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Weekly Bible Study Notes and Worship Resources for Ordinary 21

Year C, Colour = Green


Jesus heal a bent womanIntroduction

Sometimes we all feel that our very best efforts are not appreciated and we are left feeling discouraged. The same emotions must have troubled Jesus. In his ministry it seemed that no good deed would be left unpunished. In the reading from the Gospel of Luke today, Jesus heals a woman who had been crippled and lived life as a hunchback.

Jesus releases her, but encounters the wrath of the synagogue ruler. His crime was to heal on the Sabbath, something contrary to the Jewish law which God himself had given.  The ruler was right, Jesus had broken the law, but Jesus understood fully the implications of his actions. His life was about taking all those laws and breaking them once and for all, and bringing about a new covenant - a new way for us to understand and meet with God.

Jesus had come to make a new way possible with God and it was not subject to obeying old laws. Jesus wanted his followers to be governed by a new principle of love and this would mean a whole new way to behave. In the Bible reading from Luke today we are all challenged to realise that there are no more rules. Instead we are to ask the question, 'are we listening to the Spirit of God, writing God's way on our hearts and helping us to live each day more like Jesus.'

(Picture Known as the Two Brothers Sarcophagus. The cock of St. Peter is depicting below Christ's feet. Both Christ and Moses are clean-shaven. Date: Mid-fourth century Christ healing the crippled woman who was bent over, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=51253 [retrieved August 24, 2013]. Original source: Collection of J. Patout Burns and Robin M. Jensen.)

Opening Verse of Scripture  Psalm 71:3

Be to me a rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.

Collect Prayer for the Day — Before we read we pray

Almighty God, who called your Church to bear witness that you were in Christ reconciling the world to yourself: help us to proclaim the good news of your love, that all who hear it may be drawn to you; through him who was lifted up on the cross, and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we are to pray and to give more than either we desire or deserve: pour down upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid and giving us those good things which we are not worthy to ask but through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Common Worship

Lord God, your Son left the riches of heaven and became poor for our sake: when we prosper save us from pride, when we are needy save us from despair, that we may trust in you alone; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Common Worship

God of constant mercy, who sent your Son to save us: remind us of your goodness, increase your grace within us, that our thankfulness may grow, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Common Worship Additional

God our saviour, look on this wounded world in pity and in power; hold us fast to your promises of peace won for us by your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Common Worship Additional

Almighty God, you search us and know us: may we rely on you in strength and rest on you in weakness, now and in all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord.Common Worship Shorter Collect

Merciful God, grant that your Church , being gathered by your Holy Spirit into one, may reveal your glory among all peoples, to the honour of your name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen  Methodist Worship

Holy God, you liberate the oppressed and make a way of salvation. Unite us with all who cry for justice and lead us together into freedom; through our Lord and Liberator, Jesus Christ.  Amen.  Methodist Worship

Living God, you formed us in the womb and appointed us to be prophets to the nations. Stretch out your hand to cure our infirmity and dispel our fear, that we may know the freedom of serving you in Christ and proclaim the wonders you have done. Amen.

JeremiahFirst Bible Reading Jeremiah 1:4-10

Now the word of the Lord came to me saying,
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” But the Lord said to me,
“Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’;
for to all to whom I send you - you shall go,
and whatever I command you - you shall speak.
Be not afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,
says the Lord.”
Then the Lord put forth his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me,

“Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.
See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to break down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.”

The Prophet Jeremiah. Glass painting from the Choir of the Bebenhausen Monastery, Baden-Württemberg, Germany, ca. 1335. Note the womb-like shape surrounding the image of the prophet, symbolizing his formation by God for this ministry while in the womb. Image: Public Domain.

Alternative Isaiah 58:9b –14

Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say:

'Here am I. If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk,  and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.  "If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the LORD's holy day honourable,
and if you honour it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the LORD , and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob." The mouth of the LORD has spoken    

Second Reading  Hebrews 12:18-29

You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: "If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned. "The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, "I am trembling with fear."
But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, "Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens. The words "once more" indicate the removing of what can be shaken--that is, created things--so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our "God is a consuming fire."

Gospel Reading Luke 13:10-17

On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, "Woman, you are set free from your infirmity." Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.
Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, "There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath."
The Lord answered him, "You hypocrites! Doesn't each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?" When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.

