St. Mark's Episcopal Church

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Pentecost 13 Sermon 2010
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Rev. Bonnie Campbell 

I have always been touched by women who are bent over with osteoporosis. We don’t know if this was the woman’s affliction in this healing story. Women would not have had the first shot at nutritious food and would have been more susceptible to develop bone loss.  Maybe the woman had work she did that forced her to bend over for long periods. My mother worked on assembly lines in the production of electronics, medication and even curtains. All reasons to be bent over a conveyor belt with goods passing by to be tested, checked or packed into boxes. Perhaps the reason for her stooped shoulders.

So, I have an emotional attachment to this woman who made her Sabbath visit to the synagogue and had her day turned upside down-literally. Many of us know someone or have seen someone who walks bent over. I wonder how they drive their cars, shop for groceries, manage to dress so nicely, and keep smiling. The most recent woman I encountered in this state was well-dressed, moved at a normal pace, and had a sunny disposition. Nothing was holding her back.

I was also thinking of Eve and her fall from grace and how the men who wrote down her story wouldn’t let her get up. How through history-not “herstory”-there has been a foot on Eve’s neck holding her down on the ground. I think of all the women who have fought for the right to vote, for access to birth control, to live without the fear of abuse, and to be able to protect their children from harm and I think of Eve and Mary, Jesus’ mother. I have a drawing of Eve as she appears in a German cathedral--an Eve of stone crawling naked on her belly with a tear in her eye. Her legs extend out and become part of a sketch of a Madonna and child statue which is somewhere nearby in the same cathedral. I am going to pass her around in the hope you will still be able to listen to a story from Spiritual Lemons by Rev. Lyn Brakeman while you look at it.  This story is called Grace for the Snake.

Spiritual Lemons, Chapter 2—Grace for the Snake

I read this story because I see this faithful, Jewish woman who is bent over as a sort of Eve crawling on the ground--well, LOOKING at the ground. She walked into that synagogue to attend Sabbath worship. She wasn’t looking for nor did she ask for healing. Yet she was healed. Jesus SAW her and felt compassion for her. In her wildest dreams she would never have imagined such a thing.  Jesus saw value in relieving her affliction--just as one would provide water for an animal on the Sabbath. This woman represents all the women who were considered no more than property.  Women who have lived with a foot on their necks, holding them down to keep them in their places.  Jesus saw this woman as a person in her own right who could stand upright and know God as anyone could. She was surrounded by grace and that is what we hope that Eve found and what the snake discovered in the story. 

Richard Caemmerer drew this picture and he wrote the poem that is on it:

“She has crawled for countless years, earning penance for all who blame her.
Mary, wipe away her tears…Show her the Babe who has come to claim her.
Lay your newborn in front of her eyes.
Bring flesh to her stone and bid her rise.
And bless you loving mother, for teaching us to believe.
If you had not been faithful, would we ever have known of Eve?”

If Mary had not been faithful, would we have known of this woman who was healed in the synagogue by Jesus? Would we all be living with the question, “Is there grace for the snake?”


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