Tag Archives: Death and Resurrection

How Healing Happens

A Sermon for 1 July 2018

 

A reading from the gospel of Mark 5:21-43.  Listen for God’s word to us as we continue our way through the gospel of Mark’s version of the life and ministry of Jesus, the Christ.  Listen.

“When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea.  22 Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23 and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death.  Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” 24 So he went with him.  And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him.  25 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years.  26 She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse.  27 She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.”  29 Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.  30 Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?”  31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’”  32 He looked all around to see who had done it.  33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth.  34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”  35 While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead.  Why trouble the teacher any further?”  36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.”  37 He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James.  38 When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly.  39 When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep?  The child is not dead but sleeping.”  40 And they laughed at him.  Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was.  41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!”  42 And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age).  At this they were overcome with amazement.  43 He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.”

This is the word of God for the people of God.  Thanks be to God!

 

This week, Jesus is back in the boat.  Returning from deliberately crossing to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.  If we remember that the boat has been a symbol of the Church since the earliest days of Christianity, then our ears perk as we hear Mark’s record that Jesus is back in the boat.  Take note:  what’s about to take place is what happens when Christ is amid the Church.  No sooner does the bow of the boat touch shore, than an important leader of the synagogue throws himself at Jesus’ feet.  His little girl is dying.  Jairus is desperate.

Over the years, I’ve met a lot of people like Jairus – even felt myself what he certainly must have been experiencing to fling himself unashamedly at the feet of one in his land who had become known as an incredibly gifted healer.  Frantic in despair.  Totally afraid.  Overcome with grief over the pain in his family – the worry of Jairus’ wife, the wasting body of his pre-teen daughter.  Hopes and dreams being dashed with each labored breath as Jairus and his family watch their young girl’s seemingly helpless struggle.  I’m willing to bet that I’m not alone in this room as one who has been in – or who has watched a love one endure excruciating physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual pain.  From parents grieving the loss of their still born baby, to middle-aged adults falling out of love on their way to a bitter divorce, to young people telling how they can’t have anything more to do with their childhood church’s oppressive belief system of hate disguised in the name of love, to those who have joined their lives for decades having to let go as their spouse slowly slips away.  Human pain has the potential to break us open so that we cry out in desperation:  “O LORD, make us well!”

With so much pain around us in the world.  So many ways we are inflicting physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual dis-ease on one another today, the stories from Mark’s gospel about a healing story within a healing story come at just the right time.  Not only must we remember that healing happens, but it’s also a good time to remember how healing takes place today.

Likely you know that healing is a complex thing.  It doesn’t happen according to our expectations.  We tend to be quite focused on fixes.  Thinking God is more like a skilled surgeon who can cut out what we don’t want before sewing things up good as new.  One commentator of Mark’s fifth chapter writes:  “I have a friend, a man of deep faith, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease when he was still in his fifties.  He and his wife prayed that he might be healed.  Twenty years later, he is in the last debilitating stages of the disease.”  The commentator goes on to write:  “Nevertheless, (my friend) once told me that his prayers had been answered.  He said in all sincerity, ‘I have been healed, not of Parkinson’s disease, but I have been healed of my fear of Parkinson’s disease’” (Michael L. Lindvall, Feasting on the Word, Year B. Vol. 3; pp. 188, 190).  What a wonderful reminder that healing does happen.  Just not always as we might expect!

Healing doesn’t happen on our time schedule either.  While it’s true that healing can happen instantly as it did for the hemorrhaging woman when she stole a touch of the Master Healer’s cloak.  Full healing can take a very long time.  After all, it was 12 years that the woman who was hemorrhaging sought healing before the miraculous moment with Jesus finally took place.  Healing can feel elusive all a life long.  Recently a friend told me that in prayer a few weeks ago, she heard the voice of her father.  She gave me permission to share her experience today.  I knew my friend’s father had died several years ago, so it was quite a shock to hear her explain how she unexpectedly heard him say:  “I’m sorry for everything I’ve done.”  My 70-year-old friend has been trying for about the past fifty years to heal from the deep wound caused by her father’s molestation of her during her childhood.  As she told me of the freedom she finally felt after his words came to her out of nowhere during those moments of prayer, I noted the date it happened was Fathers’ Day, just a few weeks ago.  It’s a sure reminder that healing comes in many forms.  And just when you think it’ll never happen, a voice in a prayer might be all it’ll take.  Indeed, healing is incredibly inexplicable!

