Many years ago I met a woman whose real name I did not know; I knew her by her nickname, Cat. Cat shuffled into the dorm where I worked the night shift. She greeted me and mumbled about a poem she had written that she wanted to read to me. Cat was born with cerebral palsy and with a brilliant mind. Her parents institutionalized and abandoned her as a child, assuming that she belonged in a facility for persons with intellectual disabilities because of her cerebral palsy. Years later, the staff realized her intellect and restored her independence. She became a ward of the state because she had nowhere to go.
When Cat, now in middle age, approached me that night, I first heard only gibberish. But as I listened more closely, I heard her beautiful, poetic words. She had a voice. I realized that I was in the presence of a wonderful soul trapped in a body devalued by others and our society. With determination and a deep faith in Jesus Christ, she was “set free” as her soul “stood up straight.” I too was transformed by having known this wonderful woman, who uttered words of inspiration to all who would listen.
The woman in today’s reading is among the most famous of the many unnamed women in the Bible. Jesus sets her free from her pain by seeing her. And though it is the sabbath, he does not let that barrier stop him from healing her. What self-imposed barriers do you carry that ail you? When Jesus calls you over, have you given him permission to lift these from you? Remember that you are set free to praise God by the one who offers you God’s overwhelming grace.
God, remove the barriers within me to see past others’ differences and to value them for your love and grace within them. Amen.
The readings in Jeremiah and Psalm 71 are repeated in a pair from earlier in the year (January 28—February 3). They describe the authors’ confidence that God has had plans for their lives since even before they were born. God similarly knows each one of us and has a calling on our lives. The reading in Hebrews gives us confidence in the permanence of the kingdom of God, to which we have access through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We are not to take this lightly; we should worship God with due respect. In a synagogue on the sabbath, Jesus teaches a lesson about mercy. When he encounters a woman in need, he places her need above religious regulations. If religious traditions trump mercy, then our priorities are out of alignment.
Read Jeremiah 1:4-10. How do the children in your life live out God’s call on their lives?
Read Psalm 71:1-6. How do you continually praise God as your refuge?
Read Hebrews 12:18-29. How do you discern what is required of you in praising God in the new covenant?
Read Luke 13:10-17. How do you observe the sabbath now? What sabbath practice might you start that puts God’s reign into action?
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