human being, no matter who or what he or she may be, that should grab our attention today.
It is not difficult to imagine the scene. Jesus is teaching in the synagogue on the sabbath. We are given no more detail than that, but we should not be surprised to find him in the synagogue sharing the Good News with the faithful. As Jesus is teaching he spots a very disabled woman. Everyone in the synagogue would probably have remained focused on Jesus. The woman’s condition would have been well-known in the community. Nobody would have given that twisted and distorted figure a second glance. But Jesus did. Jesus recognized her pain and the cause of her pain, and he healed her.
Those present at the time probably felt both surprise and joy. Well, most of those present. There was at least one whose primary reaction was indignation. Jesus had worked this act of healing on the sabbath. Not only had Jesus drawn the focus of those present away from the leader of the synagogue, but he had also broken Jewish law by ‘working’ on the sabbath.
There is a whole debate that could be had about the definition of ‘work’ in this context, but pursuing that would be allowing ourselves to be distracted. Jesus saw pain and need. Jesus showed love and compassion. Jesus was not constrained by man-made rules and regulations.
In this short incident Jesus models the attitude we should adopt through every moment of every day of our lives.
We all, at different times, encounter people who are in various conditions of need. That need may be tangible and visible, or it may be a need that runs deeper than the physically obvious. It is comparatively easy to spot those in financial need, but it is not always so easy to spot someone who is hungry. It is easy to spot those who are in emotional need if they are crying, but what about those who are crying and screaming inside?
Let us not fall into the trap that ensnared the leader of the synagogue in today’s reading. Let us not be self-obsessed, so status conscious that we are only aware of our own needs. Let us pray that God may use us as channels of his healing love and peace.
Prayers of Intercession
Let us pray for the Church and for the world and thank God for his healing love.
Grant that the Church, in keeping due reverence and order, shall never be turned aside from works of aid and compassion. Accept her worship, and strengthen her in prayer for all who need healing in mind or body.
We pray for the world where conflict arises from small matters grown into great disputes. Give wisdom to all in authority, that they may judge with mercy, discerning the needs of those they govern.
Bless us, our families and friends, in our daily work. Be near us in times of difficulty and make us ready to help others who are in any kind of trouble.
Have mercy on the sick who have suffered for many years without relief. Give hope to the disabled, help them to fullness of life and empower those who care for them.
We remember the departed who have been freed from the trials and limitations of the body. Receive them into the new life where there is no suffering, and where the redeemed are made perfect in the divine love.
We offer our prayers in the name of Christ, who sets us free from all evil.
Prayer for the week
We thank you, Lord,
for calling us to be your witnesses:
grant us the courage and the love
to be obedient and faithful to that calling.
We pray that our lives may bear witness
to your love shown in Jesus Christ,
and that our witness may reflect your light
in the communities in which we live and work,
to the glory of your name.
The Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.
Drop thy still dews of quietness,
till all our strivings cease;
take from our souls the strain and stress,
and let our ordered lives confess
the beauty of thy peace,
the beauty of thy peace.
John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892)