Post Communion Prayer

God our creator, you feed your children with the true manna, the living bread from heaven: let this holy food sustain us through our earthly pilgrimage until we come to that place
where hunger and thirst are no more; through Jesus Christ our Lord.


Commentary

Commentary

In Victor Hugo' s memorable novel the "Hunchback of Notre Dame," he uses an interesting literary technique. 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. In our passage from Luke today we read about a woman, we do not know her name, but we do know that she too was a hunchback. Like 'Quasi' she would have been held in low regard by the crowd around her. Her prolonged illness would be seen by many as a sign of sinfulness and God's punishment, little wonder that it was attributed to an evil spirit. we know that this had been her condition for 18 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. Life must have been very hard for her, she missed the sky, the birds, and the rainbow. But physical ailments can do far more than bend a back. It can rob us of our livelihood and cause bankruptcy, it can take us away from our families, it can cause depression. Jesus called her and said, "Woman, you are set free from your infirmity." She suddenly stood erect, and began praising God. Was the woman cured? Notice that Jesus says, "Woman, you are set free from your ailment." She is set free. Immediately her talk is of praise and release from the burden. Jesus changed her focus from herself to God.

We are rightly indignant at the response of the synagogue ruler to the woman's condition. However he did have the law on his side, healing was work and it should not be done on the Sabbath. Jesus could have healed six days in any week, that should be sufficient miracles for everyone. Of course Jesus is not just making people well, he is picking a fight and making a point. Compassion trumps rules, even the Sabbath commandment. For this reason Jesus calls those who oppose him hypocrites. They take care of animals on the Sabbath, isn't the woman, a daughter of Abraham, a daughter of the covenant, of more value than they? Jesus is saying that restrictions, laws, rules, and institutions can, if we are not careful, keep us from rising to the heights of charity to which we are called. Jesus came not to throw out tradition, but to show us that it can never replace-and should never be allowed to hinder-the expression of genuine love for one another.

The woman on the surface was attacked by a crippling condition of body and mind, she had been bent physically and no doubt she had suffered years of abuse just like 'Quasi.' Her condition was visible and obvious, but instead of being critical of her Jesus looked through surface, past the illness, and saw a human being. She was not a worthless, sinful, sick woman, she was nothing less than 'a daughter of Abraham!' The synagogue ruler on the surface had the appearance of being well and approved of by God. He was physically well, he was male and he was of religious standing. However, Jesus looked through the surface of him too and saw that he was rotten to the core. No evil spirit had attacked his body, instead he had been attacked by a spirit, which has crippled his soul. It wasn't wrong for the leader to want to protect the Sabbath day and worship from intrusions of regular work. However in the context of this miracle, the leader appears sick and shrivelled; being indignant at mercy and goodness looks ridiculous. What is missing is a delight in God's mercy, in Jesus' power. In attempting to protect what was holy, the leader misses a transforming encounter with Jesus, the Holy One. And in trying to protect the holy, he sees the broken woman as an intrusion.

Now, do we become indignant when God's moves catch us by surprise? Are we in danger of confusing our interests with God's? Do we see a needy person as one more interruption or as a child of God longing for freedom, restoration or healing? Do we trample the poor by protecting our piety from them or by always being busy with "more important" things? Have our delight and our rest in God been crowded out by other concerns? So we ask ourselves what is our response to the grace and mercy of God, are we like the woman so full of joy that we praise God.? Charles Royden

Meditation

There is a Buddhist story of a young woman whose baby grew sick and died. She was torn apart with grief and sorrow, and asked a Buddhist holy man if her grief and sorrow would ever go away. “You must bring me a bowl of rice,” he said, “but it must be from a house where no-one has ever suffered the loss of someone they loved and cared for.” So the woman set out, thinking this would be an easy task which would then result, at last, in her grief and sorrow no longer dominating her life. In the first house that she visited she found that a family member had died two years before. They talked, and each felt a little better as they shared their experience and learned from one another and supported each other.

In the next house, someone had lost a close friend. Again, she and the family found support. In the third house she began to appreciate more that love costs. And so it went on, from house to house. Eventually the woman returned to the holy man who asked if she had a bowl of rice for him. She had been told to bring one from a house where nobody had ever suffered the loss of someone they loved and cared for. “No,” she said. “Every house I have visited has had people who have suffered the loss of someone they have loved and cared for. What I have discovered is that it is because we love greatly that we experience such pain and sorrow when loved ones die. Our pain and sorrow may get less as time goes by, but they never go away. The medicine I have found in visiting other homes is that peace can come from helping others and sharing their problems.” The poet, Alfred Lord Tennyson, wrote:
“Tis better to have loved and lost Than never to have loved at all.”

