August 21, 2022
Invisible woman – Luke 13:10-17
Michael Swartz

The woman healed by Jesus in the Gospel reading for today was clearly
suffering from osteoporosis. The Mayo Clinic website characterizes the disease
this way: “Osteoporosis affects men and women of all races. But white and Asian
women — especially older women who are past menopause — are at highest
The man who was the leader of the synagogue was indignant. It is not new that
society often ignores women’s health issues. We take these issues for granted
and they become invisible. This was an invisible woman. And that she has
suffered for 18 years suggests that she was an older woman.
In contrast, Jesus addresses this woman’s condition with a sense of urgency.
And Jesus challenges the leader, suggesting that they treat animals with more
As a society we too must not ignore women’s heath issues.
And that is sermon number one. If we are like Jesus we will not ignore the health
issues of older women.
It would be possible to widen the scope of the teaching from Jesus. Jesus
included women among his entourage from the start and women had been the
first witnesses to the resurrection.
When the United States Constitution was being hammered out Abigail Adams at
home in Massachusetts, wrote to her husband, John Adams, at the convention in
Philadelphia, that they “should not ignore the ladies.” She was advocating for
women’s right to vote in 1789. The men who wrote the document did not include
women voting. Since they were starting fresh with a representative democracy it
would have been timely.
In 1870, during Reconstruction following the American Civil War, in the Grant
administration and they were hammering out the 15th Amendment to Constitution
giving the right to vote to previously enslaved men, there was another rather
more organized attempt to grant the franchise to women as well at the same
time. Again the issue was pushed to the side. There were some sharp words
from the leaders of the women’s suffrage movement of the time.

On August 18, 1920 the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified
according American women in all states the right to vote. Actually, women had
been able to vote in 1776 in New Jersey but that had been rolled back. So it was
102 years ago this week that American women took their place as voters. And
health care for women has been in the news as well recently. One wonders if it
will make a difference.
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In 1789 and in 1870 there was some movement toward granting voting rights to
women, but in setting the priorities to get the legislation passed women’s issues
were pushed aside to get the law passed. The general term for getting your
important issue put to the side and something else considered front and center is
And it does not feel good if it is your issue. And it is a feature of collective action
by organizations, governments, religious groups and communities.
When someone’s legitimate issue is marginalized, moved to the side, it is often
done in the name of limited resources. So we have only so many resources, it
will be said, and we have to decide what is most important right now and act on
The counter arguments against such marginalization are:
A. It is a right and a matter of justice. or
B. Isn’t it odd that the interests of those making the decisions are always
important, front and center – such as the interests of men regarding votes for
women – and other’s interests are at the margin?
It is not unusual that the powerful men who were the synagogue leaders would
find the poor woman invisible, what is remarkable is that Jesus saw and Jesus
acted. Jesus also rebuked those whose religious scruples were offended when a
woman’s health issue was addressed and deemed important and even urgent.
We should be like Jesus. That is sermon number two.
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So if marginalization happens all the time, and legitimate issues are pushed to
the side, and the general marker is that those who get pushed aside have less
power what should those of us who want to be like Jesus do? How shall we think
about this? Can we make a general case?
A key Jesus issue was what I will call the “myth of scarcity.” That is most clearly
addressed in the account of the feeding of the 5000. When people were afraid

that there would not be enough to go around they wanted to get theirs first and
not share. Jesus showed that there was enough for everyone with lots left over.
There need be no scarcity in seeing, there need be no scarcity of empathy, there
need be no scarcity of justice, there is no scarcity of God. There should be no
scarcity of human dignity; do men loose dignity when women are accorded
Along with the “myth of scarcity,” Jesus saw opportunity for the power of God.
Do you remember when Jesus had healed a man born blind and the authorities
had dragged in his parents and were bullying them. And then they turned to
Jesus and asked, “Was this man’s blindness the result of the man’s sin or the
parent’s sin?” (Isn’t it interesting that we love to find someone to blame? Some
moral failure?) And Jesus said, “Neither. It was so that the power of God might
be revealed.”
“That the power of God might be revealed” is opportunity.
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Well the followers of Jesus have been really big on healthcare as an opportunity
to show the compassion of Jesus; in antiquity ill people were isolated because
others were afraid. Christians took care of the ill, fed them, gave them water and
care and they survived at a greater rate. Christians reached out to those who
were suffering and whose needs were being marginalized – often literally
shunned and segregated – like those with leprosy, those with plague, AIDS. The
Jesus pattern has been to see, to listen, to focus attention, to learn, to
empathize, to accord dignity and worth. All this is prior to helping or addressing
symptoms with remedy. It is a change of focus.
And when the Jesus followers just went on and did it, then the collective groups
like governments and churches got on board – maybe they were shamed into it.
Folks had shown it could be done. And I, for one, am not so sure that now that
healthcare is run by corporations and insurance companies that this is an
unalloyed good thing. The transition from churches to corporations in providing
healthcare in America has happened in my lifetime. (Around our house this is
called “Michael being a crusty old man.)
When we can recognize marginalization as an opportunity to show the love of
Jesus we become effectual as Christians. It is a new way of seeing.
A dear church mother, Grace Frank was diagnosed with celiac disease and was
in and out of the hospital as they got it right. We found gluten free communion
wafers for her. It showed that we cared for her; she mattered. She was affirmed.

To see marginalization as an “opportunity to love” make us strong. We all get
marginalized sometimes and we feel diminished and it hurts. Paul in 1
Corinthians (4;13) refers to us as “offscourings” those little hunkies in the frying
pan that get scoured off when washing the dishes. When we get marginalized
we feel like those little hunkies about to get washed away and we feel
somewhere between unworthy and enraged, or both. So to see and to treat
marginalized people with respect and dignity is not only an act of kindness or
Christian love, but a moment of self-actualization. We are all in this together; we
are knit together in a “single garment of destiny.” (Martin Luther King.)
“If his eye is on the sparrow then I know he watches me.” To see a child of God
in a woman who was to most invisible was just how Jesus rolled, and it was
deeply counter cultural and disconcerting to those who were used to being the
center of attention. And Jesus did it all the time; even when he was on the cross
he was seeing the dying thief on the next cross as a child of God.
Such seeing the invisible can save the world, through Jesus Christ.
Amen and amen.

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