Year C Proper 16 Luke 13
A Crippling Spirit
Luke 13:10-17

I want to encourage you to do something. If you have never read Victor Hugo's memorable novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, pick up a copy and read it. Hugo uses an interesting literary technique in the story. The reader is allowed to see the basic decency and humanity of Quasimodo, the hunchback, while the crowd sees him only as a monstrous freak. The story, in its essence, is part tragedy, and part hope.

Our text this morning, not surprisingly, comes from Luke's Gospel. This story also, is part tragedy and part hope. Luke is the only Gospel writer who records this event in the life of Christ. But Luke, being a physician, would have been drawn to a story like this. He does not go into a lot of detail. In only three verses he tells us that there was a woman who was a hunchback. We do not know her name; we do not know about her family background. We know that she has had this condition for eighteen years. The implication is that she had not been born with it. Perhaps it was a calcium deficiency, a spinal injury, or genetic, or some extreme case of osteoporosis. We don't know. We are simply told that a spirit has crippled her. Jesus called her over and said, "Woman, you are set free from your infirmity." We are told that she suddenly stood erect, and began praising God.

I am not quite sure what to make of this spirit. But, in some way it is responsible for this woman's tragic circumstances. As we take a closer look at this story there are other spirits at work. There is at work...

  1. The crippling spirit of the woman.
  2. The legalistic spirit of the synagogue ruler.
  3. The joyful spirit of the congregation.

Mulliganeers, All
Luke 13:10-17

Way back in cold old February, fourth grader Patrick Timoney came face-to-face with what "zero degrees" really mean. Not "zero degrees" Fahrenheit, but "zero degrees" of tolerance.

It seems Patrick had taken some of his favorite Lego toys to school to show off to his buddies. Any parent of young children can tell you those little, tiny Lego guys are natural born killers.

They hide in the couch to poke you when you sit down.
They stab you in the foot as you cross the floor.
They can single-handedly destroy expensive vacuum cleaners, dishwashers, and washing machines.

Patrick's favorite Lego toy was an inch-and-a-half tall policeman figure. The Lego policeman came armed with his own teeny-tiny gun. That minuscule piece of plastic succeeded in getting Patrick kicked out of school. It seems the "zero tolerance" policy about bringing "weapons" on school grounds extended to include that Lego ornament, that toothpick-sized armament.

Sorry, but sometimes "zero tolerance" makes "zero sense." At least zero common sense.

A "zero tolerance" policy is what the synagogue leader was advocating in today's gospel lesson. Charged with keeping the reading and reflection of the Torah on the straight and narrow, this officious official couldn't see beyond the letter of the law, beyond the jot and tittle of his title. No "work" on the Sabbath meant strict adherence to every stated restriction. No "work" on the Sabbath mean avoiding every rabbinically-vetoed activity.

In other words, the synagogue official had come to see the Sabbath as one great big "thou shalt not." Instead of being a celebration of the divine presence, Shabbat became a cell to quarantine human activities and confine the Spirit... presents Leonard Sweet