11 Pentecost, Year C: She Stood Up Straight

SUNDAY’S READINGS | August 21, 2022

Jer. 1:4-10 or Isa. 58:9b-14
Ps. 71:1-6 or Ps. 103:1-8
Heb. 12:18-29
Luke 13:10-17

Jeremiah wrote: “Now the word of the LORD came to me saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jer. 1:4-5). In the secret council of divine life, before time and creation, Jeremiah was elected and called, as all creation was hidden in its transcendent source before the Spirit moved over the face of the waters. Emerging upon the world’s stage, Jeremiah takes up his prophetic role as a man of sorrows, a prophet of lament. Again and again, he complains of his anguish: “I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter. And I did not know that it was against me that they devised schemes, saying, ‘Let us destroy the tree with its fruit, let us cut him down from the land of the living, so that his name will no longer be remembered!’” (Jer. 11:19).

We are born to suffering and the fear of death. “You sweep them away like a dream, like the grass that is renewed in the morning; in the evening it fades and withers. … The days of our life are seventy years, or perhaps eighty, if we are strong; even then their span is only toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away” (Ps. 90:5-6, 10). Every person must bear the full weight of a private cross. Humanity is fallen, bent, and oppressed.

God did not create us for sin and suffering! When we fell into sin and its destruction, however, God did not abandon us. Rather, the Son of God, who knew no sin, became sin; that is, he entered fully into our human condition to rescue and redeem us. Again and again, Jesus finds people ensnared in some form of oppression or illness, often an ailment of many years and unimaginable anguish. We are, of course, the people Jesus meets in the pages of the New Testament.

Consider this woman. “Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And just then there appeared to him a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand upright. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, ‘Woman, you are set free from your ailment.’ When he had laid hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God” (Luke 13:10-13). The woman stands in for us; she is bent over, turned in upon herself due to a spirit of infirmity. One can hardly escape reference to Luther’s use of the Latin phrase incurvatus in se (the self turned in upon itself) in his commentary on Romans. The woman is an icon of fallen humanity.

Bent over, she perhaps does not see Jesus. She doesn’t come to him; she doesn’t ask for help or healing. She simply appears in the synagogue on the sabbath. Jesus sees her, calls her, declares her free, and puts his hands upon her. At the power of his gaze and word and touch, she immediately stands upright and begins praising God. This healing is, quite obviously, a resurrection story. We are healed and saved and raised up because the Lord Jesus Christ comes to us, calls us, sets us free, and orients our lives irrevocably toward God.

In all the trials and tribulations of human life, we find Jesus Christ as our refuge, deliverer, a strong rock, a castle, our crag and stronghold, our hope and confidence, the one who sustains and heals (Ps. 71:1-6). In Christ, we discover ourselves anew as homo curvatus ad Deum (the human turned toward God).

Look It Up: Luke 13:12

Think About It: You are set free!


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