The Things That Weigh Us Down
Thirteenth after Pentecost - Year C
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Thirteenth after Pentecost - Year C
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Let us pray: O God, may your promise be heard in these words. Guide them and use them. Amen.
†† †It is a common and oft times annoying fact of life that songs get stuck in our heads. Iím sure you know what I mean - the melody just keeps running around and around - with no secure way to get rid of it. Sometimes finding it in the CD Collection or shuffling to it on the MP3 player will do the trick, although that can also have the effect of cementing it even more firmly into our consciousness.
†† †Such was the case this week after I looked over the passages for the first time. It was a song about the bent over woman that we encountered in the gospel reading this morning. What I remembered about it was a seminary colleague singing it on a demo tape she created as part of a school project. The title of the song is the only part of it I could remember - You Just Donít Need to Be Bent Over Anymore.
†† †Itís a curious way of putting it, only serving to add to the mystery I feel about the healing stories in the gospel record. You see, on one hand I get it. I have no problem understanding such gospel stories as mythic and metaphorical. Yes, I know that there are many things in life that weigh us down, and that often the psychological burdens we bear are more difficult to bear than the physical ones. I know that there is a path to removing these psychological burdens - in fact it is a strong part of my faith. We canít believe in transformation without believing that things can change for the better, that worries can be changed into wonder, that bad news can become good news, that the brokenhearted will rejoice and the last will be first. All of that I have no problem believing. It is part of my faith.
†† †Itís the physical healing that bothers me. I know people weighed down by physical ailments and conditions. Iíve seen bent over women and men. If only it were so easy to say to them - You Just Donít Need to Be Bent Anymore. Itís not that I donít believe in miracle cures. There are too many stories of amazing recoveries and unexplainable remissions to believe that such events do not happen.† On the other hand I believe there are more stories than occurrences - that some miracle cures are but fleeting and temporary in nature. Television public affairs show exposťs of faith healers are proof of this. What looks like a miracle cure is really only a case of mind over matter and once the brainwashing goes away, the physical condition is found still to be there.
†† †On the other hand, I recall a trip to St. Josephís Oratory in Montreal and a display of crutches, canes and braces that were no longer needed because of the healing powers attributed to Saint Joseph by Brother Andrť, the man behind the construction of the Basilica and the healings that occurred there. The Wikipedia article puts it in perspective for me - referring to them as alleged healings. Thatís pretty much how I feel - not wanting to dismiss them completely, but regarding them with a large amount of skepticism.
†† †I guess it is due to my need for rational explanations of things. I personally do not have a problem putting faith and rational thought together. There are enough unexplained mysteries in this world to keep my faith alive forever - some of the aforementioned cures and healings being but a small part of a universe that is awash in mystery. On the other hand, I donít need stories that completely contradict what I know as the laws of nature to increase my faith. I have no problem understanding God as creator of those laws of nature - and creator of a process which leads us to be able to make logical and rational conclusions in a predictable way based on observation and repetition - the good old scientific method at work.
†† †I was flipping television channels last night and for a few moments I watched Peter Mansbridge interviewing the CBC science guy - Bob McDonald - host of Quirks and Quarks and the enthusiastic populariser of science for lay people. Apparently part of the show included a series of questions sent in by listeners which Mansbridge was posing for McDonald to answer. The one watched was this - What causes gravity? Bob McDonaldís answer delivered in his upbeat and excited manner told us that if he knew the answer to that question he would be one of the most famous people ever. Albert Einstein died having been frustrated by the question and Stephen Hawking, well know as one of the brightest guys alive today,† has so far been unable to answer that particular mystery. So if something seemingly as simple as gravity remains unexplained, there is lots more for us to discover.
†† †Thatís enough for me. More than enough.
†† †So, I will continue to let the mythical and metaphorical be the explanation that sustains me. Walter Wink, a well known interpreter of the gospel miracle stories describes them as stories about the healing of dis-ease. They are not about physical healing - they are stories about the removing of the burdens that prevent us from being at ease. The story of the bent over woman is a powerful example. Imagine burdens so great that they weigh down upon you in crippling fashion. Imagine hearing someone tell you with the power of Godís own voice that those burdens no longer need to weigh you down. Imagine further that Godís voice is spoken in a situation which defies the common expectation. Not only does the word come to you unexpectedly, but it comes on the Sabbath - a day when no work is to be done, an act which infuriates the religious authorities who were witness to this event.
†† †Jesus is the one who speaks with the power of Godís voice, and the word he uses is ďfreeĒ. ďWoman, you are set free.Ē Itís as if he is also saying to those religious authorities - you need to be set free from your own inside the box kinds of thinking. Let go of your own kind of bondage and let the spirit loose to do what she will.
†† †That word also sets me free - free to take what I need from this story. Free to understand it for the power it has in describing for me that God can transform us, releasing burdens so that we can stand tall again. I donít need to believe it as a story of physical healing in order for it to have power for me and in order for it to increase my faith.
†† †I searched through our old cassette tapes and I found the song. Like all songs of faith it adds to my understanding. Iím not sure that listening to it put it out of my head, but perhaps thatís a good thing, because Iím going to listen to it again a few more times. I need to have it add to my understanding. I hope that what Iíve said this morning† has in small part done the same for you. Amen.