In the gospels a healing miracle can be inserted to achieve a number of different goals. Sometimes their function is highlight the presence of faith – sometimes the sovereign power of God regardless of personal faith, and sometimes they act as a way of introducing controversy with the religious authorities. Always they point to a more than just physical healing – the physical healing is an outward sign of a greater healing – which is three fold. The fundamental healing of any perceived rift between yourself and God, and based on that fundamental and most important healing follows the healing of the divisions between yourself and your neighbour and the healing of any internal divisions, so that you are at peace with yourself. All of these different aspects of healing are covered by the Hebrew word “Shalom”.
In today’s offering from Luke, the primary reason for the miracle is to precipitate the dispute between Jesus and the leader of the Synagogue. The title “leader of the Synogogue” was like the office of our church warden today. The leader of the Synagogue managed and regulated the life of the Synagogue and kept order etc.
What this dispute highlights is the primacy of the current work of the Spirit which overrides even the written law. The leader of the Synagogue was holding so tightly to the written tradition, in particular the fourth commandment to “do no work on the Sabbath day”. Jesus was highlighting how these laws, not just this particular one can be so strictly enforced as to render them ridiculous.
The extent of how ridiculous they could get is brought alive in the healing of the crippled woman where Jesus doing this was deemed to be “work” which was clearly banned on the Sabbath day in the mind of the Synagogue leader. Jesus is saying, which is most important, the following of a written law which points to a greater purpose or that greater purpose itself actually demonstrated in front of your very eyes.
In concentrating on the law the Synagogue leader was in effect worshipping a signpost to God rather that God himself.
The greatest and highest purpose of the monotheistic faiths is that we should be at one with God. The root of the word “salvation” itself is “salve” to heal. And the goal of the cross, however you understand it is “atonement”” which means to be made one with God. When we perceive and realise this salvation or atonement the result is a restoration and it is felt as a holistic peace – shalom.
How this works out in our lives in a lifelong journey of discovery. As St. Paul writes in Philippians 2:12, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling for God is at work in you”
So salvation or atonement, is not the end product, it is the beginning of how you work out, how you live your life in accordance with this truth that you now own.
Another way of putting it is that salvation is not something after which we have to work or grasp after, it is the very ground on which we stand. As it is the ground on which we stand, all else, good deeds, virtue, the fruits of the Spirit flow out of us as we stand in God’s grace.
The log jam for most Christians is that we find it very hard to recognise our oneness, we find it hard is practice to know that we are infinitely loved. – so we live as strangers to God most of the time.
The aim of all spiritual practices, coming to church, praying, meditating, doing good deeds, is not to try and achieve some higher goal that always lies just out of reach, but to realise what we already have as a divine gift. Salvation is already ours, atonement is ours, shalom is ours, if we could only believe that. Spiritual practices are the art of mining our deepest selves and discovering what was there all along, but hidden – “veiled from our eyes” to use an O.T. phrase.
The invitation this morning is to discover what we already possess - and allow the Spirit to work through the words, the actions, the hymns, to shine a light inside you to discover and learn to know yourself – your true self in relation to God.