At the LCMS church that I attend, the main text was Luke 13:10-17. That is the story of the woman who was bent over due to a disabling spirit, and Jesus got in trouble for healing her on the Sabbath. Here are some items:
A. The youth pastor made the point that Jesus fulfilled the law for us, but that does not mean that we as Christians lack obligations. We are supposed to love God and neighbor. In the case of our story, Jesus’s critics should have loved their neighbor by desiring her healing.
B. Like last week, the church had a skit in which a prosecutor interrogated a witness. This week, the witness was the bent over woman. On the one hand, the woman was detailing how difficult her life was before Jesus healed her. She was bent over, and it was believed that this was due to a demon, so other Jews wanted little to do with her, lest she bring a demon into their presence. She was absent from the synagogue for a year and people forgot about her. But she went one time when Jesus was preaching, and Jesus noticed her, even though she was in the back. He not only healed her but also called her a “daughter of Abraham,” which she appreciated, on account of her feelings of exclusion. On the other hand, the prosecutor was expressing concern about Jesus’s transgression of the Sabbath. If the Jews tolerate violation of their laws, which keep order, define what God wants, and define them as a people, what do they have left?
C. For Sunday school, the pastor was supposed to start a series on the Book of Hosea but there was a miscommunication, so instead he had an open forum. He started by talking about the reading. He noted that Luke, more than Matthew and Mark, focuses on women. Women were seen as property in those days, but they feature prominently in the Gospel of Luke and in Acts. Jesus’s healing of the bent over woman highlights that he, as creator, has the power to heal, and also that people are more important than the Sabbath rules. (Here, I am relaying what the pastor says and do not want to be nitpicked over how high or low Luke’s Christology was.)
The woman was said to have a disabling spirit and to have been bound by Satan. On the one hand, the pastor said that this was how people talked about disease back then. In the story of the person Jesus healed after the Transfiguration, for example, the person was said to have a spirit, but the person’s symptoms were of epilepsy. On the other hand, the pastor seemed a little uncomfortable saying that Luke did not know better, so he noted that, technically, Luke says that the bent over woman was not possessed but was afflicted by Satan, as if Satan were using a disease that she had to afflict her. Jesus did not cast out a demon in her case.
D. The pastor got into other biblical issues. He said that tassels then were a sign of authority, and the bleeding woman who grabbed Jesus’s tassels grabbed a sign of his authority; when David cut off Saul’s garment, he may have been cutting off a tassel, a sign of Saul’s royal authority.
Someone asked about how news about Jesus spread in Jesus’s time. The pastor replied that the Romans built good roads in the Mediterranean and that allowed news to spread. Israel was also smaller than Massachusetts. Jesus may also have been on a predictable itinerary in Galilee, going from one synagogue to another. He also sent the seventy out to heal and to proclaim the Gospel. People at the wells in villages would tell stories about how Jesus healed someone they knew, or maybe even themselves.
E. The discussion then got into institutional issues. People were expressing their opinions about the incumbent President, President Harrison. There was also discussion about LCMS churches training deacons to be pastors, as there is a shortage of pastors in the LCMS. There were a lot of sub-issues in this discussion, but I will stop with the note on which the pastor ended. Although the church in the West appears to be in decline, it is blossoming in Africa; that is the case with other denominations, as well. We should wait and see what the Holy Spirit will do. The church still has a mission, for not everyone on earth yet has heard the Gospel.