Let us pray: Lord Jesus, you tell us that those who mourn are “blessed”, knowing that only those who love greatly can mourn. We know, too, that it is better to have loved and lost someone than never to have loved at all. We ask you today that through our own sufferings of different kinds, we may discover strength and peace through helping and supporting others in their difficulties. Amen.
 

Hymns

  1. When morning gilds the skies (Tune Laudes Domini)
  2. Beauty for brokenness
  3. It passeth knowledge
  4. Christ for the world we sing (Tune Moscow)9
  5. To God be the glory


Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

representation of prayer as seed growing

"Prayer is a plant, the seed of which is sown in the heart of every Christian.
If it is well cultivated and nourished it will produce fruit, but if it is neglected, it will wither and die."



Holy God, you liberate the oppressed and make a way of salvation. Unite us with all who cry for justice and lead us together into freedom; through our Lord and Liberator, Jesus Christ. Amen.

O Lord my God, I adore you as my first beginning and I long for you as my last end. Conduct me, therefore, O gracious Lord, by your wisdom. Restrain me with your justice, comfort me with your mercy, and defend me with your power; and of your love, enlighten my understanding, enflame my will and purify my soul; for Jesu's sake. Amen Richard Challoner, 1691-1781


Merciful God, take pity on me and hear my prayer. I ask not for riches and wealth, neither for great fame or adoration. My prayer is not that I will achieve success in my endeavours or be free from physical harm. I seek only to understand the course which you have plotted for my life, that I might more closely attain to the things which you have set before me.

Let your love fall upon the altar of our hearts,
O Lord, as fire from heaven.
Teach us to guard and cherish its holy flame. Strengthen our souls and kindle your love within our cold hearts that we may walk before you as pilgrims eager to reach their celestial home; through Christ our Lord. Amen  Gerhard Teersteegen, 1697-1769
 


Additional Resources

Commentary

Terrible physical ailments can sometimes prevent us from seeing inside a person and recognising their real beauty and worth. We castigate children if they make fun of people with any kind of deformity and yet there has always been a tendency for adults to do the same thing, often with even greater cruelty. From a religious perspective there have always been and perhaps always will be, those who see any misfortune which others suffer as a punishment from God for being bad.

In the story from the gospel reading today, we are introduced to a woman who must have suffered greatly from a condition which caused her to have a bent posture. She would be known by everybody and she would not have been considered blessed by God.

It seems that it was always people like this that attracted Jesus. It wasn’t that he always supported the under dog, it was more that he was able to see beyond the condition which presented itself and see the real person within. How much more lovely was the woman who was bent and crippled, than the self-righteous synagogue ruler? This ruler might have had perfect physical health, but his spiritual health was clearly terminal.

So Jesus pronounces freedom for the woman, freedom from the illness which had blighted her life and made others treat her as worthless and condemned. In an instant her whole life turned around, and little wonder that when she stood up straight her first act was to praise God. Everything was going to be different for the woman and we would hope that everybody around would be able to share in her sense of release and thanksgiving to God.

However the law said that healing on the Sabbath was wrong. In a legal sense the ruler of the synagogue was correct when he shouted that Jesus should not have healed on the Sabbath. The Jews were a special people and they did special things on certain days, ate specific foods, obeyed particular laws given by God. So Jesus might be helping the woman, but he was attacking nothing less than the law of God. Why would Jesus do such a thing, why not wait until the following day, make an appointment with the woman for her to come back and be healed without disobeying the religious law?

The answer must be that Jesus is doing more than healing a woman. Jesus is trying to make the bigger point, he is bringing in a new religion and with his religion compassion is more important than commandment. The new religion of Jesus calls for much more than blind obedience to a written law. It demands that each Christian, inspired by the Spirit, learns to live according to a new principle of love. It is scary, it replaces the old rules of the Old Testament and it appears to leave so much to chance. However those whose hearts have been warmed by the mercy of God are transformed by the Spirit and led in ways that no law ever could.  Charles Royden

Meditation

On this day in which we remember a woman physically bent and crippled. It is interesting to remember George Handel. In 1741 he too was a bent figure and one night he was seen to be moving slowly and unsurely along a dimly-lit street in London. He was ill and depressed and was struggling with his life, especially as he had suffered a stroke a few years before, paralysing his right side, affecting his walking and writing.

