- The Washington Times - Monday, March 5, 2001

Excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Harold D. Lewis at Lincoln Park United Methodist Church in the District of Columbia.

The escape artist Harry Houdini had gotten out of jails and prisons across America. Finally, in one particular cell, he had been frustrated. He worked 45 minutes on the lock, but couldn't get out.

In resignation, he fell against the door. To his shock, it swung open. The cell door had been locked only in Harry Houdini's mind, in his own poor perception. He was incarcerated internally, even though he was free externally.

In our text today [Luke 13:10-17], we discover a sister who has been internally incarcerated. An "infirmity" had stricken her, and our Savior's diagnosis was that Satan had caused this affliction 18 years earlier. Some bad thing from her yesterday had trapped her in herself today.

Remember in the movie "Lion King" when the monkey Ratiki hits the lion Simba with a stick? Simba says, "Ouch," and Ratiki says, "It does not matter because it's in the past." Then Simba makes the sagacious statement, "Yes, it may be in the past, but it still hurts." That is some sister's story here today. You were date raped in the past and it still hurts. You were deserted by your man or abused, and it still hurts. You were pregnant and had an abortion, and it still hurts.

That's the plight of our sister in the Bible text. What happened to her was in the past, but it hurt so much that the Bible says she was bent over. She walked, as some Bible translations say, with a curvature of the spine, or double bent. She could only see the ground; her vision was limited.

There are some sisters who have made it into the new millennium, and their view and vision are limited. They can't see there is more to life than getting a man, or being "kept" by a man. They can't see there is more to life than allowing themselves to be exploited by a system and society that doesn't respect them.

But glory hallelujah. Though the sister in the Bible was bent over, she came out on the Sabbath. She gets up and says, "I feel like going to church today. I've got some pain from my past, and a bent-over body, but I'm going to church."

There's a guest preacher in town in the story from Luke. Our sister hears his new voice and says, "He sounds pretty good." The preacher's name is Jesus Christ, and all of a sudden He says, "Come here." She makes her way forward, and He says, "Woman, you are set free." Then, all of a sudden, the preacher puts His hand on her and the sister who had been bent over straightens up.

There is some sister here, I don't know you, but God does, who came to church even when you didn't feel like it. We've got some good news for you. Jesus is here, and He wants to set you free.

Sister, you may be enslaved by some emotion, impaired by pain in your past, held hostage by hurt, crippled by crisis, bent over by burden or discouraged by disease. The Savior wants to free you. The sister in our Bible text had been bent over, but for 18 years she would go to church to worship God anyhow. She prayed, and for 18 years she did not let her deformity deter her from her divine duty.

We never know. The Sunday we show up may be the very day the Lord of our liberation shows up with our healing. So sister, don't let your situation stop you from coming to the Savior… .

Now when Jesus was giving His sermon, He stops to notice the sister. She had every reason to be overlooked. Jesus had to look over the Pharisees, the scribes, the Sadducees and the Sanhedrin's council with their big hats. He looked across all of them to notice the sister, because Jesus sees us even if other folks don't.

If we are going to be set free, we've got to be willing to expose ourselves and our crippling conditions to Jesus. When we come to the Savior, we must be open and honest. Most of us are in spiritual denial. We don't believe we have any faults that need to be forgiven, but we need to know that Jesus can't bless it until we confess it.

Next week: a sermon at a Virginia congregation.

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