RCL Year C, Proper 16
Isaiah 58:9b-14; Psalm 103:1-8; Hebrews 12:18-29; Saint Luke 13:10-17

“You cannot have your cake and eat it, too.” You’ve heard that, I know. It’s homespun. It’s simple. And, it’s true. Having things both ways is something people have to un-learn in most parts of their lives. You cannot play and get your work done. You cannot refuse to write letters and expect your friends to write you. You cannot eat lobster and keep your money. You cannot turn a deaf ear to your friend and be sure your friend will listen to you. “You cannot have your cake and eat it, too.”

Look how often advertisers appeal to us this way. I saw an advertisement on the television the other day that is aimed at men. They are to order several weeks of fully prepared meals, and they are to lose weight. It seems impossible, and it probably is. The spokesman claims to have lost fifty pounds. But in another voice we hear the disclaimer: “Results not typical.” And, of course, all customers will have the willpower to leave the appointed meal to the appointed time.

It’s the same with Almighty God. You cannot live your own life, shutting God out, and expect God to be there for you. You have to live God’s life. God, you heard in the Epistle, is a “consuming fire.”[1] God wishes to be there for you, and will be there for you, when you open all of your life to him. All of your life: your money, your service, your hopes, your fears, your failures, your children. Let him in on everything. Letting God in on everything is the way to keep yourself open to God’s blessings and God’s healing.

If I understand the Gospel today correctly, God wants so much to be a part of our lives, a healing part, a helping part, that God will not think twice about doing what we most need, about giving us what we most need.

The woman in the Gospel today was cured of an infirmity that she had suffered for eighteen years. She is open to God’s will for her life, and she praises God for the blessing of healing that she receives at Jesus’ hands. She recognizes that God is all and in all, and she puts her whole life in his hands.

We have so many opportunities to do put ourselves in God’s hands. We can enter another person’s pain. We can exercise stewardship and give our money until the gift becomes truly sacrificial. We can practice a kind of differentiation, whereby we call ourselves to react differently and more humanely to the differences and the characteristics we find in other people, particularly those of our own family. We can practice a kind of self-definition, whereby we call ourselves to make it clear to all encroachers where our boundaries and limits lie.

By her action, by her differentiation and by her self-definition, the woman in the Gospel walks through the door to life and peace. Through that same door, you will find your way to the riches of living and living well. You will find that God has been calling you and waiting for you to take that step. By walking through that door, you will find a life worth living, which is at least as good as having your cake and eating it, too.


[1] Hebrews 12:29.