Friday, August 23, 2019

Gospel text for Sunday 25 August 2019

Asylum Seeking Families 
Welcomed to freedom and rest in Tuscon's new Casa Alitas Welcome Center

Luke 13:10-17        Now Jesus 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.

Reflection         Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. For six days you shall labour and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.” (Deuteronomy 5:12-15)

Keeping the Sabbath holy means extending freedom and compassion to all people and all creatures; ox, donkeys, livestock, resident aliens and slaves. No one is to be denied rest, peace, dignity and freedom, even if it is only temporary. Apparently Jesus felt an urgency to fulfill this God given mandate. Offering healing to the long suffering woman could not wait until Saturday night. Jesus is living according to the spirit of God’s law.

I suspect Jesus calls the leader of the synagogue a hypocrite because in the leader’s dogged adherence to the letter of the law he has lost sight of the spirit of the law. If the root of the law is affirmation of the holiness of life and that everyone deserves to be set free, then what possible justification could there be to allow anyone or anything to suffer by being bound, or tied, to the letter of the law? Sometimes we simply cannot wait to do what is right.

This week I received a letter from the Rev. Delle McCormick, retired UCC minister, describing her experience meeting one mother and her daughter at the Casa Alitas Welcome Center, the Tucson site for hosting the newest asylum seeking guests to our country. Rev. McCormick writes,  “The single mom from Guatemala had a college degree, a "good job" with the Ministry of Education. One day after work she was met getting off the bus by a person who ordered her to deliver two "packages." She declined, knowing the packages most likely contained drugs or weapons. The next day when she got off the bus, the same man handed her a picture of her 4 year-old daughter, and said the child would be dead the next day if she didn't deliver the packages. That night, the mom left her job, her bank account, her home, her family, her culture - her whole life, she said - and fled, taking three weeks to make her way with her daughter to the US border. Sitting before me was a person who, without notice, left her whole life behind for the sake of her daughter. Imagine.” *

Sometimes we simply cannot wait to do what is right.

This Guatemalan mother broke who knows how many laws, laws constructed with good intentions to support and protect people and nations.  Nonetheless, can you see Jesus reaching out to help this woman? Can you hear him saying to officials who are swift to remind him of all the laws she has broken and that he too is breaking the law by helping her, "You hypocrites! Would not each of you leave your career, your home, your bank account, your country, everything you know to save the life of your child? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound with threats to the life of her child, be set free from this bondage, on the sabbath or any other day of the week?”

Luke’s text invites us into a complicated conversation. A conversation with which we cannot cease to wrestle. How do we live between the letter and the spirit of the law? Which laws assist us in leading a Christian life? If we believe the root of the law is affirmation of the holiness of life and that everyone deserves to be set free, what actions shall we choose to put flesh on the bones of God’s law today? Compassion cannot wait. 

  • Visit for more information about Casa Alitas Shelter Programs

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