Back To Christ
The Rev. Jon Roberts
Calvary Episcopal Church
Indian Rocks Beach, FL
10 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 11 And there was a woman who had had a spirit of infirmity for eighteen years; she was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. 12 And when Jesus saw her, he called her and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your infirmity.” 13 And he laid his hands upon her, and immediately she was made straight, and she praised God. 14 But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be healed, and not on the sabbath day.” 15 Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his ass from the manger, and lead it away to water it? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?” 17 As he said this, all his adversaries were put to shame; and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him.
Woman with an Infirmity of Eighteen Years, James Tissot 1836-1902
If we are ever going to straighten out the world, we have to get back to Christ.
There is a lot of crookedness in our world, and we wonder if it will ever straighten out. Since we live in it, it is painful to watch, and it is painful to endure. It can sometimes be paralyzing. Speaking of such, in 2013, the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation unveiled staggering statistics based on research into the prevalence of paralysis across the U.S. They studied 70,000 households and discovered one out of fifty people (2%) live with paralysis. To put in perspective, that is Philadelphia, Washington and Los Angeles combined. The study’s founders, Christopher and Dana, died in 2004 and 2006 so this research was out of their legacy. Reeve, you may recall, was an actor, most notable in 1978 as the legendary “Superman.” The irony, that one day, he would be paralyzed himself. The study combined its findings with the CDC and fourteen leading universities and medical centers to confirm.
Here is the grim diagnosis. In the U.S. 5.4 million people are living with some form of paralysis where the spine of a person is considered crooked, or out of place. It affects the central nervous system and makes it extremely difficult to move the upper and lower extremities. It is the number one reason for filed worker’s compensation. It costs 40 billion dollars annually. Of those studied, 16% were able to continue to be employed whereas 60% were unable to work at all. 30% of households made under $20,000 per year. It can be diagnosed as related to arthritis, degenerative discs, herniated discs, spinal stenosis and spondylosis, stroke, multiple sclerosis and cystic fibrosis. It is caused by motor vehicle accidents, physical labor, inherited disorders, aging, falling, sports related, and so on. Strokes are the leading cause followed closely by injury. There are four major areas of the spine that can get crooked or out of joint. They are Cervical (top, seven), Thoracic (twelve), Lumbar (five), and Pelvic. At any one of these places, something can go wrong. It is truly painful to watch and more painful to endure.
We continue to watch and endure such pain in the world. Many of us have firsthand knowledge of such an infirmity and perhaps suffer ourselves. At times like this, we hear the words of the Psalmist, “In you O Lord have I taken refuge. Let me never be ashamed.” Stress is a killer. It makes us hunch over, but how do we take refuge? How do we walk tall and get through this? How can anyone, who does not know God, who has not faith in Him, bear their burdens? We need God and we need each other. Through Jesus Christ, we are not ashamed when we go back to Him.
In the Old Testament we see a young Jeremiah, living in a time when the nation of Israel was corrupted, broken, paralyzed and in need of refuge. He was the prophet, led by God to speak during a time when stress was killing His people. He was told that he was built for such a tine as this, when he would tell people not to be afraid, as he was known before, he was born into the mother’s womb. St. Paul writes to the diaspora of Jews who were equally stressed, bent over, and broken. He tells them that they are like a people in exodus, as the time of Moses leading the people of God through the wilderness. “See that you do not refuse the one who is speaking,” he says as their faith in Jesus and His work in the world is happening “Yet once more.” God is a consuming fire. They will be led to a place of refuge if they came back to Christ.
As we continue to find refuge, we turn to the story of a woman who was bearing a severe back disorder; hunched and barely able to walk, she is the woman Jesus heals in today’s Gospel. The physical ailment was apparent and she seemed weak in her pain, but what Jesus reveals is the strength in her faith. The miracle of her healing is further reminder that God can strengthen that which is broken. Oh, how we wish it was formulated and repetitive for all. If a person is paralyzed and they have faith in God, they will walk and be healed immediately. This is what happened for this woman, but it does not happen the same way for all. Her paralysis was caused by Satan. A medical specialist today is not able to detect this, but the Christian can.
We know when a person is under assault and our feeling of helplessness should never ignore her condition. We turn to prayer. We carry this person. Jesus saw this, where the people turned her away. The work of the Sabbath is to turn to the work of God; to move away from our needs and wants to the calling of God to pray for others. We lift the needs of others, and we help people to be forgiven of their shame. Jesus observed this woman who was broken and decided to heal her on the Sabbath. She was a child of Abraham, and like each vertebra since that patriarch, somewhere along the way for God’s chosen people, nerves were pinched, discs were herniated, and great stress endured. The children of Abraham forgot the promises of God’s message and needed the Crucifixion of Christ to remind them.
What is our lesson from all of this, and what are we to take home. People are still being miraculously healed. It is not making the headlines at the pace of reporting what is broken, but it is happening. We have reminded us that life does not come without suffering, and we are no superman or superwoman. We are held in a fragile balance and at any time something can become broken. We come to church to be straightened out. The power of prayer is stronger than ever, and we all need to be healed. People are carrying more burdens and stress than ever. What do people do, where do they go, if they do not have Jesus in their lives. Do they not believe, do they not see the power from a community that worships God? For such a time as this, we should not be ashamed by our faith in God. We all need to be touched and straightened out by God. We all need to get “back” to Christ.
 The Rev. Jon Roberts
 Psalm 71:1
 Jeremiah 1:4-10
 Luke 13:10-17