Bob Chell, Sioux Falls, SD
Who were you hoping would be inaugurated President this week? What did he or she say or do that led you to believe they could be a force for justice and good in our country and the world?
Hope for Healing
The big news story this week is, of course, the inauguration of a new president of the United States. The day is greeted with rejoicing by many and despair by others. A constant theme throughout the election and run up to the transition of power has been the division of the country along racial, economic, and cultural lines. There is little agreement on why we are divided, who is to blame, but everyone expresses the need for “healing” after a brutal election. Everyone professes a desire for reconciliation, but it is not at all clear how that can happen.
- If you are discussing this in a group, have each person make the best case possible for a candidate, they did NOT support.
- How involved were you in the presidential campaign? What got you involved or what would have a candidate had to do or say for you to become involved?
- Who do you admire as a leader? Why?
Third Sunday After Epiphany
(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings
For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.
I want to tell you some true stories which I made up.
First, let me explain. I want you to know I made them up because I am always honored when people trust me as their pastor with pain and problems and decisions about intimate and significant parts of their lives. I don’t violate that trust by using those stories as sermon illustrations.
Even so, I think you will sense the truth these stories point to. Anne’s counselor told her it wasn’t her fault yet the guilt remained. “I shouldn’t have gone back to his dorm with him,” she said. “At first acted like he was fooling around, and when I realized he wasn’t he scared me. I thought I could calm him down, I should’ve screamed, I don’t know… I was… Anyway, afterwards he told me if I said anything he would just deny it and no one would believe me anyway, and it’s true. It’s my fault, I shouldn’t have gone home with him.”
The counselor listened patiently, knowing that victims of assault often blame themselves for things they have no control over. Anne was haunted by guilt and shame, and over & over the same words came back, “… my own fault… I should have… I don’t know why…I just wish…”
“It’s my Grandpa Stan.” Stan the man, everybody calls him that. He’s a great guy. He knows everybody in town Always a smile—everybody in the coffee crowd at the cafe seemed to perk up when Grandpa showed up. That was before Grandma Betsy’s death. …49 years. They were so excited about their 50th anniversary. The whole family was going to be there, even Uncle Jim from Japan.
Why did she have to die? Why couldn’t there be a few more years, good years, happy years, healthy years? Oh, Grandpa still smiles but it’s not the same. That’s what everybody says. “He’s just not the same,” they say, “…since Betsy’s death.”
“ …Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.” Every disease, every sickness, all those things which incapacitate, hold down, immobilize. and oppress. What does it look like, what does it feel like to be sick? It looks like guilt, it feels like anger, it sounds like loneliness. It feels the same in our lives—young or old. The list is infinite: death. fear, hurt doubt, shame, depression, illness, addiction, obsession. Choose one or a handful.
Those are the words but our pain is sharply felt in specific instances unplanned pregnancies, alcohol abuse, cancer, no relationships, broken relationships, family violence, no job, no money and more. ...and Jesus came to heal. Why then, do we know our pain so much better than we know Jesus healing? Where is my help, where is my healing? Our lesson is primarily about the calling of the disciples, yet, our pain gets in the way of following. the pain of our history the pain of our present, the pain we fear awaits us.
Unlike the presidential candidates who promise to take away our pain and suffering, Jesus invites us deeper into the darkness. “You will find your life by losing it,” he once told his followers.
Some among us know the miracle of healing, of joy restored, a relationship rekindled, a healing of heart or mind or body. If God has healed your heart, cherish it, treasure it. You know in a special way the power of God’s love.
Yet, all of us know of times, and places and pains in our lives which God has not touched. Those places where the pain is so fresh, so unrelenting, so immediate that we can only sit and stare and hurt. It is hard to reconcile our pain with God’s promises.
I can’t tell you when God’s care will break through your pain. I can’t tell you if God’s care will break through your pain. I can tell you about Peter and Andrew, James and John. Did Simon Peter understand that responding to Jesus that day would lead to his own crucifixion? Or that Andrew would share the same fate. That James, one of the first to follow, would also be the first of the 12 to be executed for his faith. Or John, Surely John couldn’t imagine that following Jesus would mean living homeless, in exile, on the island of Patmos.
You are reading this because you have heard Jesus invitation to follow. We want the following and the healing to come together. We follow. God heals. Instead, God has chosen to do it differently. God heals first. Then we follow. The blind beggar, the woman who had bled for 12 years, the man who could not walk by the side of the pool, the woman who slept around. The Bible is full of people who healed by Jesus, turned to follow his promises.
Healing wasn’t the end for them but the beginning of their faith journey. It probably wasn’t easy for them either. The blind man with no job skills, The woman ill for 12 years who no one remembered when she returned home, the woman who slept around whose reputation no one would forget the reformed tax collector no one would trust.
Healing is not the end of our pain, instead the pain is the beginning of our healing. We don’t choose the shape of our healing. We don’t choose the when or the where or the how. Not all our prayers are answered when we would like. Not all our prayers are answered as clearly as we would like. Some say faith changes things, usually, that thing is us.
We know that. We know now that the time we were most unhappy is the time when we began determining who we were and what we were about. The time we were certain we had messed our life up beyond recovery as the time we began to get our life under control. The fight with our best friend that ended up deepening our friendship. The problem is that growth often feels like dying. We know that, too.
Jesus looks for each of us, calls to the lost and lonely part of each of us, the part of us which is restless and unsettled. Follow me, he says. Our lives are stories of faith continually unfolding stories of those whom God loves, whom God feeds, whom God searches out if need be, whom God heals. In your sharpest pain and in your greatest joy, you are in God s care.
- How do politicians’ solutions to our problems differ from Jesus’ solutions?
- Why does God allow suffering?
- Can you recall a time of deep pain which was also a time of personal or spiritual growth?
- Do something to encourage someone you know is having a tough time.
- Ask an elder in you congregation or family how God helped them through a tough time.
- Make a list of three things which will give meaning and purpose to your life. Talk about what you are doing now that reflects these values.
God, we don’t understand why innocent people suffer. We want to trust in you but it’s hard when our lives are spinning out of control. Give us patience and give us