|Pen and Ink Reflections||
Recently I’ve pondered a good deal about healing - both in relationship to myself and to others I know.. How about you? For it is a strange thing: the Gospels are full of healings, but, for many centuries, healing did not bulk large in Christian teaching or practice. Healing is prominent in the early Church and in Christian revival or minority movements. Yet it largely drops out of focus until the last century. Then a number of features, including modern challenges, spiritual and liturgical renewal, and the charismatic movement, gave rise to fresh healing emphases. Significantly perhaps this has gone alongside a reduced emphasis on certain ideas of sin, judgement and mortality. For Christian theology changes, or it dies. Today, healing, suffering, and sin are categories with which we wrestle afresh. Like our Gospel story today, we also wonder about them and their inter-relationship…
Every single one of us sees the world differently. That is on the one hand self evident, but on the other something we don't often think about. I suspect that most of the time I am assuming that you are seeing what I am seeing. But it is just not the case. Each of us, because of our unique physiology, psychology, upbringing, experience, context, actually sees things differently. And of course because of all those things there are also things that we simply do not see. So when the Pharisees say to Jesus 'Surely we're not blind are we?', they are failing to acknowledge a basic spiritual truth. We are all blind to some extent...
So which are we? Bent or arched? Burdened or arrogant? These are the questions posed by today's wonderful story of a healing in a synagogue on the sabbath day. It is by no means the only story about Jesus getting into trouble over his keeping of the sabbath, but it is surely the most touching.
The woman in this story is bent double. She is probably suffering from what doctors now describe as ankylosing spondylitis, a chronic progressive form of inflammatory arthritis that causes fusion of the spinal bones. Even today there is no really effective cure and people continue to be bent over. As a sufferer from rheumatoid arthritis, also chronic, progressive and inflammatory, I feel a deep sympathy for her plight. She has leant forward to relieve the pain, but the more she has leant forward the more the spine has fused, so that now after eighteen years all she can see is her feet. She converses with the ants and the earth, and those speaking to her, supposing they even bother to try, talk to her bent back. In her culture she would have been a complete social outcast. Her very physical being reflects the burden she carries - a burden of exclusion, poverty, and rejection...
Many years ago I ministered with a wonderful older couple. Let us call them Bill and Beryl. They were faithful Christians and stalwarts of our church, and, among other things, I remember their 60th wedding anniversary celebration which brought terrific joy to everyone. Like all of us however they had their quirks, some more endearing than others. As they grew older, for example, they grew less able to come to worship and I began to visit them to share holy communion at home. Each time I visited they would have created a huge feast of salad and salmon sandwiches, none of which they ate but all of which they felt I should consume. Such are the perils of pastoral visiting! Indeed, Beryl also had a huge cupboard which was full of massive quantities of tinned salmon, various assortments of which she always insist on giving me when I tried to leave. Was that an addictive practice, I wonder? Was her salmon hoarding perhaps also a reflection of growing up in days of scarcity and rationing on Tyneside, always, to this day, an economically poor an challenged region of England? I never quite found out, for what concerned me more was Beryl’s often unhealthy attachment to the physical and pyschological wounds in her life, and her frequent inability to respond – like the man in our Gospel story – to Jesus’ call to ‘stand up, take your mat, and walk’...
sermons and reflections from Penny Jones & Jo Inkpin,