|Of Bumper Stickers and Praise|
I love to read bumper stickers. There was one I read not long ago in the States that stated:
Jesus is coming back soon and he's gonna be mad! When Jesus returns (soon a la the Book of Revelation), he will bring judgement upon individuals whose behavior is sinful and condemned in the bible. They are fairly easily identified by their fellow religionists, Jesus knows who they are, and when he returns they will receive God's wrath. John+
This is pretty common view of many christians, and other religions in their own terms, share this view as well: God is coming to judge individuals accused by some religionists of behaving in a way that has made them out of favor with God.
Like the woman in the Gospel today. He has been hunched over for 18 years. Her physical affliction was proof to the leaders of the synagogue that she had fallen out of God's favor morally. But the Gospel says what caused her affliction was a "spirit." Was she possessed by an evil spirit or did the "spirit" have another source? Could it be the "spirit" came from people around her all her life, supported by their religious leaders, that pointed the finger at her, speaking evil about her, and burdening her with a yoke of constant accusation. (Not possession by the devil, but a human spirit influenced by Satan) No wonder she couldn't stand up straight!
I imagine Jesus was well-versed in the prophecy of Isaiah we just heard, speaking to some very religious people:
If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.
When Jesus was teaching in that synagogue and saw a woman come in all hunched over, he took action. Jesus called her over and freed her. She stood up straight for the first time in 18 years and began praising God! For her, praising God was a natural thing to do. She had probably been talking to God about her situation for years and her prayers were answered. She could go about in her world as a regular human being with respect and dignity. Praise God!
Jesus, of course, was criticized for doing what he did. It was the Sabbath and no work was to be done on the Sabbath- it was a day of rest. But the ones critical of Jesus didn't really understand the Sabbath:
God rested on the Sabbath, yes, as the Creation story goes, but never for a nano second did God stop caring for people, especially those most in need of mercy, Sabbath or any other day. Jesus did many healings on the Sabbath, probably to make this very point:
...people and their needs matter anytime, anywhere.
Jesus, angry at his critics, calls them hypocrites. They had so codified the Sabbath regulations to even include the tying or untying of knots that bound their animals. The rules allowed them to untie a knot or two and lead an animal to water, but would let them unbind an afflicted human being. They spent a lot of time doing godly things, but they were godless in their heart. This was the source of Jesus' anger.
Jesus brought a huge shift in outlook: don't worry so much about what God is going to do to the ones you think are evil (wrath of an angry God, apocalyptic view), worry about satanic human violence done to other human beings (human wrath, eschatological view).
Make the Sabbath day a day of delight. Don't think about yourself, think about others. Make it a day for the healing of creation! Stand up and praise God!
Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English) meets for mass every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. (see welcome letter at sidebar) at Casa Convento Concepcion, 4a Calle Oriente No. 41, Antigua, Guatemala.