My bruised heal – what a pain.
Me this morning: ouch, right, ouch right, ouch right. And my question – how does this injury I picked up at last Saturday’s Ormskirk ParkRun relate to the first reading at this Sunday’s service of Nine Lessons and Carols ? (You have sufficient information) For the record, I was doing okay – although just 1k out I began to feel my left heel. A familiar pain to most runners – it’s come and gone over the years. No big deal. But then just 300m out it became very painful. For a moment I considered dropping out but it’s something I’ve never done in 53 (!) years of races. So I hobbled to the finish – and am now paying the price. Plantar fasciitis. And it’s a pain – although thankfully it’s now getting steadily better. You’re now thinking how does heel pain fit in with the lessons at the Carol service. Well, you will remember that the traditional service of Nine lessons and Carols tells the whole salvation story of Emmanuel, God coming to us as one of us as foretold by the Hebrew prophets. And the first lesson, from Genesis 3, articulates the problem, As we saw in last week’s blog, the problem is our human nature. So Adam takes the forbidden fruit – and as a result hides from God. We’ve been hiding from God ever since. But when God expels Adam and Eve, he gives ground for hope. All is not lost, as God condemns the serpent the deceiver: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15), Strangely the New Testament does not make any direct references to this prophecy, which makes writing this blog even harder. And it’s too early to phone my Hebraist daughter Sharon for an informed comment on the possible word play on shuph, the Hebrew word for bruise. But I do know what a bruised heel feels like. It slows you down but it doesn’t actually stop you doing anything – apart taking part in tomorrow’s ParkRun. It’s limiting but hardly life-threatening. However, it does make you sensitive to those who have limited mobility – what it must feel like to have to face a walk or a flight of steps. For a short time you enter into their experience. I know when daughter Sharon found herself for a short time in a wheelchair, she found the experience deeply hurtful as people spoke down to her. Moreover, so many people are in constant pain. Plantar fasciitis is painful – but only when you are on your feet. But to be in pain all the time without respite is both draining and dispiriting. And we so often fail to make allowances for curt responses or poor concentration. Jesus knows what it feels like – for he and he alone is the Seed. So Paul writes to the Galatians: “Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds’, meaning many people, but ‘and to your seed’, meaning one person, who is Christ.” (3:16). This prophecy is fulfilled in Jesus. His heel is bruised; he feels our pain. So the Message translation introduces Hebrews 4:15f with the heading: “The High Priest Who Cried Out in Pain.” “Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.” So when writing to Wormwood, C S Lewis’ Screwtape bemoans “that abominable advantage of the Enemy” – that God know what it feels like to be human. And that makes all the difference. But Satan only bruises his heel. In contrast, he bruises Satan’s head – a mortal injury. At the time, of course, it seemed the other way around as Jesus hung on the cross, alone and defeated. You may remember the opening scene in Mel Gibson’s the Passion of the Christ. Jesus is being tested in the darkness of Garden of Gethsemane and it concludes with Jesus stamping abruptly on a snake. A powerful image. And I now realise that there is a reference to the Genesis 3 prophecy in the New Testament, right at the end of Paul’s letter to the Romans. “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (16:20) Jesus shares in our weakness so that we may share in his victory. The power working in you will be from God, but the feet will be yours. And in a world where the supposed authority of Satan is all too clear, we have this promise, even this imperative, to take on the power of evil. It’s not an impossible fight; the very opposite, in fact. Through the cross of Jesus the outcome is already settled. Amazingly, in him we are more than conquerors. And that makes all the difference.