Sermon 07-14-10 Pentecost 9C
Healing takes place in many ways but healing is not merely about regaining the perfect body. As a matter of fact, the ministry of healing in our tradition, has emphasized the importance of the knowledge of God’s presence with us in the midst of our afflictions. This reality is presented vividly through the example of God’s self-giving love in Christ. Healing is about restoring people to the knowledge that God’s love is so great that when we suffer, God suffers with us. Throughout Jesus’ ministry, he focused on this type of restoration. The blind beggar whom Jesus healed was probably the victim of a birth defect affecting his sight, but he was also a victim of society’s oversight of the poor and neglected. The beggar’s ailment served to hold him in bondage to a life of despair. He was restored to a full life, fully alive, fully a part of the community once again. His spirit was lifted to a new place … a new way of being. The healing of the body is not superior to healing of the spirit or vice versa; healing occurs in the whole person. In many cases, the healing of the spirit occurs in the absence of what we consider the restoration of the perfect body.
However, today’s culture touts that our ultimate goal is the attainment of the perfect body, the perfect home, the perfect everything! Turn on your TV late at night and you are inundated with weight loss commercials, wrinkle cream ads, tummy trimming machine infomercials, and ads for the perfect home gym. These images and messages have the power to hold us in bondage to the notion that due to our imperfect physiques, we are on the outside of society, we are not good enough, and we are somehow defective. Now health devices, beauty creams, home gyms, and health foods, are not in themselves inappropriate or bad things per se, because we should work on maintain our own health. Remember, we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. What is unhealthy is false ideology that, claims that what really matters in life is an unending pursuit of vitality for its own sake alone. Having the perfect body, perfect health, and perfect life (if that is possible) as the end-all of our existence, is not really what the Kingdom of God is about. God’s kingdom is about entering the world and healing wounds, restoring broken relationships, and mending torn lives. It is the ministry of healing and restoring to which the we the Church is called.
In today’s gospel reading, Jesus sent out the seventy disciples on a mission of healing. Jesus told them, “Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘the kingdom of God has come near to you’.” Jesus sent them and sends us out to do as he did, “proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.” The Church, the Body of Christ has an important calling in the history of salvation. We are to bear witness to the mighty acts of God both past and present. As witnesses, we cannot be content with ONLY passing on this information or ONLY retelling the story. Nonethelss, re-telling the story IS VERY important and we enact that story each week in the Eucharist, through in the gathering of the body in fellowship, and in the prayers of God’s people for those hurting in the world. However, our witness, this re-telling the narrative of God’s self-giving love in Christ, ALSO requires the authentication of the narrative through the actions of faith and hope. Our proclamation of “Jesus as Lord” hinges on living authentic lives in the world that bring about healing in the brokenness of others. Healing begins with us.
The seventy disciples were sent out in teams of two. Why? Support maybe. The seventy were sent out to do the work of healing and we too are sent out as a community of support. We are sent bearing each other’s burdens, so that we might, as one body, be witnesses to God’s healing love. In today’s epistle, Paul admonishes the Galatian church to restore with gentleness, the sister or brother who stumbles and falls as they journey along. We all have stumbled and without a shadow of doubt, we will stumble again as we follow Our Lord. However, we are promised that God is faithful to forgive us of our failings, our stumbling and our failures. God gently lifts us back up to continue along the path. God is the restorer, the healer of broken relationships, of torn lives, and the healer of the wounds of tragedy. We have our part in cooperating with God to be the instruments of that healing, both for our sisters and brothers in the church, and for our neighbors outside the community. Whom do you know that needs the gentle hand of restoration in the community? Who outside the community needs to know that “the kingdom of God is near?” Jesus sends us out!
The question is, sends us where? Out there, … out into a world that is broken, filled with torn up lives, filled with people bearing wounds of pain and tragedy. Very near us, there are people who need a family in which to bring their children up in the knowledge and love of God. Very near us, there are folks who are lonely and living in isolation. Very near us, there are people destitute, who may not know how if they can sustain the very basics of life. Very near us, there are those who are living unfulfilled lives and are seeking the fulfillment only God can bring, and the fulfillment that only we can manifest. We gather here in this place to be healed by the great healer. The great healer sends us out to bear witness to His great acts of forgiveness, love, restoration, and healing which is present in our own lives. We are sent so that we might bring healing into the lives of others. The great needs are not very far from us. We only have to look around to see it, but don’t despair, as Our Lord promises, the Kingdom of God is very near.
God demonstrated his abundant love through his presence with us. Christ with us, is the ever-present reminder of God’s desire to restore all creation to himself. Being with another in the midst of their trouble, is a simple act of love. The seventy, sent out two by two, were present together supporting each other in the ministry of healing into which they were called. For them, going into the homes of others to declare that the Kingdom was near, was a sacramental reality that the Kingdom WAS near. It is through simple acts of love that we bring healing and restoration. The kind word to another who knows no kindness, the phone call to someone when we learn of their affliction, the visit to the hospital when the other is ill, spending a few moments with a child who struggles every day in the midst of a horrific existence, sitting with the one who faces each day alone …. These are ways in which by just being present, we witness to the love of God, the healing and restorative love of God.
The great Paralympics runner, Oscar Pistorius overcame his great physical brokenness of being unable to walk or run on his own limbs. I wonder who it was that was present in the midst of his predicament that helped him see the possibilities of life anew? Who was present in his need for restoration? Who witnessed to him the mighty acts of God manifested in their own life, which helped Oscar find healing, and restoration in his own life? It may have easily been someone just like us.