Sunday August 24, 2008 | Greg Boyd
On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.
Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath."
Jesus called a crippled woman forward despite the many forces working against her. She answered the call by stepping into the powerful healing of God, and immediately she stood up and praised God. We can see this as an analogy for responding to the call of God in today’s hurting world and the powerful forces that we come up against.
At the beginning of this message we saw a video of a man standing in front of a line of tanks in Tiananmen Square in 1989. This image was the primary metaphor for the sermon today. The man chose to stand in the face of immeasurable power and say with his actions, “No! No more!” He was willing to defy the tanks—and all they represented that day—even if it cost him his life.
Greg pointed us back to the woman in the passage we’ve been focusing on in Luke 13. She too faced great opposition to a needful action. For her the act was to respond to Jesus’ call. As a woman she would have to step past the scrutinizing men around her. Being severely disabled she would have to step past the judgments others had about that and strain herself physically. The fact that it was the Sabbath meant that she would step forward in defiance of the accepted laws of the day. Greg challenged us to try to get inside her experience a little and recognize how much courage it took for her to respond to Jesus’ call. But this is what it takes if we want to walk upright in the Kingdom of God.
This woman stands in a long line of heroes and heroines of the Bible who respond to God’s call to step out of the crowd and defy whatever “tanks” are oppressing God’s people in their time. Hebrews 11 catalogues many of the most famous ones. Just as the nation of Israel was called out to live differently—to be set apart as the people of God—so also are we as followers of Jesus called out to live differently than the world around us. Greg reminded us of 2 Cor. 6:16-17, 1 John 2:15 and 1 John 5:4 as examples of that challenge.
If the tanks of Jesus’ day included sexism, “able-ism” and legalism, what are the tanks we need to defy today? Not only have we been unable to overcome the ones just mentioned, Greg also pointed out several other big tanks.
-Consumerism drives our capitalistic economic system. Everything around us cheers us on as we spend, borrow, and do everything we can to acquire whatever it is we are most vulnerable to.
-Individualism is in the air we breathe. Many of us don’t feel a deep need for true community, we don’t want input on the decisions we make in life about how we spend our money or time.
-Eroticism tears at the fabric of our most intimate relationships. Far too many spouses cheat, far too many children are born to single parents, and the porn industry is extremely powerful today. We are so used to sex being used to sell us something that we hardly even notice it anymore.
-Racism is still very much alive and well. Whites still earn the most money and hold the most powerful positions most of the time. When compared with African Americans, Whites are 3 times more likely to own homes, 4 times more likely to earn degrees, and 5 times less likely to end up in prison. The momentum behind these statistics is staggering. It would be foolish to believe that things are this way simply because individuals make poor choices and so they got what was coming to them. No, there is a demonic system at work to keep this tank running strong and it is our duty to stand in its way.
-Nationalism runs deep in our communities on both sides of the isle. We like to think of our country as superior to all others and we like to think that God agrees with us. We must remember that anything we place our fundamental trust and faith in outside of God is idolatry.
Tanks like these are far less obvious than the ones that were stopped in Tiananmen Square nearly twenty years ago. They are in the air we breathe and hide behind the institutions we trust. It is important to remember that the man in front of the tanks was supported by a community of revolutionaries. We cannot act alone in the face of such “isms” as we’ve just described. As Greg said, we need people we can dream with, share life with, people who will support the work we are called to do. We must ask the questions as communities of revolutionaries: What is God calling us to fight for in our community? In our neighborhood? In our city? Our community vision at WHC is that we be an association of revolutionary house church platoons divided into regions and engaged in subversive anti-empire activity.