Rev Anita Venter (Bethlehem Bible College)
Sunday 25th of August 2019
Jeremiah 1:4-10 & St Luke 13:10-17
God’s Creation Healed
- S. Lewis is the well-known author of The Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity, and The Chronicles of Narnia. He also wrote a trilogy of science fiction works. These are little known, but in them he gives some real effort to explain what Sin is. The word he settles on is “bent”. He comments on our scripture reading about the bent-over women in the following way:
When you sit opposite from Lorena, you don’t notice that there is anything amiss. She is a spry and sparkling example of 86 years old at its best, when seated. She sits up, looks you in the eye, and makes casual conversation with a rapier wit on almost any topic. She picks up her teacup and scones like there is no difference between the two of you. Nothing is out of place…, that is, until she stands up.
It is then that the 86 years seem to drop on her body like a heavy weight, born about the shoulders, crushing weight bearing down upon her small, and now frail looking body.
Deterioration of the spine, the result of years of degenerative disease, has taken its toll and it leaves Lorena bent and broken.
As she stands, the sparkle is gone out of her eyes and the breath is drawn, less with casual ease, and more with intense labor.
Yet, without complaint she labors to the door, opens it and lets you out. You know, more often than not, that she will now take some medication that will ease her pain, but dull her eyes to a different state of glaze, not with pain, but into that gentle oblivion that will soon have her resting and sleeping for the duration of the dose. Doctors can treat Lorena, but they cannot cure what bends her to the point of breaking.
I think of Lorena as I read this text for today, wondering if her future is my future. I think of her and pray for her, body and soul. I also, truth be known, say a little prayer of sorts for myself, thankful that I am not bent and broken like that.
But in the moment that I say this prayer, I know that it betrays a lie. Closer to the truth is that I am thankful that my bent and broken nature is not visible to any but the most trained of eyes, perhaps visible only to the eyes of God.
I think what CS Lewis is trying to say is that in essence all of us are bent at some point in our lives and every single one of us, in our day to day lives, has the opportunity to encounter others as the bent-over woman. Let me describe her:
She is your friend or colleague that comes to work giving her best effort in keeping a smile on her face, her foundation hiding a serious bruise. Just as CS Lewis, she prays that her bent-over spirit is not visible to anyone because she still loves and protects her abusive spouse.
She is the desperate Yemeni mother holding her dying child as they both face starvation. Her daughter is 10 years old, but weighs only 9 kilograms as Yemen is facing the worst man-made crisis with little help available. It is said that currently two million children are starving to death.
The bent-over woman is a teenager struggling with the knowledge that he is different from his friends. He told his parents that he is gay. Yet their unconditional love is not enough. His peers at school taunt him without mercy and he loses heart taking his own life. The bent-over women is there, alone in the night, longing for acceptance in the reign of God.
She is a youngster living in Gaza who just graduated from University, yet cannot find a job due to unemployment standing on a record high of 52%. He cannot leave his region as there is a blockade thus his life came to a stand still. Due to the lack of finances he cannot get married, he cannot help to support his family, leaving him devastated and depressed and so he too takes his own life. The misery of the siege and despair for the future, especially among the most talented young Gazans, is leading to a disturbing upsurge in suicides.
These are just some examples of people who are bent over. They are not the only ones. There are people who are pressed down and bent over by loneliness, addiction, grief, anxiety, and lack of self-image.
There are people who are confused by world leaders who preach a word of their own, a false word that often leads them astray from God’s plan and His will for their lives and so they go into schools, synagogues, mosques or public places taking the lives of others.
The bent-over woman is also seen in people whose financial difficulties, mental illness, physical ailments or business troubles are their burdens weighing them down.
And finally, could we possibly see our earth as the crippled and twisted woman too? Through climate change we hear our earth groaning as she is tormented by a spirit of destruction. Currently her lungs are burning in the Amazon as we continue relentlessly with deforestation. Her animals are dying at an alarming rate as we do not care about any form of pollution.
In our Gospel story the women did not ask for healing. She lurked in the shadows where pressed-down people so often live, yet Jesus noticed her and he reached out, touched and healed her.
Not included in our text this morning is verse 18. Jesus is asking “what is the Kingdom of God like?” In his act of healing and regarding human life higher than religious rules, Jesus gave the people a glimpse of what the reign of God is like.
I believe we do not come to church each Sunday only because we simply enjoy one another’s company, or because we like the hymns and want to praise God. I believe many times we are here as the bent-over woman, because deep down in our spirit we hunger for the reign of God. We long for healing, deliverance and restoration, love and acceptance, and justice and peace that is found only in God’s Kingdom.
We are here because we know that we cannot fix or cure ourselves or this world on our own. Our only real hope is to respond to God’s call, turn to him and one another for what we need and long for.
What is the kingdom of God like? Theologian Hans Kung says it best. The reign of God is “God’s creation healed”.
Healed of the wound of poverty and starvation. racism, division, exclusion and injustices.
Healed of ridicule, oppression and prejudice that has our children and many adults in desperation taking their own lives.
Healed of the wound of the spirit of doubt,
anxiety, depression and addiction.
Healed of the wound of destruction on our earth.
Just as the bent-over women had to wait for 18 years, God brings God’s reign in God’s own time, but he always does. We proclaim God’s reign, and we witness its beginning in Jesus Christ and to its coming fullness.
But we are called to do more than just witness and proclaim. As Christians the Kingdom of God is within us and we are called to enflesh it. We are to be God’s extended voice, hands and feet.
As we await the Kingdom of God to come in its fullness, we are to become a word of hope, a touch of healing, a touch of heaven, an embrace of Gods love for all those bent-over women before us, bearing each others burdens.
We are called this morning to help each other to rise up again, be freed from our ailments body, soul and spirit and like the bent-over women in Luke’s story to give thanks and praise to the one and only God who formed us in love, who called us to live in that love and to bring God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
As Dr. Martin Luther King once said, “Let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter – but beautiful – struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the children of God.”