This great composer was the king’s chief musician. Feeling in despair he heard some words as he passed a church: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”. These words of a psalm touched him deeply. He returned home and began to write some music. From August 22nd, until September 14th he wrote his music almost non-stop, sleeping and eating little. What he wrote is now world famous and is called “The Messiah”. On finishing this masterpiece, he slept for 17 hours. “The Messiah” is an opera in
which singers present the life of Jesus from his birth to his death and resurrection, and so the music of Handel’s “Messiah” is often sung, especially at Christmas and Easter.

At the first London performance, in Covent Garden Theatre on 23 March 1743, King George II attended the performance of Handel’s “Messiah.” He was so impressed and touched by the “Hallelujah Chorus” that he stood up accompanied by the whole assembly. This has established a tradition which is still maintained as the audience stand up throughout the “Hallelujah Chorus.”

Handel was a committed Christian, and all performances of his music whilst he was alive were in aid of charities of his choice. The “Messiah” was first performed in Dublin, in aid of some charities which included “poor and distressed people who were in prison for debt”. Whilst talking about the time he was composing the “Hallelujah Chorus”, Handel is reputed to have said: “I thought I saw all heaven before me, and the great God himself.”

Handel was completely blind for the last 6 years of his life. He died in London in 1759, and the last musical performance he heard was a week earlier, and it was his “Messiah”. Charles Royden

 

Meditation

Born in Albania in 1910 Mother Teresa of Calcutta worked with the poorest of the poor in India. A journalist once asked Mother Teresa why she bothered working with the poor in Calcutta, because it was all just a drop in the ocean - there being millions of poor people in India. Mother Teresa said in reply that she was not concerned with a big way of doing things - she was concerned with individuals: "This person", she pointed to someone, "thinks it makes all the difference!"

Loving Lord, inspire me to be welcoming and generous in my attitude to others, showing individuals that they matter and are important. May I make a difference to someone in my part of the world today.

Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, since you have taught us that we do not live by bread alone; feed us now and evermore with the > bread which comes down from heaven, even your own self, our Saviour and our Redeemer. Amen. John Dowden, 1840-1910

We give you our thanks, O God, with reverence and awe, for before we were formed in the womb, you knew us; before we were born, you consecrated us. You are our rock and haven, to whom we can always turn. In times past you appointed prophets and put your words in their mouths, appointing them over nations and kingdoms to destroy wickedness and overthrow the ruthless, and to build justice and plant righteousness. But in these last days you have sent your son, Jesus Christ, to whom every day is a sacred new day of freedom. You have appointed him as the mediator of a new covenant, in which we are brought to the city of the living God with the angels and saints and the faithful of every age to rejoice together at the wonderful things you are doing. Through him, your living word, you reach out to us unbidden, and touch us and set us free. We glorify your most holy name.

Father and Mother of us all - we pray for those who are part of our human family and part of the community in which we live. We pray for the little ones - for those who are seen as unimportant - for those who are lost - for those who grieve as ones with no hope - for those who hunger for the Bread of Heaven and thirst for the Wine of Forgiveness. Grant, we pray, that they may receive the vision that they need from your hands and the encouragement that they long for

We pray, Father, for those who are afflicted and in various ways and for all those whom we know who require a blessing - be it physical, emotional, financial, or Spiritual Touch, O God all those who are bent over and oppressed by crippling spirits - and set free all those who are afflicted by attitudes and opinions and viewpoints that cause them and others to become bowed down and to suffer needlessly. Create in them the joy that is meant to be part of the Sabbath day - the day in which we have rest from our labours and celebrate the wholeness that comes from you.

Hymns

  1. Immortal, invisible
  2. We really want to thank you Lord
  3. Be thou my vision
  4. What does the Lord require
  5. May the mind of Christ (St. Leonard)
  6. Praise to the lord
  7. Let us sing to the God of salvation
  8. Christ for the world we sing (Tune Moscow)
  9. Stand up, stand up, for Jesus
  10. Jesus Christ gives life and gladness

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