Summary: A sermon focusing on the mercy and love of Christ.
“Feeling the Weight of the World”
In his book, When a Nation Forgets, Erwin Lutzer retells one Christian’s story about living in Hitler’s Germany.
The man wrote:
“I lived in Germany during the Nazi Holocaust.
I considered myself a Christian.
We heard stories of what was happening to the Jews, but we tried to distance ourselves from it, because what could anyone do to stop it?
A railroad track ran behind our small church, and each Sunday morning we could hear the whistle in the distance and then the wheels coming over the tracks.
We became disturbed when we heard the cries coming from the train as it passed by.
We realized that it was carrying Jews like cattle in the cars!
Week after week the whistle would blow.
We dreaded to hear the sound of those wheels because we knew that we would hear the cries of the Jews en route to a death camp.
Their screams tormented us.
We knew the time the train was coming, and when we heard the whistle blow we began singing hymns.
By the time the train came past our church, we were singing at the top of our voices.
If we heard the screams, we sang more loudly and soon we heard them no more.
Years have passed, and no one talks about it anymore.
But I still hear that train whistle in my sleep.
God forgive me; forgive all of us who called ourselves Christians yet did nothing to intervene.”
William Wilberforce once wrote, “In the Scripture, no national crime is condemned so frequently and few so strongly as oppression and cruelty, and the not using our best endeavors to deliver our fellow-creatures from them.”
Our Scripture Passage for this morning is a story of restoration and health, in the face of a system that seems bound and determined to keep oppressed people where they are.
The woman in the story was probably well-known in her village where everyone’s life was public.
And everyone in town knew how long she had not been able to straighten-up her body.
We are told that she had been “disabled by a spirit for eighteen years.”
Many today think that her disability came from psychological causes.
Maybe somebody or a whole group of somebody’s had persistently abused her, verbally or physically, when she was smaller, until her twisted up emotions communicated themselves to her body, and she found that she couldn’t get straight.
It’s been noted that even after all the medical advances of the last few hundred years, the medical community is very much aware that the same thing can happen today without any other apparent cause.
Have you ever been bent over from the pressures of life?
Have you ever felt so low about yourself that all you could muster-up the strength to do was to look at your feet on the ground?
Perhaps you feel that way now.
Or, perhaps, you know someone else who feels that way.
The pressures of this world can take a toll on the psyche.
Excessive worrying can weigh heavily on us.
Sometimes the most crippling disabilities are those of the spirit…
…the doubts and insecurities that keep us paralyzed, unable to act, that prevent us from realizing our fullest potential as God-created and God-loved beings.
Guilt can also cause backs to bend.
As can poverty.
Whatever the cause of her low self-esteem, the woman in our Scripture passage couldn’t straighten her body.
So she couldn’t look upwards or forwards.
She could only see the dirt at her feet.
One Sabbath day she went to the synagogue, and in all likelihood, she was doing nothing whatsoever to attract attention to herself.
She probably slipped in through the side door, quietly, unobtrusively.
Jesus was teaching the people, and then He looked off to one side, or up in the balcony and saw that woman come in with her peculiar, crippled walk.
And Jesus stopped what He was doing.
Jesus always notices those on the margins.
Jesus always notices the cast-aways.
He always has time for the downtrodden, those hated by society, the judged, the “bent over” people.
And as Christians, and as the Church of Jesus Christ, it is our job to notice and care for these people as well.
And so Jesus called this woman into the center of the synagogue.
And this was an extremely unusual thing for a male religious leader to do in Jesus’ day.
Women usually stayed off to the side and out of sight.
Jesus must have gone and led her by the hand to the center of the room.
Jesus told the woman that she was free from whatever had twisted up her body.
He put His hand on her, and immediately she was able to straighten up.