We are a small Episcopal Church on the banks of the Rappahannock in Port Royal, Virginia. We acknowledge that we gather on the traditional land of the first people of Port Royal, the Nandtaughtacund, who are still here, and we honor with gratitude the land itself and the life of the Rappahannock Tribe. Our mission statement is to do God’s Will in all that we do.

Aug 24 – The Feast Day of St. Bartholomew

St. Bartholomew

Bartholomew was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus, and is usually identified as Nathaniel and was a doctor. In Mark 3:18 he is one of the twelve Jesus calls to be with him. He was introduced to us as a friend of Philip, another of the twelve apostles as per (John 1:43-51), where the name Nathaniel first appears. He is also mentioned as “Nathaniel of Cana in Galilee” in (John 21:2).

He was characterized by Jesus on the first meeting as a man “in whom there was no guile.” The Catholic News Agency wrote this. “We are presented with the Apostle’s character in this brief and beautiful dialogue with the Lord Jesus. He is a good Jew, honest and innocent, a just man, who devotes much time to quiet reflection and prayer – “under the fig tree (1:48)” – and has been awaiting the Messiah, the Holy One of God.”

His day is remembered on August 24. After the Resurrection he was favored by becoming one of the few apostles who witnessed the appearance of the risen Savior on the sea of Galilee (John 21:2).

From Eusebius history, Bartholomew went on a missionary tour to India, where he left behind a copy of the Gospel of Matthew. Other traditions record him as serving as a missionary in Ethiopia, Mesopotamia, Parthia, and Lycaonia.

Along with his fellow apostle Jude, Bartholomew is reputed to have brought Christianity to Armenia in the 1st century. Thus both saints are considered the patron saints of the Armenian Apostolic Church. He is said to have been martyred in in Armenia. According to one account, he was beheaded, but a more popular tradition holds that he was flayed alive and crucified, head downward. He is said to have converted Polymius, the king of Armenia, to Christianity. His brother consequently ordered Bartholomew’s execution. The 13th century Saint Bartholomew Monastery was a prominent Armenian monastery constructed at the site of the martyrdom of Apostle Bartholomew in what is today southeastern turkey

Gospel – “Woman, You are Set Free”

Here is the scripture from Luke 13:10-17 for this week

Jesus continues on the road to Jerusalem but there is a change in venue. Jesus had been speaking to disciples and large crowds. Now, he appears in "one of the synagogues." His presence in a synagogue is his first since leaving Galilee, and he will not visit another in Luke’s gospel. The conflict with Jewish leaders he will experience then is foreshadowed this story.

Jesus enters the synagogue and he seems to be in search of something. Just before this scene, Luke records a parable in which Jesus’ vineyard owner says, “For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none” (Luke 13:7). His sensitivity is heightened as he continues to search for “fig trees” that are bearing fruit.

He enters the synagogue immediately following this parable and will heal a Jewish lady who has been suffering for 18 years. Jesus heals the woman in sacred space (a synagogue, mentioned twice) and within sacred time, namely on a Sabbath (noted no fewer than five times), and he is criticized for this breach of the law. Jesus insists that the synagogue and the Sabbath are not the only things that are holy — so is this woman’s life. He is also guilty of touching a ritually unclean woman in their eyes. Jesus isn’t abolishing the Law of Moses, but helping the people in the synagogue have a better understanding of how to apply the law.

This isn’t his first healing in Luke. Earlier, in Chapter 4, Jesus heals a man with an unclean spirit. In Chapter 6, he healed a man whose hand was withered. On both occasions, Luke describes Jesus teaching in a synagogue on the Sabbath, but we are not informed about the content of his teaching. On both occasions, prominent religious leaders take offense at Jesus’ actions because of their view of what is allowable on the holy Sabbath day. By the end of chapter 13, Jesus’ search will turn into lament, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…” (cf. 13:34-35).

Jesus’ rebuttal is clever, for while untying an ox or a donkey on the sabbath was forbidden in one part of the Mishnah (a Jewish book of laws), it was permitted in another. His point is that the woman is far more important than animals, yet animals are allowed more freedom on the sabbath than is the woman. This woman is a "daughter of Abraham," heir to the same promise as Abraham.

Note the story is not about his teaching or even the faith of the people. Both stories are healing stories but, more significantly, for Luke, is the controversy these healings created due to questions of Jesus’ Sabbath practices. He doesn’t argue about Judaism, or the restriction.

