Imagine this - Reflections - 8-16-16

 Texts for Sunday August 21, 2016

 Isaiah 58:9b-14
 Psalm 103:1-8
 Hebrews 12:18-29
 Luke 13:10-17

There are so many ways we can be bound. This story in Luke is much more than a healing story; this is a story of becoming free. Jesus is the liberator.

One devotional bible study method asks you to use your imagination. This story offers a great opportunity to give that method a try. Read through the text slowly and carefully…maybe twice. Put aside the text; shut your eyes and imagine the scene described. In your mind, walk into the scene. What can you hear, taste, smell, feel, see? Allow yourself to be a participant – whoever you want to be. Don’t try to control the story. Let it happen. Let yourself respond. Don’t start trying to apply it or glean lessons too soon. Just go with the flow and respond. Sometimes you need to speak to a character; sometimes you need to speak to God. Other times, you need to just soak in the experience of the story. Eventually, end it with a brief prayer, or even just “amen”.

Note: Not everyone wants/likes this method. And I get that. Sometimes the first time you try it feels like cardboard. And I get that. This is just an invitation. 

Here is an example of my imaginative meditation on the story from a few years back. It really only goes through v. 13. Now, I think I might add the experience of listening to the scene in v.14-17. The woman is not the only person who is bound in this story.

It was a terrible thing being so crippled. But I didn’t realize it as much then. After 18 years with my condition, I had become accustomed to the pain, to looking only down, to not being able to meet the eyes of those who spoke to me. Because I couldn’t raise my head to see very far ahead, and could only walk in a slow shuffle, I was usually led by those around me. At first it was my husband. After he died, it was his brother. And most recently, my husband’s nephew had taken me in. I haven’t had to make many decisions these past 18 years. Wherever my husband or brother-in-law or nephew decided to take me, I went. I was just another part of the baggage; one more thing to take along.

I’ll never forget that Sabbath when we went to the synagogue. My husband’s nephew had heard that a new teacher was visiting. This teacher had been causing quite a stir around the region so my husband’s nephew didn’t want to miss him. He called to his wife, “Bring the old woman. We’re going to the synagogue.”

On the road, he became impatient with my slow shuffling. His rough hands pulled me along. “Come along, Old Woman. I don’t want to be late.”

Once we arrived, I could hear the Teacher already speaking. His voice was filled with a strength and assurance that invited you to listen. My husband’s nephew let go of me and I began to shuffle toward the women’s court. Suddenly that strong assured voice called to me. “Woman.”

I stopped. I was afraid that I had accidentally strayed into the men’s area since I couldn’t see ahead of me. I couldn’t move or speak in my fear. “Woman”. The voice was much closer and softer now. “You are freed of your trouble.”

I remember the touch of his hands. Gentle, loving hands touched me and helped me to slowly, ever so slowly, straighten up completely. As I stood there, restored, I found myself face to face with the Teacher. I looked straight into eyes which burned with approval, acceptance and love.

At that moment, a song of praise burst from my lips...a psalm I had learned long ago. Praising the One who had made everything, including me. Praising the One who could make everything new, including me. 

It was you, O God, who created my innermost self, and knit me together in my mother’s womb. 
For all these mysteries, I praise you. 
For the wonder of myself, for the wonder of your works, I praise you. Praise God!
- Psalm 139:13-14

I invite your comments below.

For more ways to reflect on these text in the G.I.F.T. post for 8-21-16.

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Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Iowa City

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Iowa City, IA 52245