Historical Markers: Reckless Love

This early Williamson County graveyard has been referred to as Smalley Cemetery due to its connection with the family of pioneer Baptist preacher Freeman Smalley….

We’ll get back to this marker in a minute, but I must admit that it has nothing to do with this cemetery.

And I don’t think the Good News in today’s Gospel has much to do with healing, either.

I think that’s the case with most of Jesus’ miracles, really.

They are less about the hocus pocus of it all than they are about telling a better story… teaching a larger lesson … proclaiming a wider grace, mercy, and love.

Not just because of what Jesus does in those magical moments – but because of how and why and when and where and for whom.

Turning water into wine or feeding the 5,000? The substance didn’t matter so much, I don’t think. The point was that there was more than enough to go around.

Walking on water? Jesus was showing us something about faith.

Calming the storm? Jesus was revealing God’s peace in the presence of our fear.

Cleansing the leper? Jesus was highlighting God’s love for the outcast and the outsider.

Do you see what I mean? As much as we love a good miracle story, the magic of it all is rarely the point.

And today’s episode, in the synagogue, is no different.

I don’t think today is really about the healing of a woman with a bad back. But, if Jesus is up for helping folks with bad hips or bad knees, I’m willing to talk…

What sticks out to me is that this happened on the Sabbath.

The Lord’s day. The day of rest and for worship.

Everyone else wanted the woman to come back on another day. They wanted her to follow the rules.

Breaking the rule about working or healing or whatever on the Sabbath is Jesus’ larger point this time around.

The point today, I think, is that God calls us to heal and to comfort and to extend grace and to share love at all costs.

The rule that matters most to Jesus is the one about loving God and loving neighbor.

Our sinful and prideful selves set up all kinds of rules that get in the way of loving our neighbor, don’t we?

Rules that suggest we shouldn’t be that generous…

Rules that suggest we shouldn’t forgive someone…

Rules that suggest we shouldn’t extend mercy…

Rules that suggest we shouldn’t love…

In the face of whatever rules or expectations the world, or we, try to set up, Jesus stands right in the middle of the synagogue on the Sabbath and breaks the rules.

He breaks the rules so that we can see just how brave and bold and reckless God’s love is meant to be.

And we’re called to do the same.

If we go back to that historical marker, it isn’t really about a cemetery at all. In fact, it’s not even in the right spot.

This marker is a tenth of a mile away from where the cemetery used to be. The cemetery is now a subdivision. That’s about the most Texas thing I can imagine, really.

The marker goes on to say… Early settlers of this area, the Smalleys were associated with the nearby Anti-Slaveholding Union Baptist Church.

Freeman Smalley was the first Baptist minister to preach in Texas.

In 1846 Smalley left the church he pastored in Illinois and followed his son to Texas. He preached wherever he could, but his audiences were small because he preached against slavery.

He organized Union Baptist Church in Williamson County, basically Round Rock. It was the first antislavery Baptist church in Texas. Years later, when the Civil War began, Smalley remained in Texas and stood squarely in support of the union cause and against slavery.

For this, he was robbed, and he lived under constant threat of danger to him and his family.

Smalley looked at the world around him and decided that the rules of slavery and domination and control needed to be broken. And he risked his life to love recklessly.

That’s today’s marker, today’s sign of a follower of Jesus.

We are called to love, recklessly.

And when we love recklessly, we participate in God’s miraculous power today.

We can’t heal every disease, but we can walk with others through sickness and struggle and sadness.

That’s what the Stephen Ministers commissioned today are doing. They dedicated themselves to 50 hours of preparation so that they can walk with others going through hard times.

That’s not normal. That’s not reasonable, really. The world looks at that and tries to figure out how you could have used that time for something better.

But they did it. And they will continue doing it.

They will love, recklessly.

And we all have our opportunities.

We can’t cleanse a leper, but we can welcome those the world deems outcast or outsider.

We can’t change the weather, but we can trust God’s presence in the midst of storms.

We can’t undo the world’s brokenness, but we can accept and offer forgiveness.

We can’t change hearts and minds, but we can love. Recklessly.

In a world full of too many rules, too much fear, and too much sadness that tries to convince us otherwise, we are set free from all sorts of bondage.

Like the woman in today’s Gospel, we are set free to  live in the miracle of new life and second chances and amazing grace and reckless love, every day, in Jesus’ name.