So what is it all /about ?

1. It is story of the Kingdom – a story of community. Healings and exorcisms are signs of the kingdom of God. In verse 12, "Jesus saw" is in the primary position in the sentence, a subtle emphasis.

Jesus seems to be ignored by the Jewish leaders. The “leader” (v. 14) speaks to the “crowd”, but his words are directed at Jesus. He is blind to God’s kingdom. The people in the synagogue seem blind to her presence also

After he saw her, he called her to him. Marginalized and in the shadows, the woman is brought to center stage by Jesus. He sees the person, not the condition. In the new world of Jesus, it is precisely people such as the "bent woman" who are moved from the periphery of society to the center, which is what Jesus has done here. He argues from legitimate allowances of restricted kinds of "work" on the Sabbath. There is a higher calling – all life as sacred.

One key point here is that the woman does not ask to be cured; no one asks on her behalf; Jesus notices her. How many do we notice in our lives that need to be freed ? We need to be observant extending the kingdom

The woman has done nothing to earn or even request this unfathomable gift of life/grace. Her response is one of standing up, living into the gift of grace, and publicly praising God

What are the human-imposed barriers (even well-intentioned ones) that prevent people from experiencing God’s grace? How do we, God’s stewards today, help to dismantle these barriers?

2. It is a story of freedom from bondage

Jesus operates within the confines of Judaism but there is a limit when one is suffering. He won’t exclude them based on religious customs to provide healing. He demonstrates his compassion and thus to us a way of life, a way to live out our community obligations. Both themes of praise and rejoicing are emphasized by Luke as appropriate responses to God’s work in Jesus the one who brings the reign of God in healing power to those who most need it.

Her problem is both medical and social. She is “crippled” but has been been ostracized from the Jewish community. At the time many human ailments were seen to be cause by Satan; the very being of someone with a serious ailment was thought to be hostile to God. (She is not under demonic possession.)

In verse 16, Jesus himself will attribute the woman’s "weakness" to being held in bondage by Satan. What is called for, then, is not just medical healing but release from bondage. She has suffered and been ostracized from the Jewish community.

The point of confrontation is on the role of the Sabbath. Does it mean just following the prescribed order of worship each week? Does it mean following the ceremony to the letter of the law no matter what happens?

There are two traditions concerning the Sabbath. One, recorded in Exodus 20, links the Sabbath to the first creation account in Genesis, where God rests after six days of labor. As God rested, so should we and all of our households and even animals rest. The second tradition, in Deuteronomy 5, however, links the Sabbath to the Exodus; that is, it links Sabbath to freedom, to liberty, to release from bondage and deliverance from captivity. Jesus is causing the Jewish leaders to remember this passage. The Sabbath is all about freedom and this scripture concerning the woman. How might we be encouraged to act on Sunday to provide hope and joy

Jesus reminds the Sabbath leader that, regardless of the day of the week, all of God’s creation must have access to God’s gifts of life – whether it’s the provision of water for God’s creatures (v.15) or manna on the sabbath for the Israelites in the wilderness

Jesus has taken the synagogue leader’s very argument, and its same scriptural source, and turned it against him. Jesus’ message is clear: "If the sabbath is about freedom, as your own passage from Deuteronomy clearly says, then it is entirely proper to celebrate the freedom of this woman from the bondage of Satan–yes, on the sabbath, even especially on the sabbath."

One might criticize Jesus for discussing the situation ahead of time with the Jewish leaders. However, as Jesus maintained last week , he came to cast fire on the earth and cause divisions.

How do we go beyond our bondages ? By forgiving those who have sinned against us, we are freed from bondage to resentments and feelings of revenge. By forgiving ourselves, we are released from continually beating up on ourselves for acting so stupidly or hurtfully. Forgiveness brings release and freedom. Thus, this text isn’t just about physical healing, but renewal that we all need.

Healing begins when people are seen as Jesus would see them:

  • With unconditional acceptance
  • With appreciation for their person and not their problem.
  • With vision for their potential and not their limitations

The ending is significant going back to the growing confrontation with the Jewish authorities In Luke 6, the religious leaders depart from the synagogue trying to think of what to do with Jesus; and, they were furious (6:11). Their negative response will have major consequences later in the narrative. In Luke 13, the synagogue crowd rejoices at Jesus’ healing action (and teaching?). And, here, his “opponents” are disgraced. And that provides a greater motive for them in Jerusalem.


