Sermons on healing
I know that because there was a woman who twice came through my line and actually said, “I want to have a countenance like yours.” I thanked her but found it odd. Countenance? Who says countenance? Anyway, I figured she was just glad that I was not a grumpy teenager throwing canned goods on her bread. She came through my line a third time and this time she actually said, “I know what it is. Jesus is in you.” I knew that. But I didn’t think someone else would. Most assuredly, I am not a dwelling place for Jesus, but when I am prayed up and open, he can be there for others.
We are celebrating the season of Easter, when our scriptures open up for us the many ways Jesus will continue to be revealed to us, through a new perspective on scripture, through the bread and the wine, through our love given and received. The scripture lessons during this season also present the framework for the way to be church. As our gospel story reveals to us today, Jesus, the grace of God, the presence of the Holy Spirit, is the vine, that which connects us, that which gives us nourishment and life, that which draws us into one being, one Body of Christ. This connection can heal our soul and body, provide us hope in our times of darkness, reveal to us our belovedness, move us from despair to hopefulness, from fear to courage, from loathing to loving.
The holes in Jesus’ hands and the sword-inflicted wound in his side, from which blood and water flowed, showed Thomas that he is not asked to believe in a God whose new life in Jesus obliterated the worst of humanity, pushing aside the ugliness and violence , ignoring the places of pain or horror or absence, but rather to believe in a God who went into that brokenness and breathed the possibility of new life into all the shattered places, because that’s how the resurrection can make a difference to us.
The pilgrims on their ascent up the Mount of Olives reasonably thought power of might won, but we know differently, it is only and always the power of love which will win in the end.
Oh those Israelites. They were grumbling and mumbling their distaste with God’s plan. Their worn out bodies were wracked by the relentless heat of the day while the few blankets they had grabbed from their hurried escape from slavery were worn thin, nearly translucent. Every night, they had to huddle together, clasping the tattered material tightly around them to survive the frigid evenings. Their throats were parched, their stomachs empty, their legs ready to buckle and collapse, when from their…
“Jesus entered the house of Simon where his mother-in-law was in bed with a fever. Jesus came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she got up and she began to serve them.” Mark 1:29-31 Jesus touched the mother-in-law’s hand. Jesus’ touch healed the mother-in-law. The mother-in-law got up and served them. Jesus touched, Jesus healed, and the recipient of the healing got up to serve, I imagine not as before,…
“God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.” A common saying. Perhaps you’ve heard it many times in your life, or have even spoken it yourself. It’s a saying I’ve always pushed back against from a place deep within my gut, not necessarily understanding why, until I studied theology, and then I knew why. My image of God doesn’t include someone sitting upon a throne in heaven, dolling out bad things to people at opportune times, with the purpose of disrupting or destroying their lives, always attentive to the balance of good and evil in their lives at any particular moment, so people can be just on the edge of the good— or worse yet, bringing on the bad thing in life to selected people at the worst possible moments of their lives, just when they are starting to turn things around, or when they are spiraling downward. My image of God is a flow of love, a source of desire for goodness for each part of the created world, a pull deep within each one of us for wholeness, and an inherent life-force reaching toward a rich and abundant life designed for everyone, lived within the healing embrace of Christ. So how would I, how do you, reconcile this image of a God who looks at us through eyes of love, with the God conjured up in this popular saying that seems to imply God is actively involved in bringing bad things into our lives?
And yet, how can our compassionate hearts not meet these people in the complex layer that lies behind, or beneath, or alongside our rationality in these situations? How do our hearts not break for Hagar, cast out into the wilderness to watch her child die? How could I not have enfolded in my arms that young mother who was allowing a family to be born for others, but not for her. How can we pretend there are children in our societies who go unprotected due to the enslaved condition of their mothers? We can’t and we shouldn’t. We can’t and we shouldn’t dismiss the grief of anyone, whether there were actions or circumstances that should have foretold the impending despair.
For the piece we know about God from our passage today is that God has chosen not to be God without us. God’s promise, through this statement in the gospel of John, is that God has promised to love us, to make room for us, to know and be known by us, and that promise never ends, and, with that certainty, there is no reason for our hearts be troubled. When we look within, through the doorways that lead into our hearts and souls, may we find the place of God, the place we have set aside for God, so that our lives may be touched with a peace that passes all understanding, for it is only God who can offer us that comfort. And the challenge to us is to match God’s preparation for us with our preparation for God.
And Peter exhorts them not to give into fear. He suggests rather, in the midst of trials and persecutions for “doing good”, for living as Christ did, to prove themselves faithful to the essence of Christ, with the deep belief that people will recognize that, and lives will be changed. His model for evangelism was, in my summary, “live a good life, by a quiet and steadfast witness to what you believe to be true, and people will want it too and people around you will be changed.”
Lent is a season in which we move past the expected, the conventional, the easy answers and trust that God is drawing us out of the shadows of complacency or comfort and into the brightness of discipleship, so we may see the glory of God around us.
To be a pilgrim on the Way, to be a disciple of Jesus, I discovered on my trip to the Holy Land, means being willing to go down, deep down into the earth, deep down into my soul, to find Jesus. Literally, we descended many flights of steps at the holy sites, to find the Star of Bethlehem which commemorates the birth place of Jesus, to find the grotto where Jesus lived in Nazareth, or to find the prison cell where Jesus was held the night before his trial.From a spiritual perspective, we went down deep into our souls to ask the same question that John asks of Jesus in our gospel today: Are you really the one? This is the question we each need to ask of Jesus and the one we each need to answer for ourselves. For you will notice in our story, Jesus doesn’t claim the title of Messiah, in response to John’s question, but rather Jesus says, “Look at what I’m doing” and then you decide.