Spirit Stretch

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9[Jesus] left that place and entered their synagogue; 10a man was there with a withered hand, and [the religious leaders] asked him, “Is it lawful to cure on the sabbath?” so that they might accuse him. 11He said to them, “Suppose one of you has only one sheep and it falls into a pit on the sabbath; will you not lay hold of it and lift it out? 12How much more valuable is a human being than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the sabbath.” 13Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and it was restored, as sound as the other. 14But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.

So, who are you in this story? Are you Jesus? Are you the one healing someone else? Are you the religious leaders? Are you the one making sure what we’ve always done continues to be done despite the need for reform? Are you the man? Are you the one who is in need of healing?

Isn’t it interesting the man healed didn’t ask for it? Isn’t it fascinating to see how religious folks were more interested in ‘church attendance and participation’ that they neglected to see the need to heal this man?

Isn’t it comforting to know Jesus recognizes how worthy we are to not only be healed but to be touched?

This text has me wondering how I spend my energies and where. Am I like the pastor’s in this story, trying to trip people up with the Book of Order and how we should do things? Am I focusing too much on the negative in the world? Or am I like Jesus, willing to accept criticism from the community because of my actions to do justice?

Here’s the thing, friends: we can’t be afraid of what others will think of us as we preach the radically inclusive gospel of Jesus. The religious folks were trying to trip Jesus up. Trying to catch him in an act they could exploit and eventually ruin his ministry with. Yet Jesus knew Torah and knew how the teachings of God are meant to build-up the family of faith, not divide it.

Do not be afraid to stretch out your hand to be healed, okay? Name where you need to be healed. Pray for healing. Look to see how you can heal others. Recognize where you attempt to box people out from God’s healing love….and stop doing it!

If there’s anything to take away from this reflection, I hope you consider this: Jesus comes to offer forgiveness, to extend mercy, and to embrace us with compassion. Accept it. Receive it.

Believe the good words that God in Christ Jesus reaches out in loving compassion to feed our souls and bodies with Christ’s presence and relieve our bruises both physical and mental with Christ’s touch.

May you accept God’s healing in your life. May we trust in the Wounded Healer’s promise to never leave us in the pit of our brokenness.

May we believe in the Spirit’s movement through us to heal the world.

[Adam Quine, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Lincoln]


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