This week’s Gospel lesson reminds us what it is like to be the guest preacher – or to invite a guest to fill your pulpit – and have something unexpected happen. Can you put yourself in the place of the synagogue leader, who was allowing Jesus to teach that Sabbath, and imagine how it must have felt to have the guest speaker do something that looked like Sabbath-breaking? How would you have responded?
Of course, Jesus isn’t doing some everyday task on the Sabbath – he performs a miraculous healing! I wonder if the synagogue leader felt threatened, knowing that he wouldn’t have been able to bring about the same healing, and so he bad-mouths Jesus so that his faithful members don’t leave his community to start following this itinerant teacher around.
Any miracle story carries with it the caution of ableist interpretation. This woman doesn’t ask for healing. It could be that she was perfectly happy with her body and her life. Why does Jesus straighten her back without her consent? Thankfully, we hear that she praised God for the healing. But still, a person does not need to have a straight back in order to be whole. I wonder if Jesus ever performed a miraculous healing that the person actually resented, because what he saw as an ailment, they saw as a gift.
The Hebrews passage is dense and complicated. Will you address it in your sermon, to help make sense of the blood and fire for your congregation? If you’re struggling to find an angle of approach, you might start with this week’s commentary on Working Preacher.
The Revised Common Lectionary offers two choices for Hebrew Bible readings & Psalms this week. Which ones are you using? If your community is beginning a new school year, and you’re using the Jeremiah text, calling would be a very relevant topic. What is God calling each of us to in this new year? What do we see as barriers to answering God’s call? How does God encourage us – or how can we encourage one another?
The Isaiah passage is relevant around the globe, as the world’s largest refugee crisis continues. Scripture makes clear that the faithful response to a stranger in our midst is not to blame or judge, but to offer hospitality. Isaiah claims that those who care for the hungry and afflicted will receive generous blessings from God. How does your community respond to the needs of neighbors and strangers? Where is there room for growth? And how in the world can a preacher bring home this message without it sounding like works righteousness?
Whatever the state of your sermon or worship prep, please share your thoughts below! Let us know if you have any brilliant ideas for the children’s time, or any fabulous resources for a tricky text. Blessings to you this week!
Katya Ouchakof lives in Madison, WI, USA. She’s a chaplain and a paddlesports professional. Anyone need canoeing lessons? Katya posts less often than she would like at revkatyawrites.com.
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