What Happens After? Sermon for August 25, 2013

 Luke 13: 10-17
Cinderella got her Prince Charming. So did Snow White, Belle, Sleeping Beauty and Juliette.  
The problem is that is always where the story ends.  I much prefer the  Shrek storyline.  (hands on who has seen this one… if your hand is not up, I will see you at blockbuster after coffee hour).  The story line of Shrek II specifically dances with the question about what happens after happily ever after.  It addresses life after with the imperfection of diapers and bills and the craziness that makes us sit back and wonder “who did I marry?”
Let me read again what happens here that leaves us asking this question:
The woman was healed, stood up and praised God. But then what? 
As I pondered this passage this week, I kept thinking my love of fairy tales must be going overboard.  I went through site after site looking for someone else who asked the same thing- so to be honest, I am on my own here unless you are with me.  So, do you wonder too?  What happened after they all went home that Sabbath?  It is the ultimate season cliffhanger,  JC style.  
I also notice everyone in the story got so caught up in the Synagogue Ruler’s temper tantrum that we forgot about the woman.  She got healed, praised God, and that was it.  Never heard from again. Talk about a one hit wonder, and the shortest 15 minutes of fame ever. 

Now I am sure it actually raised a bit of ruckus for a while with those who knew her.  She probably was ecstatic at first.  I mean,  think about it, she could stand up straight after 18 years.  That is no small thing if you have ever lived with back pain.  

Lets take a moment though and look at some other things we should know about this text.  If we go back to the Greek word, ασθενειας  used here, it is best translated as “infirmity or un-firm” in our language.  But that doesn’t tell us what kind of infirmity.  In fact, it might actually read better if we called it “the results of depression.”  The type of infirmity historically referenced here in the original language is the kind caused by mental distress and depression.  It is the kind you see when you can tell through body language that someone is dejected, lonely, sad, depressed and hopeless; drooped shoulders, downcast eyes, a person literally as curled into themselves as they can get and still be upright.  
What amazes me, and it shouldn’t, is that Jesus saw her.  The synagogue was  bound by strong social rules.  Men and important figures were always up front.  Women and the unimportant, in the rear.  Bent and infirm, this woman was more than likely the lowest of the low on the social scale.  So this woman was in the rear of the room and he noticed her, calling her forward.  
In that moment she must have felt an odd mixture of fear and joy.  
               Jesus noticed HER!  Oh no! Jesus NOTICED her!
 I don’t even think she really understood what was happening until he touched her, when she stood up, and she immediately praised God. 

And then in her moment of glory and joy,  Mr. Buzzkill pipes up and says, “Hey, you have 6 other days to get healed lady, do that some other time.” Immediately the attention is turned from her.  The Synagogue leader was exerting his right and power over the way things went in the synagogue on the Sabbath.  I wonder if he was jealous?  Or was he just upset over the planned day not going as he expected?  I think a little of both.  But don’t you wonder, what happened afterward for this man too?  He not only exerted his power, but then got shot down big time in front of all those folks- and they agreed with Jesus’ actions and words.  Talk about an ego buster. So what happened to him?  How did the rest of his day go?  

And how did the rest of her life go? 
 Suddenly she is able to do an awful lot of things she could not do before.  If we read this right, not only is she healed physically, but  also of the infirmity, the depression, that made her this way.  So she has a whole new attitude folks.  
Now let me ask you… the last time in your life you felt a huge personal change and you got home or went to school or work the next day- how did people take it?  What about a few days later?  Did you get to a point they kind of looked at you and said, “ok, that was all well and good, but we need to get back to normal now.”  What about when you go back home or to a reunion?  You may have had a HUGE change in your appearance, life or frame of mind, but you are treated the same as before.  Does that help you succeed at keeping your new perspective?  Does it help you stay on track?   Me Either. 
Cynthia was born with scoliosis.  By her early teens, her spine was curled like a pig tail and a rod was  inserted into her spine that she still has to this day.  Although she was deeply loved by her family, she knew she was different and even though doctors were working on keeping it minimized, it was still obvious that she had something different going on physically.  And we all know how kids are to each other.  
But Cynthia, she is tough.  And she fought back the only way she knew how.  By being mean.  I mean, really, really, mean.  She has told me how she was nasty, vicious, cruel and hurtful- all on purpose.  Because if she struck out first, others would still be licking their wounds as she walked away relatively unscathed.   
She was raised in a Christian home by two of the kindest, sweetest, most nurturing people I know.  But she ran from God.  And man oh man did she run.  She did her best to destroy her spirit to match her own image of her body.  I won’t go into details, but let’s just say, if you can imagine a way to offend God and other humans, she did it or she tried to. Because she was hurting inside.  She was infirm.   She was bound and she was broken.
Then one day she realized it was time to get off the pity pot and get right with God.  What she was doing wasn’t working and she knew deep down inside that she had Jesus and a chance to start over. 
 Today she is one of my dearest friends,  fiercest of my supporters, and most brutally honest with me as a sister in Christ.  Her life is on the right track and she seeks to honor God in every word and step. She livesthe gift of a healed woman. She knows Jesus has healed her.  She may still be physically ‘broken’ to the world, but she is spiritually healed.  Unfortunately, her soul still suffers.  
BUT, even though she was healed, she left a path of destructive consequences that are still piercing her life.  Her good and healed life.  She didn’t get a ‘happily ever after’  While she still cringes at her own x-rays and broken body,  she did get healed of her infirmity- the one inside that was destroying her far worse than anything physical ever could.  And the best news is that every time those barbs of consequences bite into her, she drops them back at the feet of Jesus and the Cross.  She is healed regularly, sometimes daily, or even minute by minute.  But over and over again, she is healed.  
When Jesus told the bent woman to stand up, that she was healed, he knew there would be more.  She would go home and face the changes, good and  bad that came with no longer being  infirm.  She would have to train others to look at her differently, but to still see her as the same woman in many ways.  She would have to learn how to be a more productive person and to fit into the fabric of her social world in a whole new way.  But when she would stumble, she was not left to her own devices.  She had Jesus, and she had his gift of life, of healing; over and over and over.  
So what does this mean to us?  Now I am not saying we get a free pass to intentionally act stupid and still be right with God.  But it  does mean, when we  leave church today and  backslide by calling someone a choice name for cutting us off in traffic, or you don’t pick up that Bible to read it tomorrow morning, like you keep promising you will do every Sunday, or you forget to pray over your meal at lunch later in the week, it is okay.  Those are the small things… when you lie to a friend, when you steal on your taxes, when you are sexually immoral… it is not right, but it will be okay, because if you are already saved, you are unbound and already in possession of healing and that healing is not a one time deal.  It has a lifetime warranty. Because of the cross You can keep using that promise over and over. 

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