Sunday, August 28, 9:00 a.m.
Proper 16C, Pentecost 14.Aug.21, 2016 St. John’s Church
Rev’d Jennifer Phillips Jer.1:4-10; Ps. 71:1-6;Heb. 12:18-29;Lk 13:10-17
My English Baptist mother was scandalized when she discovered that I had used my allowance to buy a red crystal rosary from Woolworth’s that my little Roman Catholic neighbors had taught me to pray. They lent me one of their children’s prayer books with Mary in a sky blue robe and white headscarf crowned with stars on the cover and a plastic bas-relief crucifix inside the cover. “We don’t pray to Mary and the saints,” she admonished me, “We’re Protestants, and we don’t need any intermediary to talk to God.”
I hid the rosary outside the house. She didn’t diminish my attraction to the idea of that beautiful woman who was Jesus’ mother. The Church observed the Feast of St. Mary the Virgin, a.k.a the Assumption of Mary (for Roman Catholics) and The Dormition of Mary (for Orthodox). We Anglicans tend not to embrace the idea of a miraculous bodily taking into heaven of Mary, nor do we dwell on the idea of her falling asleep and her soul being born up like an infant in the arms of angels in Orthodox icons. But we do give Mary a red-letter feast day of her own, and more than a few Anglicans speak of her in the Orthodox term Theotokos – God-bearer – or Mother of God, though the more Protestant-leaning of us may not. So why do we need Mary?
Consider the Bent Over woman – nameless of course – in today’s Gospel. A good Jew, she goes to worship. We can imagine people muttering behind their hands to one another (As thy did for the man born blind), “Who do you think sinned, this woman or her parents that she is crippled like this? Must be somebody’s fault, so she should be ashamed.” And non-Jews in the Roman Empire? They didn’t have a word for “cripple”; they called such a person “monstrum” –and you can figure out what that signified! If a child was born with a disability, it was standard practice to abandon the infant to die of exposure or be taken by animals outside town. Romulus, Rome’s founder, supported exposure of cripples, and also of any healthy girl children after the first-born girl. Parents or the government might euthanize such sub-humans with impunity. This didn’t change until well into the second and third centuries. So to become crippled later on in life, or to escape murder and survive to adulthood with such a disability would bring ostracism, scorn, and poverty. Unmarriageable and unemployable, someone crippled would have to beg or rely on the pity of relatives or strangers. The elders likely didn’t like seeing her in the synagogue with her arthritis or scoliosis, osteoporosis, or maybe this Atlas-woman just carrying the weight of three worlds on her shoulders, or too many years of being put down - or whatever it was that hunched her over so she could only see her feet for 28 years. Like her biblical sisters, the woman possessed by seven devils, the woman with the decade-long hemorrhage, the Samaritan adulteress, and the Syro-phonecian woman Jesus referred to as a dog, this woman was imprisoned- first by her second-class gender and second by her infirmity and the isolating shame it brought.
We like to think we have come a long way from those cruel times, and perhaps we have, though I have met a disfigured woman with twisted speech who was unemployable life-long. We’ve all read of those women found to have an extra Y chromosome who were ridiculed and excluded from athletics for having an unfair advantage – yet what was actually said to them back in the 60s was “You are not real women.” With the subtext, “either are you real men, so you must not be really human at all.” I thought we had come a long way in the USA but in the Sunday NY Times Magazine of July 3rd this year was an article not much different than the one I read there in 1968, describing the Indian woman medal-wining runner Dutee Chand who was subjected by the IAAF to invasive gender-verification testing without explanation, and was determined to have one of the numerous medical anomalies of gender now called “intersex” that disqualified her from competing or being considered a woman. Men were and are not disqualified from competing as men for similar physical variations. This same behavior by sports authorities broke my heart to hear when I was in high school and still does. I think it is coming near an end though we aren’t there yet. Chand and Caster Semenya did compete in Rio after a humiliating process and long suspense.
We who read newspaper are all-too-familiar with places in the world where girl-infants are not allowed to survive, girl-children are mutilated, and adult women are paid less for the same work as men, or denied education and personal freedom and franchise. The fact is that women are “bent over” and “crippled” in all sorts of ways besides disease! In Luke’s Gospel story, Jesus declares to one bent-over Jewish woman, whom he calls to and, outrageously, touches, not “your sins have been forgiven”, nor “take up your canes and walk”, but rather “You are set free from your infirmity.” It is liberation she needs, not forgiveness nor a new task to do. She needs freedom to lift up her eyes to heaven and give praise to God. She needs freedom to move among her people without shame or humiliation or ostracism. Like every bent-over or captive woman she does not need sympathy, pity, or coddling, she needs deliverance from imprisonment and freedom into her upright dignity and full humanity. So do we all.
The head honcho of the synagogue doesn’t see the person she is, nor the miracle given her, at all. He doesn’t speak to her except as she is part of the ignorant crowd he wants to correct. He simply sees the man-teacher Jesus, who has broken a religious rule against working on the Sabbath, and perhaps not daring to confront Jesus the successful wonder-worker face to face, instead he turns to the people gathered and scolds them not to seek someone to heal them on the set-aside day. Jesus’ response says in effect: “you wouldn’t even treat an ox or a donkey the way you treat this daughter of Abraham wickedly bound up for all these years! Shame on you!” Jesus’ mother would be proud. After all, she was the first woman he knew and valued, loved and was loved by, and who doubtless first taught him how to be a faithful Jew and how to practice kindness and discerning wisdom.
Mary stands for us as an image of strong, independent-minded, resilient womanhood and full humanity. That the tradition from Biblical times spent so much energy worrying about her sexuality is really too bad, and has proved a stumbling-block for women since then. Nonetheless the Gospels tell us she bore several children after Jesus, male and female. We can put two and two together. Maybe God could have come into the world without Mary, without a mother at all, but God could not have been incarnate and fully human without coming via a mother.
