Sermon for Proper 16: Slapping the System

It is really eerie that the blog entry I just wrote not an hour ago has so much to do with this sermon. I couldn’t have planned it better, really, which is the best part ever. I didn’t plan it at all.

I told you my favorite example of Jesus changing his mind, and here is today’s Gospel in its entirety, taken from Luke 13:10-17:

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. But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.” But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?” When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.

This is the ultimate smackdown between Jesus and the keepers of the law, a standing ovation of a story that has me whooping and hollering and clapping, even sitting alone in my room typing. Jesus knows that the legal system does not prevent Jews from being cruel to animals, so why in God’s name (literally) does it say that healing humans is “work?” Why is being cruel to humans okay, and being cruel to animals is not?

Jesus slaps the law in its face, using its own words. That’s the most fun in reading Jesus. When he uses the legal system to make the people in charge of it look like jackasses. There’s a beauty in it, really, and always my favorite part of the Bible. To compare Jesus to modern day rebels, Elizabeth Warren stands out as a pure example. She just slaps the law in its face, and as Matt Damon famously said regarding American banks during a speech at MIT:

It was theft, and you knew it. It was fraud and you knew it, and you know what else? We know that you knew it. I don’t know if justice is coming for you in this life or the next, but if it does come in this life? Her name will be Elizabeth Warren.

Yes. Yes, it will.

I don’t know and I don’t care whether Elizabeth Warren or Matt Damon believes in Jesus, but I do know that this is such a Christ-like example of turning power on its ear that the Christ would be so proud he’d throw a parade in their honor.

For instance, take a look at this:

Regardless of religious affiliation, there are people out there being Christ in the world, as all Christians are called to do. OF COURSE being Christ in the world is about the soft touch of helping a neighbor in need, giving to the poor we don’t even know but want to protect, and giving of ourselves to our faith community so that we can continue the ministries we wholeheartedly support.

But there’s also that other thing. The foresight to see wrong and correct it. Democrat or Republican Christians are not called to vote among party lines, but to tell the difference between right and wrong. I am not endorsing anyone, but standing up for what’s right. It is not my job as a theologian without any degrees to say for whom you should vote, but I can see individual laws going through the House and Senate and feel the need to slap them the way Jesus did… and slap them HARD.

Right now, it’s Republican policies that are hate-filled, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t stand up against Democrats if they were pulling the same stunts. It’s my job to be neutral when it comes to the party and up on my soapbox for the things Christ would tolerate and the things he wouldn’t.

I don’t think that Jesus would necessarily be for abortion, but at the same time, in Judaic law, there is no prohibition against it. In fact, abortion in Judaic law can take place at any time, a much longer statute of limitations than Roe v. Wade gives us now. However, I do think that Jesus would stand up for Planned Parenthood, not because of abortion itself, but because Planned Parenthood tries so hard to prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place. I think that Jesus would stand up for a safety net in which parents do not have to fear an unwanted pregnancy because they are so financially strapped that they cannot afford another child which plunges them deeper and deeper into poverty. I think that Jesus would stand up to the pro-lifers that have no plan except preventing abortions and nothing for caring for children once they are born.

If this issue was really pro-life, the people who want that statute would be lined up around the block with bottles and blankets for the children born of unwanted pregnancies we already have. All children are a blessing from God, but it makes it harder to believe it when you have no way of taking care of it… when you have to choose between rent and food. When you have to choose between diapers and electricity. When you have to choose between child care and staying home, because the choice isn’t easy. When you look at the cost of child care in this country, if you go to work, you come home with maybe an extra $100 a month, because 90% of your paycheck is already spoken for. In a two income-family, this may not be as much of an issue as it is for single moms, because even with working and paying for child care, there’s no way to pay for the rent, bills, groceries, etc. without half the country screaming about social programs and how to get rid of them.

I am looking forward to the day when Republicans come back into the fold of working together with Democrats to accomplish great things, but I am probably going to be waiting a long time. Until then, we need to slap the system senseless.

Just as Christ would have done.

The issue at hand is that Jesus did not want to put anything off until tomorrow that could be done today. Why should that woman have had to wait to be healed when it was okay to be kind to an animal and not support the sanctity of human life?

The system failed that woman, just as ours is failing us now. We need our Christs in the world, whether they’re Christians or not. They are pointing the way to marked change, and so shall we. Because we are very members incorporate in the mystical body of Christ… and that means something. It means hardcore advocacy and radical change. It means a fearlessness that needs to be mustered from deep within.

It takes faith, and a lot of it, to be that brave. But I only have two words for you.


Don’t be a Democrat or a Republican. Be a Jesus.



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