A month ago, just at the time when Plum was born, the Spouse started giving away a song. It’s a beautiful song – not because it is about beauty but because it is about being raw.
“I am one who is stricken by what my father calls the blues.”
Mercy is a searchingly honest song. I should say it isn’t about Plum (we’re not blue about him at all!) – but it is because things have felt so brimming with blessing around here that the Spouse wanted to give something back. He’s been treasuring this song for a while now so he’s giving it away.
Have a listen:
Haven’t we all been there? Not living well but merely living, hanging in there, hungry for an answer. Sometimes these feelings pass over us quickly. Sometimes they settle in and life continues on under their weight. Like the woman in Luke 13:
“And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight.”
And then, in that wonderful direct and yet sparse way of Scripture, we read that Jesus saw her. I’m glad that the lectionary has drawn my attention to her this week. I could spend a lot of time wondering about her. We read that she was in the temple one Sabbath when Jesus was teaching, but I wonder what it was like. Was there a large group around him, listening to his words? Or only a few friends? Was she among them or did she stand apart? Was she praying? Was she silent? However it might have been that day in the Temple, Jesus saw her. He saw her need – and he healed her. He was merciful and she was healed.
The emphasis in this passage seems to be the conversation that came afterwards about healing on the Sabbath. The Temple authorities challenge Jesus for working on the Sabbath, and he replies with a new definition for healing. It isn’t work – it’s liberation. With simple words – hard words, perhaps, but strong, good words – Christ turn things upside down, offering healing and leaving the Temple Authorities profoundly unsettled.
Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?
How’s that for teaching? In these words, I hear Christ calling us re-evaluate how we see each other. Because he saw the woman, and seeing her, set her free. Can we do the same? Can we look well enough to see each other? Can we still ourselves long enough to hear each other’s cry for mercy? Christ was in the Temple to teach and yet he was able to put that goal aside when he saw the woman and to hear her unspoken cry for mercy. This ties in with my recent thoughts about watching each other and not the clock. But I think that it goes a little further, too, because Christ doesn’t just call us to look after our families or those close to us. The woman in Luke 13 is a stranger to Jesus. There is no indication that he knew her before this slim moment in the Temple, and yet he sees her pain and sees her clearly enough to set her free. If we’re to follow as he leads, we’re also to open our eyes wide to those around us. Like him, we’re to be sure that we don’t get so tied up with our teaching that we fail to see others clearly.
This passage is a revisiting of the Good Samaritan story from a few chapters before in Luke 10. Again, someone is afflicted, calling for mercy, despairing, and healed. Again, the religious institutions are challenged to reevaluate how they view their work and their identity. But this time around, Jesus isn’t telling stories to entertain the crowd. Instead, he’s living the story. Christ is God’s love incarnate. Again and again and again. Thank Heavens for that.
”No church, no Christian can remain content with living life in a way that allows us to see most of the world lying half-dead in the road and pass by.” Tom Wright, Lent for Everyone: Luke