It’s important for us to remember too that healing happens through us.  On Tuesday this week, I was surprised to be so inspired at a called Presbytery meeting.  A young woman of Northern Ireland who is being ordained by us as a chaplain for a local women’s addiction recovery center was asked what wisdom she could bring to our land from her experience of being raised in a country where Roman Catholics and Protestants long had been in a bitter, violent divide.  Eloquently she told the story of her father, who is a police officer and life-long Presbyterian.  She explained that she didn’t know that checking under your car before getting in it wasn’t something every other child in the world grew up doing.  But because her father was a police officer and the militant IRA often used to target crimes against police and their families, it was a regular part of her childhood.  She told that she didn’t know all the solutions to ancient divides between people because of religion, race, or any other reason we are encouraged by power to keep ourselves separated from those we perceive to be different.  What she did know was the devoted friendship of her father’s police partner:  a Catholic man who served alongside him most all of his adult life.  As a child she watched her Presbyterian Protestant father and her father’s Catholic police force partner daily have each other’s back.  Getting to know one another’s fears, hopes, and heartbreaks as they spent hours together on patrol.  Building a relationship of trust despite the outer pressures of their land that sought to tear them apart.  Connection like that with another – especially those we perceive to be different than ourselves was the wisdom she shared with us this week.  For that’s how healing happens.  Bringing us back together in the bonds of common humanity no matter what other labels we might wear.

I’ve heard of healing happening when at last one speaks their truth.  Sometimes received immediately with grace.  Sometimes forcing another finally to face their buried pain.  I’ve heard of healing happening when the insular bubble in which one has been living at last is broken.  New options visible.  Fresh vistas unfolding like a magic road appearing below one’s feet.  I’ve seen long-held family difficulties carried differently so that others’ pain is tenderly acknowledged too.  I’ve seen people learn to live from the disease of cancer – a dear friend beating the odds after surgical removal by seeking natural alternatives to follow up treatments.   She’s now the most vibrant, health-conscious person I’ve ever met.  I know of people who seem to heal a little bit at a time – like layers being peeled from an onion.  Some days better than others.  And just when they thought it was finished, a little bit more is released.  I’ve seen people healed not just in body, but in mind and spirit too after near fatal accidents.  Sometimes thanks to modern medicine and sometimes from treatments as old as the earth itself.  I’ve seen people have no idea how they will get through until day after day, carefully putting one foot in front of the other, wincing every so often when the wound again aches; until at last they find a new stride – one of deeper wisdom and greater grace for others.  Healing happens.  Mysteriously in ways we can’t ever anticipate.  And I think about Jairus’ twelve-year-old daughter.  Can you image the life she went on to lead after that day when her father begged Jesus to help?  It’s been written that “this little girl was raised from death to become a woman.  It was not yet the final victory.  She was raised to die again.  But she could live as one that knew death would not have the last word” (Allen Verhey, Feasting on the Gospels:  Mark, p. 156).  Healed, she became God’s vessel of hope for a deeply wounded world.  After all, that’s how healing happens.  One person after another.  In ways we’d rarely expect.  No matter how long it takes.  Until at last all peoples are free.  All divisions at their end.  Every tear wiped away as mourning gives way to dancing.  Today, tomorrow, and forever.  May it ever be.

In the name of the life-giving Father, the life-redeeming Son, and the life-sustaining Spirit, Amen.

© Copyright JMN – 2018  (All rights reserved.)

Undeterred

This little clematis refuses not to resurrect.  IMG_3618

Did I get that double-negative correct?  It’s been sitting out in this pot for several years now.  It doesn’t always get enough water.  And other times it gets way too much.  It didn’t get enough TLC this past season and I was pretty sure we’d seen its last.  You can see I’m still not properly tending it, what with the sprouts of weeds starting all around the edge of the pot.  The seemingly dead shoots of last season still are here.  And yet . . .  a majestic new vine grows.  It even has the makings of a first blossom.  It’s getting stronger everyday and whether or not I help it along, soon this new vine will find its way to the trellis and make its home there for who knows how long — this season?  Next?  Maybe even the one after that until the cold kiss of winter finds it and the process begins all over again.

