Just this week I was walking the dog and got into an interesting debate about Islam and Christianity with two young men. There were many questions beginning with who created the dog man or God? and why Christians eat pork and why Christians did not worship on the Sabbath.! Todays Gospel story of course is one of many that could be sighted in an explanation that Jesus came to challenge a religious system , to break the very rules and customs that had kept the chosen people chosen. Followers of Jesus came to understand that obedience to the law alone would not be sufficient for salvation.
In this incident Jesus is doing what every Rabbi has done since, attend shul where he worshiped and taught. On this occasion he then crossed the line by reaching out and healing a woman doubled over. Of course Jesus is not the only one to break the rules, to cross the line. In this story the woman who has no name also broke the rules by walking in to an all male environment where she was not wanted or welcome. Sometimes it is necessary to break the rules to do the right thing.
I came across this story told by Billy Graham’s long time songleader George Beverly Shea, who tells a story about one of Graham's classmates at Wheaton College:
Mr. Frizen, called Bert by his friends, was a talented and popular singer on campus, involved with several singing groups . . . . He went on to serve in the military during World War II and was involved in the famous Battle of the Bulge . . . . Bert was wounded during one of the attacks and lay on the battlefield, slipping in and out of consciousness. At one point, with his eyes closed, he started singing his mother's favorite hymn as best he could, "Jesus Whispers Peace." When he opened his eyes, he saw a German soldier standing over him with a drawn bayonet. Bert understood enough German to know that the soldier was saying to him, "Sing it again; sing it again." Bert continued the song; "There is a Name to me most dear, like sweetest music to my ear/And when my heart is troubled, filled with fear/Jesus whispers peace." Soon he felt himself being gently lifted up in the arms of the enemy soldier, who carried him to a rock ledge nearby where the American medics found him a short time later, taking him to safety.
In the midst of war, one German soldier broke the rules in the name of love, in the name of compassion, in the name of Jesus. God calls us to look deep within and to find the courage and the faith to break the rules in the name of love, in the name of the love of God which is ours in Christ Jesus our Lord.