Sam Portaro writes this on the text of Paul’s Letter to the Galatians 4:4-5 that reads, “4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children.”:
“In his Letter to the Church at Galatia Paul cuts through romantic nonsense to say that Mary’s ministry, like her son’s, was above all else to be the incarnation of a fundamental Gospel message. The two of them, this mother and her son, are our hereditary links to kinship with God. To prove that we are sons and daughters of God, says Paul, this child was born of this woman, “so that we might receive adoption as children.”
The primary images of our human relationship to one another and of our relationship to God are not images of husband and wife, nor even of father and son, for these relationships are known only to some of us. The inclusive and archetypal image of mother and child affirms our common humanity and, in this particular birth, affirms our common inheritance. The fact that the child happens to be male does not represent male hierarchy or superiority; it represents gender symmetry. Arguments over which is greater-- mother or son, male or female—are as inconsequential and as circular as the argument of whether the egg precedes the chicken; madonna and child, like chicken and egg, are inseparable.
In them we have an icon of our relationship to God and of our kinship with one another. [Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother.] In the reality of something so simple, so fundamental, and so common as a human birth, our relationship to God is affirmed and our status as children of God’s own making is confirmed. But such relationship challenges our autonomy and independence; it is not ‘modern’.”
Mary leads us, as he goes on to conclude, to ponder these things until we incarnate this reunion with God, our neighbor, and our self, “as whole and holy, as the union of mother and child.”
All of us, who in one way or another, may still feel bent-over and imprisoned are in Christ invited to stand up straight and be set free, and to proclaim that God-praising freedom loudly to all we meet.
 Portaro, Sam, “brightest and Best: A Companion to the Lesser Feasts and Fasts”, Cambridge: Cowley Pub. 1998.pp. 141-142.
This is St. John's Episcopal Church...
Want to check on the readings for a particular Sunday or other day? Click below to go to the Lectionary page... all readings available for 2016:
Save Your Soda Can Pop-Top Rings to Help Sick Children!
Shriners Hospitals for Children in Springfield and Boston have been collecting pull-tabs or “pop-tops” from beverage cans since 1989, recycling them, and putting the money toward programs that directly benefit children. Since its inception, about a half-million pounds of aluminum tabs have been collected and recycled.
Bring them to church – there’s a collection basket in the entryway.
Did you know: The tabs are the only pure aluminum part of the can, and the cans may still be returned for deposit even after the tabs are removed.
Here are just some of the items that the Shriners Hospital has purchased over the years:
A Baxter Infusion Pump, used to dispense pain medication.
Arthrometer used to measure the degree of instability in the knee.
Bullard Laryngoscope used by an anesthesiologist to place a breathing tube in a patientwho has a complex airway.
A 10-foot trailer for the hospital van, used to transport medical equipment and records to outreach clinics throughout New England and New York State.
Computerized Pressure Mapping, a force sensing array used in evaluating pressure distribution for patients requiring customized wheelchair seating systems.
To Deliver Them – we’ll take our tabs directly to the Shriners
...maybe you can help when we have a good load? Tabs can be dropped off at the Shriners Burns Hospital, Boston at any time:
51 Blossom St. Boston, MA 02114 Telephone 617-722-3000 Fax 617-523-1684
Altar flowers: during the summer altar flowers will consist of offerings from members' gardens...So if you have a splendid array in our yard, bring a bunch!
Servers for worship: (readers, intercessors, chalices, greeters) will be recruited at the door - the rector will invite you to take a ministry card from the basket and do the task.
Acolytes: Summer is a perfect time for a child (or adult!) to try out being an acolyte. Children a bit younger than our usual acolytes are welcome to have some training - just come a half hour before the service and tell Jennifer you'd like to be trained and she'll put you to work.
Junior Altar Guild Minister: if you know someone who would like to become a junior altar guild minister, talk to Lynne Kozlowski
Are you challenged with senior care matters?
Many of our St. John's parishioners have faced senior care challenges with a family member or friend. Our own family's experience has shown this is a complicated and emotionally charged matter. It involves healthcare, financial and legal planning, social and spiritual wellbeing and navigating changing family relationships. Managing all of this is also enormously time consuming and stressful.
There are professionals who help folks sort some of this out, but they tend to be experts in one specialty such as care management, law or estate planning. There is also a tendency for their advice and representation to end upon placement of the family member into an assisted living or memory care facility. In fact, the challenges have often just begun!
Even though we are surrounded by some of the greatest medical institutions in the world who conduct much of the latest research in geriatric care, it's easy to feel lost when managing these family situations. Through my own personal and professional experience, I see firsthand what is lacking and how hard it is on seniors and their children.
I am doing an independent study with family, friends and professional colleagues. My focus is on using a more holistic approach to easing the impact on families to improve their experience and the outcomes with long term senior care. I would welcome the opportunity to meet in confidence to hear about your experience and offer my recommendation if you wish.
I can be reached at church, by phone (617-413-6314)
or email VLKingsley@comcast.net.
Flowers enhance the beauty of our church and greatly contribute to our worship. We place flowers near the altar to remind us of Creation, which brings us to the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, which we celebrate every Sunday. Here at St. John’s, rather than have a general budget item for flowers, we invite our parishioners to provide the flowers in memory or honor of loved ones, or in thanksgiving for special events. There is a sign up sheet on the bulletin board on which one may select a Sunday, (or Sundays!), for a special tribute. The cost for flowers, which the Altar Guild orders, is $35. (Please be sure to note on your payment that it is for flowers.) We are grateful to Westwood Gardens Florist, which, for many years, has provided beautiful arrangements to us for a modest price.