As I have been out in nature every chance I could get these past months, it has occurred to me that we seem to be the only creatures that fight it.  I’m sure I’m not the first to notice or write of it.  Do you notice it too?  The creation around us doesn’t rail against the transition from one season to the next.  Blazing autumn leaves don’t put up a fight against the death of winter.  They do not struggle against the letting go.  Somehow they freely release — almost knowing in the core of their being that it’s the only way for their greening to begin again.  Undeterred, they beautifully trust the pattern put in them from the start.  Are we, human beings, the only creatures of this grand creation that fail to get it?

O grant that we too might fall in trust into the glorious design deep within each cell of our being.  What an amazing ride through this beautiful life if we too could rely on it!  Only that which dies can rise again to any sort of new life . . .

Thy Way be done, Holy One.  Thy Way . . .

Pilgrimage Remembrances #3

And on the third day touring the Holy Land . . .

10 March 2014 – Megiddo or Armageddon as we hear it called by some today: the site of the final battle envisioned in Revelation (16:16) when good finally will triumph to bring an end to all destruction.

A model of the walled city of Megiddo.

A model of the walled city of Megiddo.

Which makes some sense because in 7,000 years, this place has been conquered and rebuilt over 25 times. It’s unfortunate that the geography makes this the path for travel between such ancient superpowers as Egypt to the south, and Syria and Mesopotamia to the north. Set at the south-central edge of an incredibly fertile valley (the Jezreel Valley, which is known as the breadbasket of Israel), the inhabitants of Megiddo hardly had a chance! Nazareth can be seen in the distance northeast of Megiddo – just on the opposite edge of the valley. In other words, a young boy growing up in Nazareth certainly would have known and remembered the bloody history of Megiddo.

Ruins on Megiddo.

   Ruins on Megiddo.

Vertical Shaft inside the walled city leading down, down, down 120 feet to a water spring 215 feet through a tunnel -- an ancient way to get fresh water!

Vertical Shaft inside the walled city leading down, down, down 120 feet to a water spring 215 feet through a tunnel — an ancient way to get fresh water!

In our time of silent reflection on Megiddo, I wrote these words: Twenty-five times this little city has been conquered. I can’t imagine! How do you make a life in the midst of such a history when the very land under your feet runs red with the blood of so many others who tried to make home in the very same spot under your feet? How do you ever feel secure? Safe? Fearless? God really is their only hope. Their only security. And yet again we choose to secure ourselves. To allow might to be our fortress – no matter how many times that experiment fails. Jesus grew up not far from here. Which means he knew well how vulnerable his people – all people – were. How fragile their history. How often their choice to defend themselves with the very tools of force used against them. It would never work. It will never work.

Peace. How do we have peace in the midst of our violent, ready-to-fight history?

LORD have mercy. Christ have mercy. LORD have mercy upon us all.

A view from Megiddo of the Jezreel Valley.  10 March 2014.

A view from Megiddo of the Jezreel Valley. 10 March 2014.

On to Nazareth: The childhood home of Jesus.       

A remaining ancient manger (for feeding horses) on Megiddo.

A remaining ancient manger (for feeding horses) on Megiddo.

Jesus, we’re stuck in a traffic jam in Upper Nazareth. And down below I can see the house of Mary and the house of Joseph – which of course confirm that Mary and Joseph were neighbors. The boy next door. It was meaningful to be at the Greek Orthodox Church of Mary’s Well. I like the tradition that she was drawing water from the well the first time the angel visited. Supposedly she was so afraid, she ran all the way home! It was a long way actually as we discovered when we were walking to it in the rain. . . . The Church of Joseph’s house was amazing. Ruins from the house of Joseph, which most probably were where Jesus grew up. How very cool to see what very well was Jesus childhood home.

Ruins in Nazareth believed to be the Holy Family's home.

