Merriam-Webster defines “pushing the envelope:
To push the envelope means to surpass normal limits or attempt something viewed as radical or risky. It comes from the aeronautical use of envelope referring to performance limits that cannot be exceeded safely. The phrase was originally limited to space flight, before spreading to other risky physical accomplishments, and finally metaphorically to any boundary- pushing activity, such as art.”
Jesus is a well-known healer. The Gospel of Luke is full of stories. But as Luke tracks Jesus headed to Jerusalem, Luke notes this incident where Jesus heals a woman “crippled by a spirit for eighteen years.” There is a spiritual aspect to this sickness. The problem, though, is that the synagogue leader objects that this deed was done on the Sabbath. It is a good deed but done on the wrong day because “work” had been defined as wrong on a day of rest. Work was not done on the Sabbath.
Jesus reframes, renames the “envelope” and asks if deeds of kindness cannot be done on any day. He pushes the envelope. How often are we trapped and critical of others and ourselves because we are working with envelops that need redefinition? The outpouring of humanitarian concern and outreach in the midst of war is redefining “aid” as people have gone to public media, broadcasting the inhumanity of war, and ordinary people are responding. We may well be redefining the morality of war.
One example I can think of is the condemnation we pour on ourselves for our wrongs, our sins. We try to call them mistakes but in our heart we know we have done wrong in thought, word and deed. Jesus redefines sinner to forgiven, disease to healable, and death to life….but we have not got that far yet. Today Jesus is showing that kindness is doable on any day and that evil does not have the last say in our health.
Perhaps today’s challenge is to reflect on whether you have been beating yourself up or a loved one about something that could be redefined as “forgiven.” Don’t be foolish but also don’t be stubborn. Jesus wants to help, even on the Sabbath!
Lenten charity challenge, “Hungry people often don’t have homes. Give 5 cents for every hour you slept in a bed last night.” Maybe count the total of hours your household spent in bed and put the money in your jar!