On Sunday, August 21, the Upper Room Community celebrated liturgy using alternative readings. The presiders, Kim Panaro, ARCWP and Jim Marsh, ARCWP, decided to use the reading below from Marianne Williamson and the Gospel of the bent over woman. The Gospel of the bent over woman is never used as a Sunday reading. Kim and Jim changed that! Jim Marsh led the shared homily with the homily starter below.
At the beginning of each liturgical celebration, it is customary at the Upper Room for a community member to place a stole on the presiders with the words, “We your community call you forth and bless you as you lead us in liturgy today.”
After the shared homily and the statement of faith, the presiders take off their stoles and lay them on the table with the words, “As we prepare for the sacred meal, we lay our stoles upon the table as a sign that just as Jesus is anointed, so is each of us.”
Gracious and Gifting God,
May we be aware of your presence with us, as we gather once again in this Upper Room, much like the first followers of Jesus, your Beloved, after the Resurrection.
May our ears, eyes and hearts be open to your truth in the words and stories we will share this day.
May we be nourished by this simple meal of bread and wine to stand tall with conviction and courage as “daughters and sons of Sarah and Abraham.”
May the sacredness, indeed the ‘sacrament of our time together’ inspire us to co-operate gracefully with you “in making all things new.”
First Reading: Our Deepest Fear
by Marianne Williamson from A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
These are inspired words of Marianne Williamson!
Gospel – Luke 13: 10-17
One Sabbath, Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues. There was a woman there who for eighteen years had a sickness caused by a spirit. She was bent double, quite incapable of standing up straight.
When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are free of your infirmity.” He laid his hands on her, and immediately she stood up straight and began thanking God.
The head of the synagogue, indignant that Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the congregation, “There are six days for working. Come on those days to be healed, not on the Sabbath.”
Jesus said in reply, “You hypocrites!
Which of you doesn’t let your ox or your donkey out of the stall on the Sabbath to water it? This daughter of Sarah and Abraham has been in the bondage of Satan for eighteen years. Shouldn’t she have been released from her shackles on the Sabbath?”
At these words, Jesus’ opponents were humiliated; meanwhile, everyone else rejoiced at the marvels Jesus was accomplishing.
These are the inspired words of Luke, disciple of Jesus!
Homily Starter by Jim Marsh
Let me begin with just a few observations:
In Year C (our current liturgical year when we read from Luke) this Gospel story is never proclaimed on a Sunday, but rather always on the Monday of the 31st Week of the Year ….. I wonder why?
This healing/miracle story is also very different from the other two dozen stories that we are so familiar to us.
The setting is very different: it’s the synagogue – a holy place where the community gathers. Does this woman slip in week after week, unnoticed by the congregants, simply to pray and listen to the rabbi’s teachings?
For nearly two decades, this women is bent over, crippled such that she can’t stand up; she probably can’t look anyone in the eye as depicted in the art work displayed here today.
Jesus is front and center --- he’s on deck this week. Somewhere in his teaching, he notices this woman, stops his lesson, calls her forward, touches her and sets her free from her infirmity…. and notice, she didn’t seek or ask to be made whole; perhaps she was too timid, fearful or even too hopeless to ask for what she needed. Once healed though, she immediately stands tall, and praises God for the tender kindness of this prophet and teacher, Jesus of Nazareth
What does it mean to be noticed? Sometimes it’s a good thing, and at other times it may not be so good …… Was she content in being unnoticed/invisible? What about handicapped persons? Do we really notice them or do we more often look away based on our earliest training that it’s impolite or rude to stare?
She isn’t even given a name in this story ---- just a label “the bent over woman” --- that is until Jesus calls forth her dignity as a daughter of Sarah and Abraham, the mother and father of the faith tradition. How are we labeled by others and how do we label others?
What is bending us over, or breaking us down?
Are we in need of being set free, so that we might stand tall?
Do we really believe we are made in God’s image …. are loved without limit or reservation or condition?
To quote Ed Rodman, an Episcopal priest who was active in the Civil Rights Movement: “May we never be a cause of oppression to ourselves or to others.”
What did you hear?