Be Set Free
Jane Gardner of Lee’s Summit, MO, USA
“Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. —Luke 13:12–13 NRSV
What was she doing in the synagogue anyway? It wasn’t easy being a woman. You belonged to your father until you came of age. Then you married and belonged to your husband. When your husband died, as hers had, you belonged to no one. Her lot in life was made even more difficult because of her frailty; she had lived with a crippling disability for 18 years. In her condition I think I would have withdrawn and become bitter, full of self-pity. I surely wouldn’t have made the effort to go to synagogue!
Perhaps this woman was someone of uncommon devotion, who stepped out from behind the women’s dividing screen when Jesus called to her. He called her to a place where they did not allow women. And yet she responded to his invitation. The result could have been rejection, eviction, and possibly even stoning if the men felt she had defied the synagogue. She came anyway and stood before Jesus—an act of courage and trust.
Even in the face of her 18-year ailment, the woman, faithful to her tradition, places herself in the middle of the worshiping community. By putting herself in sacred space and responding to Jesus, she finds healing and restoration as a member of a community. We are not islands; we belong to one another. In sacred community we also can find the peace of Jesus Christ.
Several summers ago I went through a cancer scare. Being a private person, I withdrew. I was not willing to share my concern with anyone else. I was alone and not available, all the while asking, “God, where are you?” I didn’t allow the community to take part. I didn’t think God was taking part. I didn’t place myself in sacred space.
It wasn’t until my husband pointed out the fallacy of my logic that the meaning of the blessings of sacred community returned. Then, through the love and support of committed disciples, I found strength to face the unknown, and of course, I found the peace of Jesus Christ.
Prayer for Peace
Communal God, we have your Spirit to comfort us. We have our community to hold us up to your light. We pursue peace with disciples who lend support. We are blessed.
Spiritual Practice: Offering Blessings of Community
Receive and share Blessings of Community. Begin with a prayer of gratitude for the friendships in your life. See and feel connections with family members, spiritual friends, people in your congregation and community, and people and creatures in God’s sacred web of life. What blessings flow to you from these circles? How have you felt the love of the community?
Reflect, pray, or write in your journal about the call to be “Community of Christ.” Go deeper each day as you consider what acts of blessing you can complete for stranger and friend alike.
Today, God, I will pursue peace in collaboration with others, fostering change in the world.