Lectionary, Aug 21, 2022 – Pentecost 11

I. Theme – The universality of God’s invitation to wholeness and the difficulty of responding to it.

Woman set free from ailment

The lectionary readings are here or individually:

First Reading – Isaiah 58:9b-14 Psalm – Psalm 103:1-8 Epistle – Hebrews 12:18-29 Gospel – Luke 13:10-17

Today’s readings remind us of the universality of God’s invitation to wholeness and the difficulty of responding to it. Isaiah identifies some characteristics of the right relationship with God. The author of Hebrews reminds us that the trials we undergo, though painful, come from the hand of a loving Father who is training us in holiness. Jesus’ words and actions reveal the tension between God’s desire for healing and our need for genuine conversion in order not to hinder God’s plan.

We are all too often concerned about rules—either rules such as the Ten Commandments, which throughout tradition we have assumed were passed down from God—or unspoken rules in society, such as who is in and who is out, who gets to speak and who must be silenced. We become so consumed by rules that we forget the original reason for them. The Sabbath was a gift from God to the people, but some leaders had forgotten and made the Sabbath into following rules. Jeremiah didn’t think he could speak because he was only a boy, and only elders (being men) could speak in public, but God called him to do so anyway. God shows us time and again there is another way—when we love one another, show compassion, have mercy, and do justice for others—we are following God’s ways much more than following a list of rules. The writer of Hebrews shows us that Jesus fulfilled a rule—the rule of sacrifice—in order to break it forever. And so must we follow the rule—the law—of love, in order to break the chains that keep us from loving our neighbors as ourselves.

II. Summary

First Reading –  Isaiah 58:9b-14

Isaiah 58:9b-14 is from our second thread, showing how God’s promises are fulfilled through God’s covenant even when the people fail

Offering a classic example of empty religious ritual, this passage addresses Israel’s reliance on external practices of piety. Isaiah points out that many religious activities had become a form of manipulation. Through fasting, the people hoped to gain God’s approval even though the pious facade masked a mire of injustice and oppression.

Today’s verses are part of a longer section in which God redefines the role of fasting. An expression of humility, fasting offers the people an opportunity to do for others what God has already done for them. God had chosen to free the captives (52:1-3), feed the hungry (55:1-2) and bring Israel’s homeless back to their homeland (49:8-12).

True spiritual practice attracts God’s attention and results in a new exodus. Verse 8 is reminiscent of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt.  Isaiah would have us put into our mind’s eye the situation at the Red Sea, with God serving in the pillar of fire before Israel, and serving not only as the one who leads, but also as the one who takes up the rear guard. Given that context, Isaiah sees the remnant returning to the ruined and dark places of the past, which are now illuminated by God’s light.

The attitude of the heart and use of the tongue must also reflect charity.   The people are bidden to “rebuild”, “raise up”, “restore,” and “repair”.   The people must give more than food, clothing or shelter: they must give themselves. Instead of seeking their own pleasure, they must first satisfy the desires of the needy, finding their own desires satisfied by God (v. 11).

Light shines through us, and we become witnesses of what God is blessing, when we bless others. When we bring healing, we are known as “repairers of the breach” (vs. 12). God will bring restoration to the people who have faced utter destruction, when they bring restoration to others.

This is a description of God’s work that apparently supersedes the normal observance of the Sabbath.  It is more than the community’s work; it is God’s work.  It is a completion of the return from Egypt.

Psalm –  Psalm 103:1-8

Psalm 103:1-8 sings of God’s justice and blessings for those who seek God’s justice. God is the one who brings goodness, and God is the one who works all things towards justice for the oppressed. The psalmist sings of God’s blessings of love and mercy, the one who redeems life.

This hymn of thanksgiving is cast in very general terms, but verses 1-5, in which the psalmist speaks to himself, indicate that it may have come from an individual situation, perhaps of recovery from illness (vv. 3-4a). In verse 4, “the Pit” refers to Sheol, the place of the dead, who retain only a semblance of existence.

The psalmist compares his deliverance to that of Israel in the exodus (v. 7). He affirms the lord’s steadfast love for the covenant people and invites all of creation to join his song of praise.

