rejoicing in Jesus

Rev. Otis Moss, III, tells the story of a small baby girl who weighed 4.5 pounds when she was born prematurely in 1940 to Ed and Blanche in Clarksville, Tennessee.  She was a sickly child, the 20th of 22 children, and was called “Baby Girl.”  Before the age of five, she dealt with measles, scarlet fever, and a variety of other diseases.  Eventually, she was stricken with polio that paralyzed her left leg.  Her family was told that she would never walk like other children.  She would never run like other children.  A doctor identified her future with these words, “She was born this way.  She will always stay this way.”

This child had a grandmother, known as Big Momma, who prayed every morning and every night for Baby Girl.  When Baby Girl was 12, Big Momma took her to a revival service where people prayed for her as she wobbled to the front of the church with her legs in braces.  As people prayed for her, Baby Girl said that she felt something from the crown of her head to the soles of her feet.  She said that she heard a distinct voice tell her, “Baby Girl” it is time to run.”  She hesitated because she had been told she was born this way and she would always remain this way.  She heard the voice saying to her again, “It is time for you to run.”  After the people concluded their prayers Baby Girl began to walk around the sanctuary.  Then she began to skip around the sanctuary.  Then she began to run around the sanctuary and eventually her braces fell off.

Telling the story of her healing, Moss reports that Baby Girl did not stop running as she ran on her high school track team, ran for the track team at Tennessee State University, and eventually ran for the United States track team at the 1960 Olympics in Rome where Wilma Rudolph was identified as the fastest woman in the world as she won two gold medals.  Ross concludes his story about Wilma Rudolph by stating, “Your condition does not have to be your conclusion.”

Luke 13:10-17 records Jesus teaching in a synagogue on the sabbath that your condition does not have to be your conclusion as he healed a woman who was “bent over and quite unable to stand up straight.”  For 18 years, she had lived with this condition, but in a glorious unanticipated moment of worship, the woman who had been identified by her illness was healed as Jesus “laid his hands on her.”  Through her healing, Luke records a new identity for the woman as “immediately she stood up straight and began praising God.”

In the midst of the woman’s joy of being healed, Luke identifies one person at the synagogue who did not rejoice.  That person was the leader of the synagogue, a man who was responsible for proper worship in the synagogue and the proper reading and interpretation of the law in the synagogue.  Through his reading of the Law, the leader of the synagogue attempted to identify Jesus as a Breaker of the Law rather than a Teacher of the Law by telling the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.”

Rev. Debie Thomas offers this thought on why the leader of the synagogue became so irate with Jesus’ healing of the woman:

“Jesus allows the woman’s need to interrupt his own sermon, and welcomes her praise song even though it upends the synagogue’s order of service. … what the leader misses is the heart of the Sabbath, the heart of God’s law, the heart of the tradition. What the leader misses is the brave, unrestricted compassion that trumps legalism in God’s kingdom every single time.”

I would suggest that the leader of the synagogue was unable to rejoice in the woman’s healing because he identified her through the limitations of the Law rather than through the healing identity of Jesus.

Which leads us to the second Bible story we consider this morning.  Found in Jeremiah 1:4-10 it is the story of Jeremiah attempting to convince God that he is unable to fulfill God’s calling upon his life to be a prophet.  Defining his identify through his limitations rather than through God’s expectations, Jeremiah says, “Ah, Lord God!  Truly I do not know how to speak for I am only a boy.”  God has nothing to do with Jeremiah’s identity crisis as he tells Jeremiah, “Do not say, ‘I am only a boy,’ for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you.  Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.”

God was telling Jeremiah that Jeremiah’s identity as a prophet would be found in who God was calling Jeremiah to become, not in whom Jeremiah perceived himself to be in the present.  This identity defining moment is found in Jeremiah 1:9-10:

“Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth and the Lord said to me, ‘Now I have put my words in your mouth.  See, today, I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”

Which leads us back to the story of Jesus’ teaching and healing on the sabbath.  While the story begins with Luke defining the identity of the woman and the identity of the leader of the synagogue in verses 10-14, the whole purpose of the story is realized in verses 15-17 as Luke identifies Jesus as Lord with the following words:

But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it to water? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the Sabbath day?” 17 When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame, and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things being done by him.”

In a wonderful and unanticipated moment of worship, the entire crowd rejoices in Jesus as Lord.  Which leads to the question of today’s worship, “How are you rejoicing in Jesus?”

Rejoicing in Jesus
by Pastor Marc Brown
August 21, 2022

Accompanying Scriptures: Jeremiah 1:4-10, Luke 13:10-17

Fort Hill United Methodist Church
Order of Worship for August 21, 2021

Scripture Lesson   Jeremiah 1:4-10, Luke 13:10-17

The Good News      “Rejoicing in Jesus

Music                          “The Gift of Love” by Hal Hopson



Closing Music      “All Things Bright and Beautiful” arr. Gary Norian

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