Summary: A sermon about changing perceptions.
“With Jesus, Lemons do make Excellent Lemonade!!!”
Anne O’Brien Prince and Jeremy Prince moved from Ireland to Massachusetts with their 5 kids last year, in part, so that their children could “experience America.”
One of the Prince children was 15-year-old Phoebe, who, it seems, America did not give a very kind welcome.
Prosecutors say that witness accounts paint an “intolerable” campaign of insults, humiliation and, in the final days of Phoebe’s life—threats.
Witnesses say that Phoebe was so terrified she went to school administrators because “she was scared and wanted to go home,” but later told a friend that no action would be taken on her behalf.
Court papers describe what investigators indicate was a pattern of abusive taunts, text messages, Facebook postings, threats, and efforts to corner Phoebe, whose reactions are described as fearful, panicked and distraught.
Phoebe is quoted as telling a friend on January 13th of this year, one day before she committed suicide, that “school has been close to intolerable lately.”
The day Phoebe killed herself one student allegedly threw an energy drink at her from a moving car, calling her names and laughing.
This apparently was the last straw for Phoebe, because her younger sister found her hanging in the stairwell of her home later that day.
I think it’s safe to say that young Phoebe Prince was a “bent over woman.”
Although her principal described her as “smart and charming,” the taunts from her peers bent her and bent her until she finally broke.
I fear there are a lot of us who are walking through this life—“bent over.”
If we don’t look especially close at our Gospel Lesson for this morning we might just assume that Jesus healed the woman of a physical disease of the spine like osteoporosis or scoliosis.
While this is possible, it isn’t necessarily what Luke is telling us.
The seventeenth century translation says the woman was “bowed by a spirit of infirmity”—which suggests a spiritual problem rather than a physical one.
The more modern New English Bible translates the Greek by saying, she was “possessed by a spirit that had crippled her.”
J.B. Philips’ translation cuts to the heart by saying that for eighteen years the woman had been doubled over from some “psychological cause.”
Now, what might that be?
What psychological problem or spiritual crisis could keep a person “bent over” for nearly two decades?
Maybe somebody had persistently abused her, verbally or physically.
Perhaps she had been called so many bad names that she had come to own those names—bending from their pressure.
Or maybe she had some twisted up emotions that communicated themselves to her body, and she found she couldn’t get herself straight.
Have you ever been “bent over”?
Perhaps you feel that way now.
The pressures of this world can take a toll on the psyche.
Excessive worrying can weigh on us heavily.
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…
…or having too much money.
Some people are worn out by worrying that somebody is going to steal their stuff.
Some folks are unable to see the forest for the trees due to their stuff!
They are worn out by their stuff…
…buying it, cleaning it, polishing it, and storing it.
Frankly, we just don’t know what the psychological cause was that caused the woman in our Gospel Lesson to have a bowed back.
All we know is that it was severe and she had it for 18 years!
For 18 years she had a very, unpleasant…shall we say?....
…perspective on life.
She had been walking around looking at passing feet.
She couldn’t see the smiles on the faces of strangers passing her by.
She couldn’t see the green trees in the meadow.
One Sabbath day she entered 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, bent-over walk.
He interrupted His lesson, then and there, and invited the woman to come over to Him.
This must have come as quite a surprise to the woman…
…after-all, no one, perhaps, had paid her much attention for a long time.
“Could it be?” she may have asked herself.
“Is He really speaking to me?”
So, she scurries forward in response to Jesus’ command—what else is she to do?
Then Jesus’ voice rings out with a note of authority that no one could miss: “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.’ Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.”