What we are bidden to do, in this psalm, is not merely an external act of praise, but a deeply internal (Bless the Lord, O my soul) realization of God’s blessing.  The reasons are rehearsed, “he benefits,” “he forgives and heals”, “he redeems”, and “he satisfies” as the list of God’s interactions continues.  Verse 8 repeats Exodus 34:6, when God passes before Moses, shielding God’s glory,

Epistle-  Hebrews 12:18-29

Hebrews 12:18-29 contains a powerful metaphor, a blazing fire that cannot be touched. Recalling the burning bush in which God spoke to Moses, and the pillar of smoke that traveled with the Israelites out of the slavery of Egypt, we remember that the presence of God is near us and yet untouchable; beautiful and terrifying. Jesus has given himself for us, for a new covenant with God, bringing us closer to God and yet this action can never and will never be repeated. Jesus was a sacrifice we desired by taking him to the cross, and yet death was conquered through this act. The act of sacrifice is removed from worship forever. Jesus’ sacrifice ends all sacrifice.

The author presents us with two distinctly different visions.   He contrasts the revelation given to Moses at Mt. Sinai with the revelation given through Jesus, on Mount Zion, which represents the heavenly Jerusalem.  The first transports us to Sinai that rumbles and shakes with the divine presence.  What is seen and felt there is not touchable for it is the abode and presence of God.  The revelation at Sinai is characterized as one of fear, darkness and dread

 The contrasting vision is that of Jerusalem, and not just the earthly city, but the heavenly presence of promise.  If Sinai recalls the presence of sin and judgment, then Jerusalem is a sign of acceptance and righteousness. They join with angels, with “the firstborn enrolled in heaven” (perhaps the whole communion of saints, living and dead), with “the spirits of the just made perfect” (perhaps the pre-Christian saints). In this revelation of a new covenant, Jesus’ blood speaks of redemption rather than vengeance, which the shedding of human blood usually demanded.

A brief comparison in verse 24 is a delightful literary construct where the blood of Abel is compared with the blood of Jesus.  The results are the difference of condemnation and redemption.  The vision is continued with a sense of “words of warning”.  One is earthly, Sinai, and the other is heavenly, Jerusalem.  The author wonders, which one will we hear, which one will renew life and our praise of God?

As earthquake was an important sign of the revelation at Sinai, so it was also expected as an indication of the end of the world-order at the lord’s return. Thus the author quotes Haggai 2:6, emphasizing the Hebrew notion of the end of the universe (v. 26) against the Greek conception of its eternal and indestructible nature. God who is “a consuming fire” will purify the people.

Gospel –  Luke 13:10-17

In this reading, we discover the tension between God’s bountiful gift of salvation through Jesus and the human desire to control it.

The center of concern is the Sabbath, and the situation is one that used to be found in Galilee – teaching in the Synagogue  Both of these elements are combined here as a dramatic confrontation of Satan (the situation of the woman) and of the prevailing attitudes regarding the Sabbath.

Luke 13:10-17 contains the account of one of the healings on the Sabbath that Jesus conducts. Jesus is teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath and heals a woman who is bent over, setting her “free” from her “ailment” (vs. 12).  The woman is bent over – she is a disfigurement of the perfection of creation, and as such becomes as sign of what Jesus intends to do about both sin and Satan.   Jesus’ compassion for the ailing woman, whom he identifies with the surprising description as a “daughter of Abraham,” spurs him to initiate a cure before she can even ask. The woman stands up and praises God.

But the leader of the synagogue can only focus on the action of Jesus that happened on the Sabbath, not the result of that action that was in healing and freedom for this woman. He is unable to understand that the healing is just as much a cause of praise as the religious observance required for the Sabbath day.

Jesus’ rebukes the man and reminds him that God’s desire for our freedom from bondage knows no limit and can never be restricted to times that we find convenient. Jesus’ healing acts invite us to see every place as a healing place and every moment as the right moment for creative transformation.  Providence is broadcast everywhere without limits or exclusion. To participate in God’s saving work on the Sabbath cannot violate the restrictions forbidding human work

Jesus doesn’t soften his warning that a time will come when it will be too late, too late to start caring about the kingdom, too late to come in. Those who have spent their lives dispassionately witnessing Jesus’ work, hearing Jesus’ call and benefiting from Jesus’ teaching without identifying themselves with him will be shut out. It is not enough to eat and drink at his table; it is not enough to hear his word.

When we take rules to the extreme, they are no longer about God but about control and power. Rules such as not having women speak in church, which was probably a specific cultural context for the early Christians in certain communities—rules like these are not about following God’s ways but rather about controlling who gets to preach and lead in a church. We’ve lost the meaning behind them completely. We become so concerned about rules we fail to actually do the right thing.