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Sunday Sermons from First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) of St. Paul, a mainline Protestant congregation in Mahtomedi, Minnesota.

Body By Fisher

August 22, 2016

“Body By Fisher” | 2 Cortinthians 4:16-5:10 and Luke 13:10-17 | Fourteenth  Sunday After Pentecost | August 21, 2016 | Dennis Sanders, preaching

If you had any General Motors car in the 1960s or 70s, you would notice something on the door sill plate.  It was a logo with blue carriage and below were the words, “Body By Fisher.”  This was an indication that the body of your car, no matter if it was a Chevy or a Buick or an Oldsmobile, was made by Fisher Body, a division of General Motors.  I remember seeing that logo in all the cars I drove in as a child growing up in Flint.  Flint happened to be one of the major centers for Fisher Body with at least three plants in the area.  I can still remember seeing car carrier trucks rumbling down the major streets in town with just the body of a car.  I learned those were bodies produced at one of the plants and they were off to one of the manufacturing facilities in town, such as Buick of Chevy or maybe the Olds plant in Lansing.  The Body By Fisher logo (and there was an ad campaign as well) was considered a badge of distinction a symbol of quality.

Alas, you won’t find the Body by Fisher logo in cars today.  Fisher Body was dissolved in the 80s as a part of restructuring in GM and by the mid 90s, the logo was gone.  But it lives on in the memory of the thousands of workers at Fisher Body plants and nearby assembly plants where they recieved those bodies ready to be made into running vehicles.

That logo was a mark that told you this was a General Motors car.  You couldn’t see it in a Ford or Chrysler, just in GM cars.  From the boardrooms in Detroit, to the design center in the suburb of Warren, to the auto plants in Flint, the logo of the horseless carriage from Fisher Body was the company’s mark of excellence. It said that this car belonged to a great heritage and was made with pride.

In the gospel today, Jesus is in the synogoge teaching.  I can imagine Jesus is teaching in a room and he sees this woman hobbling into the room.  He might have stopped mid-sentence to see this woman enter.  He is taken by her and lays hands on her, telling this woman that she has been healed.  Immediately, this woman is able to stand up straight.  After only being able to see the ground for nearly two decades, she can now see from a vantage point that she had forgotten.  She was healed.

In the original Greek, verse 12 has Jesus not healing the woman, but releasing her.  Later in the passage, Jesus uses a word that is translated into chains.  He describes this woman as bound, confined, boxed in and she has been set free.  

This could be viewed as just another miracle story, but there is more going on here than just a healing.  First off is the sense of being set free, of having a heavy burden taken away.  Many of the people we meet, maybe even it’s even us, start the day with a burden or burdens on their back. Some are dealing with unemployment or divorce or mental illness.  Whatever it is, it is something that holds us back.  People all around us deal with burdens.  I was listening to the podcast called Code Switch which is produced by National Public Radio.  It deals with issues facing persons of color and a particular episode dealt with Philando Castile, the young man who was shot by St. Anthony police during a traffic stop in July.  Two journalists were able to learn something that was unnerving. From the day he got his license until the day of his death, a span of 14 years, Mr. Castile was stopped by the police 46 times.  The majority of these stops ended up with a fine and these fines would pile up.  The story makes very clear that Mr. Castile wasn’t stopped because he was a bad driver.  More likely than not, he was stopped because of his color.  He lived for over a decade with the burden of racism.  It bound him, limiting his freedom.  But there are other ways one can be bound.  I’m aware of those who deal with drug addiction.  What I’ve learned is how hard it is to be clean.  You can end up falling off the wagon after months or years of sobriety and having to start over again.  Being addicted means having a monkey on your back that is hard to shake off.  You are bound to this addiction.

As I said, there are many people who deal with burdens that bound them and they need to have the healing touch of Jesus just as much as the woman.  

But it’s really easy to not notice the woman.  The religious leader seemed to not notice her predicament when he chastised Jesus for healing on the sabbath.  Now, before we enage in a bit of schaudenfreude, it is important to remember that the sabbath was something that was considered important in Jewish culture, harking back to the times when they were slaves in Egypt.  It was about resting one day a week from our labors.  So, the leader’s worry on its own wasn’t wrong and looking at from the 21st century, where the has gone the way of the dodo, we can’t really look down on this person.  But while this leader was trying to keep the sacredness of the sabbath, he was forgetting that the sabbath was about the people, not rules.  Jesus shames this man by reminding him that people still give their livestock, which was there source of income, water during the sabbath.  If you could give water to a cow or goat, couldn’t someone look at this woman and heal her?  

Jesus calls this woman a “daughter of Abraham” and that’s important.  He is reminding the leader that this woman is part of the promise made by God to Abraham centuries before.  She was the descendant of a man long past the age of raising children and a woman well beyond the years she could be pregnant.  Like that logo I saw on my Dad’s Buick decades ago, this woman was marked as a daughter of Abraham, one of God’s chosen.  She could not be passed over for livestock when she was in need of liberation.

Who are the bent over people in our midst?  Who are the people who bear the image of God that need to be healed?  The church, this church is called to go beyond these walls and live for others.  We are not here just to see friends, but to hear the Word, take part in the meal at the Table and then go and be agents of healing in our world.  

It can be easy for churches to focus inward, to focus only on themselves and to never see the people who are bent over, kept in bondage by various demons and powers.  Are we willing to be like Jesus and allow God to work through us to bring healing to those bent over by the world’s sin.

Jesus saw this woman.  And he saw her has a daughter of Abraham, a daughter of the promise.  We are called to see those around us who bear the image of God and help restore them to health.  

Like a lot of people, I’ve been interested in the drama that went on this week involving the American swimmer Ryan Lochte.  Lochte had told people last week that he was robbed at gunpoint while heading back to the Olympic Village in Rio de Janiero. We now know that story was false.  Lochte along with three other American swimmers were actually involved in a bit of vandalism at a gas station.  Lochte didn’t see the Brazilians, otherwise he would realize that he was a guest in a foreign land and needed to be on his best behavior.  He also didn’t see that as an Olympian he was called to live to a higher standard.  Like the religious leader who forgot he was a son of Abraham and needed to show some concern for his sister, Lochte forgot he had his own mark of excellence to live up to.  

I kind of miss not seeing the old Body By Fisher nameplates.  It not only told you that this was a GM car, but that this was a symbol of excellence.  As followers of Jesus, we bear the mark of baptism and we are called to be aware of those around us who bear another mark, the mark of the image of God and help those who are bound by various burdens.  That is our call.  Let’s live up to the name.  Thanks be to God, Amen.