For the almost five years I have been with you at Christ Church, during conversations at coffee hour or on the phone, or in the Thursday morning healing service, you have heard me share about nutrition, fitness, neuroscience, and the mind/body/spirit connection to overall good health and wholeness. These disciplines fascinate me.
My vocation and first call is to the priesthood in the Church. My avocation has always been, since I was a teenager, the study and practice of taking care of ourselves as best as we can to the glory of God, who created us in God’s own image. I have studied, attended university lectures, read books, and attended numerous webinar series on nutrition, the aging process, Alzheimer’s, dementia, and age related memory loss. And I’ve studied most heavily, how our health is impacted by exercise, good nutrition, and what we feed our brains in the way of information through reading print, watching television, and spending time online or on cell phones.
When I pray for my own healing, I ask God to show me what I can do or should be doing to participate in my healing and not work against God, as it applies to my own mind/body/spirit health and wholeness.
But, I have a confession to make to you this morning. Whenever I do get sick, as when I caught the flu this spring and was laid low the week before Holy Week, I can usually point to my own lack of self care, or allowing the rigors and trials of parish ministry to get me down, or I haven’t taken time off for rest and restoration. And before I pray for healing, I have learned to ask God to forgive me for the sin of not taking good enough care of myself.
However, I want to be clear about something; it is not always one’s fault for getting sick. There are wonderful saints of God who suffer in illness or injuries for no fault of their own. We don’t want to add guilt to their suffering. There is no evidence that the poor man in our gospel reading did anything to deserve 38 years in his horrific condition. I simply want to make the point that sometimes we fail ourselves in our self care, or maybe it’s just me and you don’t have this problem? Bless you if that is the case. : )
When I pray for your healing at the Altar, or on the phone, or in your home, or at the hospital, even when I don’t say it, I am praying in my heart: Lord Christ, show my sister/brother what he/she can be doing to work with you and not against you.
Think about it, throughout the gospels, whenever Jesus heals someone, almost always he tells them to do something. In the story of the 10 lepers, he doesn’t even touch them. He simply tells them to go show themselves to the temple priest to show him they have been healed, and they are now clean and can be welcomed back into Temple worship and community. It is in the going (doing what Jesus tells them to do) that they are healed.
Can you imagine? They must have thought Jesus was crazy. He is telling us to go to the Temple while we are still lepers and show ourselves to the priest. But they obey Jesus. And it is in the obedience and doing what he tells them to do that they are made clean and are healed.
In the gospel story a few weeks ago of Tabitha, who had died, Jesus says to her, “Tabitha arise!” And the dead girl is brought back to life. In the gospel story of the lame man who was lowered through the roof, Jesus tells him to take up his mat and walk. Jesus’ instructions should be followed—after all, he spoke his command to a corpse and it (she) came back to life!
And in today’s gospel reading, at the pool Beth-zatha, in Jerusalem, Jesus asks a blind, lame, and paralyzed man who has been in this condition for 38 years, “Do you want to be made well?” This poor man has suffered cruelly. I am amazed that he hadn’t given up! Interestingly, the man doesn’t cry out, “Yes, Yes, Yes, Lord, please heal me.” But rather, he tells Jesus the reasons why he has not been healed by the waters that supposedly heal people when they are stirred. Let’s face it, his reasons are legitimate. Put yourself in his situation.
But Jesus doesn’t argue with him, chastise him, or do mystical incantations. Jesus tells him to do something. Now remember, the man is blind, lame, and paralyzed. I don’t know about you, but if I was in that situation, I’d be tempted to say, “How can I?” I need someone to help me or put me in the waters. Don’t you see my situation?” We do that, don’t we? We focus on what we cannot do, or how bad we have it.
But apparently this dear suffering man does not make any further excuses. He obeys! Just as people did in the other stories of healing. And it is in the obeying of Jesus’ commands, that the people are healed. They don’t argue, they don’t say, “I can’t.” The fact that the man simply obeys and does what Jesus commands is the first part of the miracle in this story. The second part is that they are healed by Jesus to the Glory of God.
But sadly, there is another piece to this gospel story of miraculous healing. It is introduced with the last sentence in today’s reading. Here is Jesus, doing God’s work, and we know that the Pharisees will be focused on the fact that he is doing this on the Sabbath. I wonder what they would say if they were here and witnessed our doing healing ministry at the altar on our Sabbaths.
I wonder further, how many more victories we would witness for the Kingdom of God, if we didn’t criticize what we don’t even understand or have the facts about in our own church ministries. How many healings could we witness in this church, and how many wonderful blessings could we be experiencing if we focused on obeying Jesus and not arguing?
What if we simply did our best to support the ministries or the priest, or others trying to do God’s work? What if we offered to help, rather than complain when we see a need not being met?
I really wonder—what if each one of us asked God, “Lord, what do you want ME TO DO?”
- To heal my own body, mind and spirit
- To help heal one of my brothers or sisters
- To help meet a need in my church that could bring about transformation and the healing of hurt feelings and misunderstandings
- To help bring about growth in our parish family
- To be an agent for peace and good health, and not for strife.
- To help Jesus bring about the Kingdom of God on this planet, our island home, and in our homes, in our church and in our community.
Let us pray. Lord we sit here in your presence. You know all about us. You know the weaknesses, illnesses, faults and failings of every one of us. We pray for your strength and healing, O God, in our bodies, minds, and spirit.
Lord Jesus, show us what you want us to do to receive your healing and to be agents of healing, in your most holy name we pray. Amen.