One Sabbath Jesus was teaching in a synagogue. A woman there had an evil spirit that had kept her sick for eighteen years; she was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called out to her, “Woman, you are free from your sickness!” He placed his hands on her, and at once she straightened herself up and praised God. The official of the synagogue was angry that Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, so he spoke up and said to the people, “There are six days in which we should work; so come during those days and be healed, but not on the Sabbath!” The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Any one of you would untie your ox or your donkey from the stall and take it out to give it water on the Sabbath. Now here is this descendant of Abraham whom Satan has kept in bonds for eighteen years; should she not be released on the Sabbath?” His answer made his enemies ashamed of themselves, while the people rejoiced over all the wonderful things that he did.
When our focus is on Church rules, rationale and regulations, we often forget the real person, the intentional reason and the relevancy of why the rules were developed in the first place. This can ‘bend’ us and reshape us in a way we may never have intended – in how we love our neighbour, in our own wellbeing, in our thinking and choices, and in how we practice and ‘do’ our faith. Our focus on faith is bent by the weight and shape of rules.
We see these outcomes in those who are not included, through structural injustice and myopic understanding. It is seen when our practices are not connecting with and supporting those whom we are called to serve.
Jesus is drawing the focus away from the human ‘rules’, towards to the people of God. He offers the ‘re-shaping’ that comes from being present in God’s love. God’s Spirit unbends and re-shapes us – to bring the good news; to recover our sight to see where we are to serve, and whom we are to love; to revise our ways of living and doing, so that justice prevails and peace reigns. God’s love reshapes us and sets us free.
This is a poignant reminder at the one year anniversary of the Taliban taking power in Afghanistan. We pray with the innocent community, particularly women and children, and with all the wider diaspora weighed down by un-Godly rules from this regime.
Prayer for our Churches
Unbend us, our God.
We are misshapen.
With our certainty of understanding
and our insistence of ‘only’ our approach,
we have distorted your Way.
With our inclusion of some,
but ignore those who do not meet our standards,
we have prejudiced your Way.
With our fears of being different
and curtailing diversity,
we have biased your Way.
With our lessening of hope,
and mistrust of your future promise,
we have misunderstood your Way.
With our grasping hold of that which we know,
for security and certainty,
we have misconstrued your Way.
With our longing to be accepted,
and our anxiety to defy what is unjust,
we have relinquished your Way.
We call to you, our gentle God of love.
Unbend us, our God, we pray,
for we are misshapen. Amen
© Rev Anne Hewitt 17/08/2022
This reflection & prayer may be shared as long as the original writer is credited.