Trinity 10 – 25th August 2019 – Luke 13, 10 – 17

Revd. Canon Leonard Doolan,  St Paul’s Athens


‘Walk carefully as you come here for God is here before you

Walk humbly as you come here for two or three are gathered

Walk softly as you come here for the spirit may speak in the silence of this place’

(A Celtic prayer)


The Scottish poet Robert Burns was a great observer of everyday life and many of his poems concentrate of a fine detail or small item.


While sitting in his church in Alloway, Ayrshire, one Sunday morning, no doubt bored from listening to some great long-winded  sermon, his roving eye suddenly spots Jenny.


I wonder how many of us have allowed our minds to wander during a sermon and looked around to see who else is present. ‘She was wearing that dress last week’, ‘what has she done to her hair’ he’s showing his age’ did his wife not tell him that colours don’t go together’ ‘who does she think she is, coming to church when last week she was so unchristian to me’ ‘his words don’t match his actions’ and so the list will go on and on.


He spots on Jenny’s rather flamboyant hat, no doubt her Sunday best, an insect, a louse, crawling over the netting of her bonnet.


‘Oh Jenny, dinnae toss your heid,

An’ set your beauties a’ a breed

Ye little ken what dreadfu’ speed the blastie’s makin,

They winks and finger ends I dread,

Are notice takin’.


I suspect that any Greeks here this morning will struggle a bit with the poet’s regional dialect. In fact even English speakers struggle with it.


The point is that it is not just the poet who has spotted the insect. Others in the church have seen it too and are beginning to wink at each other and point, no doubt in a judgemental fashion. ‘You see, she comes in that big fancy hat to show off in church, but look at that thing crawling all over it’.


We are so easily crushed ourselves by the way we view others or by the way we judge them. It mars the image of the divine in each of us and limits our ability to flourish in the way God wills for each of us.


The prophet Isaiah has picked this up. He contrasts the normal everyday behaviour of the people which weighs them down with delight and joy of being liberated by God.  It is a lovely set of contrasts.


‘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.


He goes on to contrast parched places with springs of water; ruins being rebuilt; the crushing effect of the Sabbath when wrongly interpreted with the delight of the Lord’s holy day. Isaiah is speaking of people being healed, restored, fed, strengthened, with their thirst quenched. This is only possible when we subject ourselves to the generosity of God, rather than limiting the things of God by our own selfish, and self – interested, needs.


It is this latter human condition that Jesus encounters one day when he is teaching in a synagogue. A crippled elderly lady bent over in two by her illness presents herself. You can imagine the winks and finger ends being exercised. Physical illness was considered the result of sin, and that sine could even have been committed three or four generations earlier by someone in your family. So the minds of the people are surely thinking what sort of sin caused this? Jesus uses the contrasting language of being bound but now set free. She is healed, cured, of her illness, but Our Lord is setting her free, liberating her, both from the physical effects of her crippling illness, but also setting her free from the judgement of others that she has had to endure these long 18 years. The people rejoice when she stands up as they are so happy about this wonderful freedom.


All except one. There’s always one, isn’t there; the one that has to try and put a dampener on anything good. This one is the leader of the synagogue. With his own eyes he has witnessed a miracle, and what is his response? Why couldn’t he have done this on a Tuesday or a Thursday, or even a Sunday – remember these are Jews. The Lord’s day is not for something like this to happen – how dare he?


The Sabbath had clearly crushed this man. He was the one really who needed to be set free. He had allowed his own self interests that had been invested in Sabbath observance to stand between him and God’s saving work.

Friends, we have a God who sets us free in Jesus Christ. Rejoice in that liberation.


‘Walk carefully as you come here for God is here before you

Walk humbly as you come here for two or three are gathered

Walk softly as you come here for the spirit may speak in the silence of this place’

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