[IMAGE: Unley Uniting Church, Adelaide]
This post is part of the ON THE WAY sermon series at St Mark’s Anglican Church, Casino July/October 2022
Now that was an interesting gospel, and especially in light of developments this week in our national church.
Jesus is making his way south from Galilee to Jerusalem.
He is taking his time, as Luke tells the story.
Along the way—on the way (as we all are, all the time)—Jesus drops into a local synagogue to join the Shabbat prayers,
His reputation has preceded him and he is asked to teach the gathered faithful.
Then a woman enters the assembly.
For 18 years she has been crippled and unable to stand upright among her peers.
How did the scene look through her eyes?
For almost 20 years she has been looking at life sideways.
No one looks her in the eye.
She scans a familiar scene in her local synagogue: all the religious people are here, including those who consider themselves experts in holy living, but there is also this stranger from Galilee. And a whole bunch of strangers who are with him as he travels from Galilee to Jerusalem.
A bigger crowd than usual.
His name is Jesus: Yeshua in Aramaic, Yehoshua (Joshua) in Hebrew.
Not this little lady.
For 18 years she has been crippled, bent and twisted. Her world is misshapen and distorted.
That is what people see and think when they look at her.
Mostly, of course, they do not look at her.
She makes them uncomfortable.
They look past her, over her, around her, beyond, but never at her.
She is invisible to them.
But Jesus looked at her.
He sees me!
I am not invisible to him.
He speaks to me.
He touches me.
I stand straight and tall.
For the first time in 18 years,
I look Jesus in the eye.
He looks me in the eye.
I praise God.
Indeed, God saves.
But the officiant is not happy.
The official religion experts are offended.
No queers allowed!
My 18 years of crooked living are nothing to them.
My queer life does not have any weight for that religious official.
Rules are rules.
Shabbat is for prayer and not for healing.
In his eyes, my straightness is crooked.
And I am queer once more.
Jesus speaks again.
“You guys untie your ox and donkey on Shabbat.”
“You lead them to water.”
“But you will not lift a finger to help this lady.”
“You will not invite her to claim God’s healing.”
“And stand straight in this assembly.”
Now we can say:
All of us are queer.
Not always in ways that others can see.
All of us are bent over and crooked.
Even if we hide our crookedness as best we can.
None of us can stand tall without a community that welcomes us, just as we are.
Did you notice the gathering song, chosen by Sylvia this morning?
Come as you are, that’s how I want you …
Here in this church, we are that community for each other.
You help me stand stall.
You value my queerness.
You heal my brokenness.
This week, after months of secret preparations, a group of religious leaders have decided to create a new Anglican Church in Australia, the so-called Diocese of the Southern Cross.
For them, ancient rules matter more than people.
Jesus has a word for them: “Hypocrites!”
Last week Jesus said that his faithful response to God’s call on his life (his own particular form of queerness) would divide people.
And here we are already.
Those who prefer rules over people seek to create a church with no queers.
A church only for straight people.
No crooked folks there.
Are we with the leader of the synagogue or with Jesus?
I know my answer to that question.
Let me close (especially for those reading this online) with the haunting words of Leonard Cohen:
The birds they sang
At the break of day
I heard them say
Don’t dwell on what has passed away
Or what is yet to be
Ah, the wars they will be fought again
The holy dove, she will be caught again
Bought and sold, and bought again
The dove is never free
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in