Like so many of you, my family is glued to the TV to watch the Olympics.
My wife, Karen, watches sports once-every-240-weeks. Yep, it’s time for the Olympics when the 240th week rolls around.
Of course being a swimmer in her young adult years, she is naturally drawn to swimming. Heck, this year, who isn’t?
Michael Phelps winning his 23 metal (at last count). Not to overshadow the other members of the swim team, but it seems that Michael Phelps enters our collective American conscience once every 240 weeks, yet, Phelps swears he’s retiring. Time will tell.
And he is, with little argument the best swimmer of all time.
Except this year, Michael didn’t win a gold medal in every race.
For the first time in the history of the Olympics, he tied for a three-way second in the 100 fly. Which, of course, is news in and of itself.
But it also happened that Katie Ledecky set the world record in the women’s 800 freestyle.
Which of course, is a bigger accomplishment than Phelps winning his zillionth gold metal, and a silver.
A headline in the Sunday edition of a Texas newspaper featured the news with the following headline: “ Phelps Ties for Silver in 100 fly” and the sub-title of the article was “Ledecky sets world record in women’s 800 freestyle”
The substance of the article was about Phelps losing his race while barely mentioning the World Record set by Ledecky.
This stands out in my mind as we hear the story of Jesus healing the crippled women. A women who, like so many other women in the Bible, goes unnamed. Only that, this women had been crippled and bend down for 18 long years. She couldn’t even stand-up straight. Like one who’s accomplishments shadow the powerful and mighty, she barely goes noticed.
Except that Jesus saw her.
He lays hands on her and then she raises up. Hands held high in the air. Nothing else matters at this point. She’s been freed, liberated! She won!
Who cares what the leaders in the synagogue think and say. She won’t be making the front page of the newspaper anyway!
Except that, because of Jesus, she did.
And not only that, the shame that should have been cast upon her for the spirit that had occupied her for 18 years that barred her from participating with any form of communication or human action, all that shame was redirected to those who were in the leadership of the synagogue.
She found a new purpose. Purpose was inside her all those 18 years, Jesus made her see what was already there. Life was living within her broken body.
We’re not exactly told what her infirmity was in the text, only that she had one. Her infirmity might have been that she was disabled. Then again, it could have been that she was a woman. Woman were second-class citizens and Jesus seems to be lifting her up both physically and socially. He emphasizes that she is a woman.
We don’t have to look too far to see how woman have been devalued based on gender. Women around the world have often been undervalued and largely going unrecognized for their contributions.
Think of it: even in our world today, some women still cannot vote, drive cars, inherit property, or even hold certain jobs because of their gender. Women in our country didn’t even get the right to vote until 1920 which is about 60 years after the Civil War.
And not only that,
Women make less money than men, only 20% of our elected national leaders or women and a handful of governors. And if you think things are better in the church, they’re not. Out of our 65 bishops, only 12 are female and around 12% of the multi-staff calls in the larger congregations are headed up by women. On Monday, Pope Francis expressed his hope that women who are enslaved by the powerful will be allowed to have a life of “peace, justice and love.”
The point being, that when people are devalued, they, like the bend-over woman in Luke’s gospel tend be bent over and don’t have the ability to straighten themselves and praise God.
See, Jesus isn’t interested in body shaming, body politics, judging and rejection. He was interested in wholeness, completeness, overcoming judgement. Jesus was not casting judgement on this women, because of any spirit or disability, but finding the best for this person and for all our bent positions.
Jesus isn’t standing over us in judgement, but in our wholeness. The source of God’s great compassion and the love of God in flesh. Hands outstretched on the cross because of , not in spite of, the rules and regulations of God’s law.
The only thing that is to be shamed, according to our text today is sin, death, Satan, and even the Law for the execution of God’s son. Not even death could hold us back.
Be set free. In the name of Jesus. Be set from what holds you bent over. Set free from your own bondage, freed to stand up straight, and praise God. Amen.