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Spiritual Growth

Wesley Bible: A Study Guide

Journey of Faith: Session 5

By Glory E. Dharmaraj, Ph.D.

BENT-OVER WOMAN: Do not abandon the Bible to the Bible-bashers and the Bible-thumpers. Reclaim the Bible. Do not let go of it until it blesses you" ~Phyllis Trible iv


Luke 13: 10-17
Lectio Divina
Use the method of divine reading or lectio divina

  • Read the Scripture passage slowly.
  • Ponder the words or phrases that stay with you.  
  • Talk with God about what makes these words meaningful to you.

FACTS
What is happening in this story? 
What are the different feelings and thoughts expressed by different characters in the story?

ASSOCIATION 
Are there bent-over conditions in your life? 
What is the "spirit of weakness" that bends you? 
How do you gather faith and hope in order to experience God's healing? 
Who are the bent-over women in your context?
What are the causes of their "bent-overness"?
Are there bent-over communities that faced trauma?
What are the causes?

MEANING 
In this story, what do you see as forces aligning with God's intended shalom for human beings? 
In this story what do you see as opposing forces to the Kingdom of God?
How does Jesus address these forces?
In the gospel story, what is the status of the woman in the eyes of this leader of the synagogue? 
How does Jesus describe the woman in verse 16? 
What is he saying by this?
Whom does the woman thank?  

ACTION 
How would you, as a United Methodist Women member, amplify the voices of women, children, and youth caught in this situation of systemic bent-overness.
How is Deuteronomy 5:14 interpreted by the leader of the synagogue? 
How does Jesus interpret Deut 5:14? 
How should we take care to read the Bible on behalf of the least of these
Imagine yourself as this healed woman, and come up with a slogan in your language. Your slogan should not take more than 5-6 words

Reflection: 

Luke 13: 11 says, "And just then, there appeared a woman." 

Bent-over women appear suddenly. They burst into our existence unexpectedly. 
They are bent-over with the cares of their daily chores

  • Care-giving
  • Seeking food
  • Seeking firewood
  • Fighting to remain the house that is foreclosed.
  • Feeing the children

Just then there appeared a  bent-over woman who walked several miles to fetch water in her African or Asian village. 

Just then there appeared a woman who worked in an industrial plant where toxic chemicals are being dumped, and she could not stand straight and breathe. 
Just then a woman appeared, a farm worker who toiled all day long, on the farm, picking cotton, picking tomatoes, and she could not stand straight. 

Jesus noticed this woman in the middle of his teaching. What was he teaching in the temple precinct? We do not know. This we know. The central message of his teaching was the Reign of God. 

TABLE EXERCISE: 
The facilitator asks a volunteer to lie under a table, and another volunteer to stand on the same table. The facilitator keeps her Bible open at Deuteronomy 5 14 and Luke 13: 15-16.

The facilitator asks the person on the table and the person under the table some questions: 

(To the person on the table) How does it feel to stand on the table?

(To the person under the table) How does it feel to lie under the table?

(To both) Do you want to exchange positions?

  • In order to have a dialogue between the two of you, what should be done? 
  • (To the person standing on the table) Imagine yourself as the leader of the synagogue standing on this table. Now I am reading Deuteronomy 5:14 and Luke 13: 14. Why would you interpret this verse in a literal way? 
  • Imagine yourself as the bent-over woman lying under the table. I am reading Luke 13: 15-16. How does Jesus interpret Deuteronomy 5:14? Why would Jesus interpret the same verse this way? 

When you read a Bible passage the person standing on the table often tends to interpret the passage to their advantage. The person lying under the table may look at the same Bible verse from a completely different perspective. 

Imagine the leader of the synagogue as the person standing at the top of the table. He is someone like a person standing on a table, and reading the Bible from the dominant stand point of view. For him, the good news is keeping the status quo that will not challenge his position as a ruler of the temple. 

For the person lying under the table, there is a need to re-interpret the verse from the perspective of the poor and the oppressed. Often that person may not be in a position to read the Bible until that person is conscientized to read it on behalf of the oppressed. 

It is our task, as Christians, to see Jesus who identifies himself with the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed, and whose spirit enables us to read the Bible on behalf of them. 

The poor, the disabled, the oppressed read the Bible from the underside of history. 

The rulers, the powerful and the authorities tend to read the Bible from the dominant side of history. 

Jesus uses Jesus uses  NAMING and SHAMING approach.  He takes a public stance on behalf of the woman. Gives voice to the silenced voice and perspective of the disabled woman. New Living Translation:  17 This shamed his enemies, but all the people rejoiced at the wonderful things he did.)(New International Reader's Version:  17 When Jesus said this, all those who opposed him were put to shame.

Jesus challenges the ruler who benefits by literal and narrow interpretation of the verse.  

Jesus tells us our ministry with the poor, our ministry with the margins, takes precedence over everything else, and reads the Bible on behalf of this bent-over woman. 

Phyllis Trible, an Old Testament scholar, once said: "Do not let go of the Bible until it blesses you. Do not abandon the Bible to the Bible-Bashers and the Bible-Thumpers. Reclaim the Bible. Do not let go of it, until it blesses you." 
God's story may not be the church's story always.  We, as followers of Christ, need to see that God's story comes out, and not be blocked by narrow, lifeless interpretations. 
Jesus is telling us:

  • Woman stand straight and tall. Yours is a child-of-God DNA. You are branded by your baptism against identity theft. 
  • Woman stand straight and tall within your self for your self-worth. You are no less than a Child-of-God. 
  • Woman stand straight and tall within your family. You are made in the image of God.
  • Woman stand straight and tall within your community. Jesus came to restore you back to your Child-of-God identity. 
  • Woman stand straight and tall within the church.
  • Woman stand straight and tall within the created, whole world for your self-worth affects your spirituality and ministry.

Hope is trust in God in the midst of everything. Hope is trust in God even against odds. "God's presence is the source of hope and protection for community," as we see in the commentary to Psalm 46:1 (page 686). 

Wesleyan Core Term: Hope
…One of the important contributions that Wesley made in the way we think about this hope within is the way it illumines sanctification. Hope is a this-worldly activity because it signals our intent to become more Christ-like, so it requires actively loving God and our neighbor. Wesley believed that all Christians could realize this hope while on their journey…The hope that is within us is both this-worldly and other-worldly because both are grounded in being transformed into the image of God. (page 1508). 

Wesleyan Life Application: Only Jesus is Worthy
From childhood, we have heard stories of "the one who could." Cinderella was the one who could fit the glass slipper. King Arthur was the one who could remove the sword from the stone. Prince Charming was the one who could wake the Sleeping Beauty. These stories all have heroic figures who fit the moment and arrive to save us just when hope expires. Long before the stories of slippers, stones, and kisses, however, humans were questing for the one who could. Prophets hoped, psalmists prayed, wise ones searched. In Revelation 4:11, we see the "one who is seated on the throne" and we celebrate because we have exhausted the hope of saving ourselves. (page 1542).

Prayer: God of Hope, you invite us to walk with you in a journey of hope. Often you call us to do so in the midst of places of hopelessness in our lives.  May hope in you be our guiding and sustaining force as we embody hope for all those who struggle against injustices   Amen. 

Click HereJourney of Faith: Session 6

iv Phyllis Trible, "Preaching luminaries tell pastors to oppose 'Bible-bashers, Bible-thumpers,'" http://www.wfn.org/2000/06msg00051.html  (2 June 2000)


This Bible study was also published by United Methodist Publishing house; a print-friendly PDF can be downloaded from their site.

Last Updated: 03/17/2014
 
 

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