Ruins in Nazareth believed to be the Holy Family’s home.

A carpenter shop in the front and the home in the back of it, if you have enough money and land. Which they supposedly must have according to the ruins. . . .

The Holy Family's mikvah.

The Holy Family’s mikvah.

To imagine the spot in Mary’s house where the angel visited – AGAIN, or for the first time if you don’t go with the tradition of the well. Courage certainly was the word that kept coming back. That must have been her trek from the well back to her home. Fear turned to courage with every step. . . . Courage overcoming the fear. Courage to say let it be. Courage to go along with God’s big dream for her life – and for the life of the world! . . .

The well of Nazareth (the believed site of the messenger's first visitation).

The well of Nazareth (the believed site of the messenger’s first visitation).

Icon of the Annunciation.

Icon of the Annunciation.

The site believed to be the spot of the 2nd visitation to young Mary (in her house).

The site believed to be the spot of the 2nd visitation to young Mary (in her house).

Our visit was a bit rushed, but so incredibly beautiful. I especially loved the family portraits of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. You don’t see all three of them together very often in the art.

Photo of the Holy Family Icon.  Taken by JMN.  10 March 2014.

Photo of the Holy Family Icon. Taken by JMN. 10 March 2014.

I love that one that looked Middle Eastern – more true to life. That one was great because it showed a whole family – the importance of each one of them in the story. . . . The importance of each one of us in the story. . . . It looked to me like such love. Such joy. Such laughter in their family. But such seriousness too. Growth. Learning. That very same courage both Mary and Joseph had – they passed it on to him. I guess for such a big dream, you needed two who were brave, despite their fear. Two who would say “let it be so with me as you desire!” Two who could build a foundation of courage and hope and obedience. . . . God, won’t you increase in me my courage and hope and obedience? . . . Let us all hear the voice of whatever messenger you send. Give us courage not to run away. But to sit. To wait. To listen. To allow a space in each one of us to open up from the fear into singing a song of the praise of God! Let us sing out to glorify the LORD who sets us free!

Statue of the Holy Family outside the Church of St. Joseph.  Nazareth.

Statue of the Holy Family outside the Church of St. Joseph. Nazareth.

Late afternoon, 10 March 2014: Stopped in Cana, I decided to re-read the story while I waited for the group that went to see the holy site. John 2:1-11: Jesus, his mother, and a few first followers attend a wedding feast a few miles northeast of his hometown. If you don’t know the story, read it. The gospel of John records it as the first of many of his great signs: unexpected abundance! In that spot, my reflections on the story were these: So clearly Jesus says to his mother, don’t push me! And yet . . . Mary, still the agent of God’s Spirit, persists. Lovely!

And the story goes that his first disciples believe because of this first amazing sign (turning LOTS – about 150 gallons so – of water into LOTS – about 150 gallons so – of the finest wine! Six huge vats full of the most amazing fruit of the vine – like the yield of a whole vineyard suddenly in their midst!) It was ABUNDANCE! An unexpected gift!

Which leaves me wondering what signs I’m given each day.

The sky over Cana in Galilee.  10 March 2014.

The sky over Cana in Galilee. 10 March 2014.

This gorgeous blue sky of Cana as the backdrop for beautiful, wispy clouds – the very same patch Mother Mary watched that day she first was visited.

Ru (my lil spirit dog): my experience of resurrection after putting down the last one on Good Friday. When my heart was broken in two, this sweet lil puppy was the gift to me that I would stand back up again. I would love and live and carry on – not because of me. But because of the Holy One. The One that is Life, that rises again and again and again.

Baby Ru!  1 August 2013.

Baby Ru! 1 August 2013.

Unexpected kindness and compassion in the midst of struggle and difficulty. Everything eventually working out. It always will. ALL always shall be well!

The cosmic pattern, the Way: living, and dying, and living again. If only we finally would learn your Way, O Mysterious Force.

All these signs of amazing abundance surround us every day!

Three favorite signs of unexpected abundance: 

a stick bug in my lavender, my beloved climbing rose, and my first-fruits of raspberries!

IMG_0018 IMG_0606 IMG_0616

© Copyright JMN – 2015. All rights reserved.