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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Thursday, August 12, 2004


Luke 13:10-17 Healing of the Woman

James McTyre

Lake Hills Presbyterian Church

John Knox Center – Family Retreat

Sunday, August 22, 2004

[Sermon begins with the routine of a man in a doctor's office who catches every silly ailment all the other people walk in with. ]

School has started back for just about everybody, now. Which means the cold and flu season is about to start for those of you who attend school, or have kids in school, or teach school, or drive slowly past a school. Wash your hands, be a good steward of your Kleenex, and keep the Purel handy. Try not to breathe, or touch anything. Or you'll be looking like the man in the skit.

Back in my high school biology class, our teacher had us scrape cultures from a bar of soap from the school bathroom. We put the shavings in a Petrie dish, and put the dish in a warm, dark cabinet. About a week later, we opened the cabinet, and the dish was covered in these yukky, green moldy boil-looking growths. Some of them had teeth.

The germs are more concentrated at school. But they're everywhere. Even the most Obsessive Compulsive germaphobics can't stay away from them. Sooner or later, you're going to catch something that'll make you feel like a leaky truck has been driven up your nostrils.

So, we get used to it. We figure getting sick is just a part of life. We spend untold billions on medicine (at least our family seems to), and even the best of these drugs can't stop the dripping and sneezing; they just make us not mind it as much.

Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 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. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, "Woman, you are set free from your ailment." When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God.

Here was a woman who, somewhere along the way, had caught something. A spirit had crippled her for eighteen years. Sounds like she caught it from her first-grader and didn't get rid of it until he graduated college. She was bent over and unable to stand up straight. Jesus sets her free from her ailment. He lays hands on her, and immediately, she stands up straight and begins praising God.

Would that all our sickness was so easily cured. If only Jesus were here to “shout it out,” or lift us up so that we could be germ and symptom-free. But he is here, we believe. Do we have sick bodies and/or sick spirits because our faith isn't strong enough to form a protective shield? Is it our fault? Or are our problems the side effect of walking into any room with any other people? Is illness just a part of life? Both and all are true. Jesus is here. AND the stuff of other people rubs off on us as soon as they walk in the door.

How do we find the healing that the woman in this scripture found? How do we get Jesus to do the same thing for us? And if, by some miracle, we get what we want, what happens then?


I remember last year at family camp, when Don had a pretty serious jet ski accident. I also remember him coming to breakfast in a wheelbarrow. I was so relieved when Don asked me not to lay hands on him. Don was relieved when I said I wasn't planning to try. But what if someone with real spiritual powers, what if Jesus himself had walked into the dining hall, and said, “Rise up! Get throw down your wheelbarrow and walk?”

A big reason we have places like this retreat center is because people get injured over the course of a year. Some of our bruises and breaks -- breakups and breakdowns – some of the marks are visible. People rub up against us, rub us the wrong way, and before we know it we're bent over, spiritually (or emotionally) unable to stand up straight. Or we hang with the wrong people and we lose track of which way is up, which way is right and which is wrong. And sometimes we even make ourselves physically sick. We swallow antacids and chase away the symptoms. Basically, stress is a part of life, you know. If you can't get with the program, get out of the way.

I wonder if for eighteen years, that's what the woman at the synagogue had been told. “Sorry, sister. That's the breaks. We don't blame you for your problems, but we can't solve them, either. We're good listeners, we'll help you get a nice wheelbarrow. But beyond that, well.”

And then Jesus came as the guest preacher one weekend. And he healed her. We know exactly what she did next. Immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. She may have even done a little dance, raised the roof, so to speak. She was healed. She was “set free.” She was standing tall and proud and glorifying her Lord. Amen, sister! Somebody shout!

Even among decent and orderly Presbyterians, there is a spirit longing to be set free. Maybe the spirit has been silenced by physical problems. Maybe spiritual. Maybe emotional. Maybe the economic burdens on our shoulders have bent our backs. Whatever the reason, the #1 symptom of someone whose back is bent is that she only looks down. She only sees earthly dirt, and earthly paths, and earthly grounds for decision. She needs someone to tell her she's set free to see. She needs someone to tell her there's heaven above and glory around. She needs eyes to look into and arms to fall around her – none of which can happen with a back bent low. No matter what shape we're in, we all need Christ to set us free. We all need God's hope, and God's help, and God's healing touch. We all need to hear those words shouted out of the crowd in our direction, “Woman – Man – You are set free from your ailment. You are more than a doctor's report. You are more than your bank account. You are more than your kids or your parents say you are. You are more than the earth you stare at could ever have produced. You belong to God. You are free.”

We find healing like that through faith. It's faith healing, but not the kind the people on TV practice. Instead of faith healing, it's more like healing faith. And you get it because it rubs off on you. Just by being around Jesus. Just by being around scripture. Just by knowing that a greater world is around you – a greater world than the one beneath your feet. The woman might only have been passing by the synagogue that day, but faith found her, and gave her the strength to look up. And be free.


But here's the problem, for any of us who might experience this redeeming, freeing love of Christ. The old, grumpy leaders of the synagogue got mad about it. “Six days to do your healing, Jesus. Six days to do your healing and you have to go and do it on the one day we say not to. Harumph!”

The earth truly is magnetic. It wants to pull our eyes back down again. It wants us to see only what it shows us. Herds of people like people who go with the herd. Herds fight against free spirits who dance wherever they may be. So if God does set your soul free from whatever ailment might be upon you, you'd better keep it to yourself. You'd better keep quiet about it if you don't want some grumpy person cursing you in God's name, or cursing God in yours.

Or, you can dance.

If the woman who was healed was one of those people who catch every germ that comes her way, you have to wonder what she did. Maybe she holed up and never came out again. Or maybe she just went another way. Jesus offers us all another way to go. Jesus offers all of us healing that's different from earthly healing, because our ailments are different from earthly ailments. Jesus sets us free. Jesus calls our spirits to be set free. Jesus calls us to look up, look around, look in different places for life.

There's the old joke, “Doctor it hurts when I do this.” “Well, then,” says the doctor, “don't do that.” The problem is, most of us don't know what else to do than whatever it is we always do. And still we wonder why we don't feel any better, or feel any happier than last year. Do something different. Look toward Jesus. Look up toward God. Look around at a wonderful, mystical world that's so much more than the ground beneath your feet. Dance. Stand up straight and begin praising God.