Jeremiah 2:4-13; Psalm 81: 1, 10-16; Hebrews 13: 1-8, 15-16, Luke 14: 1, 7-14
The Rev. James M.L. Grace
In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. AMEN
Did you catch it? Did you notice in the Gospel that we did not get the whole story from Luke’s Gospel today? We started with v.1 of chapter 14, then we skipped over verses 2-6, to begin once again at verse 7, continuing to v 14. Why? I don’t know. St. Andrew’s doesn’t choose our Sunday readings, but rather we follow something called a “lectionary” which is a weekly cycle of readings that Episcopal churches follow.
I’m always suspect when I see an omission like this, and I wonder if you are too. Good news is that there are Bibles in your pews, there are Bible apps you can download on your phone, so that you all have a means to read the omitted verses. And I will in a moment, because it’s those omitted verses (2-6) that I want to talk about today. Look up Luke in your pew Bible or just listen as I read these verses:
“On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely. [we already heard that, here begins v. 2] Just then, in front of him there was a man who had dropsy. And Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees, ‘Is it lawful to cure people on the sabbath or not?’ But they were silent, so Jesus took him and said to them, ‘if one of you has a child or an ox that has fallen into a well, will you not immediately pull it out on a sabbath day?’ And they could not reply to this.”
First of all, a word about dropsy, because I had no idea what it was, or is. Dropsy is akin to edema, a swelling in the body which is connected to heart failure, or at least that’s what Wikipedia tells me. Perhaps the person brought before Jesus was having congestive heart failure. It was a sabbath day, meaning no work was to be done, to honor the commandment given by God to not work on the Sabbath. Jesus challenged this religious law and asked the lawyers and pharisees if it was lawful to heal on a sabbath day, or not. He made the point very personal for them, saying if it was your own child who had fallen into a well, would you not immediately pull them out, even if that act was considered “work” on a sabbath day?
We don’t know if Jesus healed this man with the severe swelling or not. The Gospel does not tell us. But I would not be surprised if he did, given that there are about thirteen other occasions in the four Gospels where Jesus breaks the rule, healing people on a sabbath day, and really infuriating people like the Pharisees in the process.
What does this strange story, a story omitted from today’s Gospel mean for us today? Does it matter? It matters to me, and this is why. I believe in healing. I believe that Jesus heals us no matter what day of the week it is. I am not saying that if I were diagnosed with cancer tomorrow that I believe I could simply ask Jesus to heal me and the tumor will miraculously disappear. That’s a cure. And while a cure is of course desirable, I don’t think it is always in our best interest.
Healing is different. Healing doesn’t mean getting rid of dropsy or cancer, it means that we are given the strength, through Christ, to meet such adversity with courage. Healing, at least to me, is not something I pray for only when I am sick or injured. I try to pray for healing daily when I am well, when everything seems to be going fine. Because I know that there will come a day when my body will fail me, when I will face something which cannot be cured. And in that moment, I hope to have the serenity and peace which comes only from God. I hope that I will have the spiritual depth to know that even if what I have is incurable, it won’t matter, because God has already healed me.
Today we baptize a newborn child into the kingdom of God. In baptism, one is marked permanently as Christ’s own forever. Baptism it is not a guarantee against illness or adversity, as many baptized already know. Baptism instead recognizes the promise God makes to us. Part of that promise, I believe, is that Christ will heal you, whether or not you arecured.
Did you catch it? Did you miss seeing that God is healing you, even as your body ages and weakens? It’s easy to miss, kind of like the Gospel reading we skipped over today. And yet, God’s healing is available to all of us, if we just are willing to slow down, and not skip past it. AMEN.