I’ve been doing some reflecting on how hard it is to accept new ideas, new understandings. How much that threatens us. Because our own conceptions, our own moral code, our own traditions and ways of doing things – in a world where nothing is predictable or even dependable, our own understandings and opinions almost feel like home. They feel sacred. And we become fearful of that which is new, closing our hearts and minds to everything that doesn’t jive with our own sense of home. We all do this. Yes, some of us struggle with change more than others, but all of us do this. We can’t seem to help ourselves. And then along comes the Bible, this ages old book that’s anything but dry and dusty. These words, if we let God wedge His foot in the door of our heart, these words shake us up, turn us inside out, and leave us dangling by faith, grasping onto God, praying for our very lives. And isn’t that kind of the point? Proverbs 3:5 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understandings.” Here’s a story based on this Luke story. One I hope helps us open to the newness of the Spirit always at work among us and within us.
He leaned forward and rubbed his hands together with anticipation. Eager to see and hear for himself the young prophet who had the Jerusalem rabbis worked up into such a frenzy. His grin matured into a full-throated chuckle as he recalled Rabbi Levi’s look of bewildered indignation when he told Levi, just yesterday, that he had invited Jesus to read scripture in that morning’s Shabbat service. It wasn’t that Rabbi Judah liked to seek out trouble, but he didn’t mind tweaking its nose every now and then either, especially to make a point. His point that particular Sabbath morning being that his brother Pharisees were getting carried away with spurious judgments and perhaps needed to listen a little more and talk a little less to and about this upstart, Jesus. Of course, this was just Judah’s opinion, but his opinion carried great weight in his community. Not only was his knowledge of the law unsurpassed, so too was his passion for this law as his peoples’ tenuous but sure connection to the Almighty God. He loved the law and treated it always with tender priority. In another person, this passion and love for Torah might have manifested itself in an unforgiving and harsh character. Yet Judah commanded only respect, not only because of his knowledge and passion for the law, but for the way in which he also balanced his passion and love with an equal measure of passion and love for his people. This tricky balance was maintained with a robust sense of humor and his ready and loud laughter endeared him to all. Which was fortunate as it seemed the Creator had chosen to endow only his character with extreme good will and had entirely overlooked the physical. His body was as tiny and slight as his character was large and boisterous. His stature had earned him the affectionate nickname
“Latria Nanus,” or, “Dear puny one”. An ironic title for one of the leaders of the Bethany synagogue. As he sat, listening to and joining in the litany of traditional prayer, a familiar hitch-drag rhythm crept up on him and, stopped short. Craning his head to glance behind, he sighed with a mingling of surprise and sorrow. Young Daniel had carefully positioned his lame leg to the greatest effect and now propped himself up on his crutch, searching the crowd eagerly for their guest, the great healer, Jesus. Judah got up and went to speak with Daniel and gently reminded him that the Shabbat service was not a time for healing. According to the sacred law, healing could be done on any of the other six days, but not on the Sabbath. He embraced Daniel and assured him that the very next day, he would be happy to spend time with the young boy in prayer, petitioning God for healing. Who, but God knew, when or how this fervent and relentless prayer might be answered in the way both Judah and Daniel longed for.
Daniel’s chastising eyes pierced Judah’s heart with the tang of guilt as the boy turned and with the help of his crutch, dragged his useless leg from the synagogue. Despite his excitement at hearing Jesus speak, Daniel’s plight remained uppermost in Judah’s mind, casting a pall over his natural good humor. In an effort to settle the matter in his mind, he questioned whether it couldn’t hurt to talk with Jesus about Daniel and see how he might respond, after nightfall, of course. Pleased with himself, he looked up with a broad smile as Jesus made his way to the front and stopped at the Leviticus scroll, opened to that day’s appointed scripture. When Jesus began unrolling the scroll in search of the scripture that suited him, Judah’s smile faltered as he began assuring himself that while Jesus’ actions were a little unusual, they were not unheard of. He gave a nod of approval, signaling to his brother Pharisees that they should also sit tight and listen. “If anyone injures his neighbor, whatever he has done must be done to him:”, Jesus began and then continued reading, “fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. As he has injured the other, so he is to be injured. Whoever kills an animal must make restitution, but whoever kills a man must be put