Withered … May 27, 2012

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He was sick.

Disabled.

Well, not really without ability. His particular affliction had been with him for so long that nobody gave it a second thought.

Nobody except him. (Personal plagues are always personally present.) But as for friends, unless some new family came for worship at the church and one of their little ones was fascinated with the dwarfed hand and stared too long–well, other than that, it was pretty well absorbed.

He had a deformed hand. On initial viewing, it was grotesque. Determined eyeball-to-eyeball contact was required to avoid a misplaced glance at the tiny appendage. It was a very polite and political policy of practice.

He had such a great attitude about his limitation, even occasionally joking with others about his situation, citing that he would, “give them a hand, but he didn’t have one to spare!”

It had become acceptable–an acceptable lacking. An absence, adjusted to quite well. People had moved on. Life had reassembled into an understanding of the necessity for normalcy. There were no mentions of cure. There were no discussions of remedy. There were no longer any prayers for a miracle. Everyone was satisfied with a very unsatisfying situation. Everyone … except Jesus.

He came to worship. He sat to pray. He listened to scriptures. But then he rose to meet the need.

He interrupted.

Now, you must understand that interruptions are generally considered to be anti-human contradictions to the flow of our relaxed consciousness. Even when they’re pleasant possibilities, we resist at first because they are not in the spectrum of the programming. For after all, there’s no reason to hold a worship service if you haven’t already planned it. Songs were selected; special music was practiced. Even a presentation for the children was strategically placed within the framework of a cramped agenda. There was really no time for interruptions

Propriety is the schoolmaster of the classroom of decency and order. So when Jesus stood to his feet and interrupted the proceedings, there was a sense of both surprise and certainly, annoyance. Who did he think he was? What did he think he was doing? What arrogance did he possess that caused him to believe that any contribution he could make would be worthy of consideration? He simply posed the question.

“Is it good to do good on the Sabbath?”

There was silence. For after all, that was the response to most things that happened within the confines of the sanctuary. Silence was a way of showing reverence, of being reflective and pious. But silence in this case only confirmed indifference and cowardice.

Jesus was angry. He asked the man with the withered hand to stand to his feet and stretch it forth. As he did, the hand, which had become common in its disfigurement appeared for the first time–beautifully whole.

There was no applause. There were no hallelujahs. Just an uncomfortable fidgeting, punctuated by a cough or two.

Jesus turned on his heel and walked out of the building, followed by a freshly healed, reborn and rejuvenated new brother.

After the pair left, there was a stillness in the room for a few moments, while everyone tried to mentally reconnoiter what to do next. Then the minister rose to his feet and began to read scriptures and everyone found their place in the order of service and continued faithfully.

Having survived the disruption of a miracle, the church was able to return to its liturgy. But Jesus was gone from their midst. Also gone was the confirmation in flesh of why they truly should gather–a transformed human being who had been touched by the grace of God.

Withered–it’s what occurs to any living thing right before death closes the deal. It is the lingering pain which has become acceptable because of its frequency. People adjust to it. People work around it.

Not Jesus. Jesus was off and away, to seek and save that which was lost.

Withered. It begs the question. “Is it good to do good on the Sabbath?”

The question echoes in our silence.

 

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