8th Sunday after Pentecost July 19 2015 Audio
When they got out of the boat many recognized Jesus and his disciples. They began to bring the sick to wherever they heard Jesus was. They begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed. Jesus brought healing wherever he went. Jesus brings healing wherever he goes. Jesus brings healing whenever you and I invite him into our present reality. This healing that Jesus offers is physical healing, as well as reconciliation of relationships, wholeness of mind, body, and spirit. Jesus makes whole what is fragmented, In a broken and fragmented world, Jesus is the most powerful integrating force.
Jesus brings wholeness out of fragmentation, Jesus brings reconciliation to relationships, what happens is transformation, and transformation means change. If you are to be healed, you are to be transformed. Healing and transformation are part of an ongoing relationship with Jesus. Jesus' power to heal, Jesus' power to make whole, is like a refiner's fire. It's like what a blacksmith does. They take a blob of metal, heat it so hot that it becomes pliable, maybe even liquid, and pound it into something new, something you could not imagine that lump of metal could ever have been. Sometimes that is what Jesus' healing is like. It's a powerful creative force that makes us into something we could never have imagined before, or even done on our own. Sometimes it is more like the peeling back of of an onion skin, one slow and painful layer at a time. It's really different for each of us. But being healed, being made whole, being reconciled is risky business. The risk is in letting go of what is a sure thing, to be made into something new.
The sure thing, the thing we know so well, the thing we are so comfortable with, needs to be refined into something else, something new. Often the sure thing is unhealthy habits we've acquired that lead to a death spiral, not eating well, smoking, drinking, using drugs. Sometimes the sure thing is work habits that lead to financial and social prosperity, but not right relationship with God, self, and others. Often we hang onto that sure thing at our own peril, but who wants to have their sure thing made into something that may be better, but is guaranteed to be much more painful during the refining. Sometimes we enter the healing process, the spiritual journey, willingly, like those in our gospel today, often we go kicking and screaming.
But the reality is that healing always requires a kind of death before the healing resurrection can happen. There's no getting around that. That's what Jesus' life and death and work on the cross make real for us. That's why Jesus' work on the cross matters to us, to those who came before us, and to those who will come after us. Our lives give testimony to that reality, our stories of healing and new life always include the journey with Jesus through the difficult and painful times.
It's no different for us as a church. You all know that Rick and I were in Salt Lake City for our General Convention. We came together with about 3000 of our close Episcopal friends we enjoyed an amazing evening at the Mormon Tabernacle. We were treated to the choir, it was really the junior varsity choir, but it was still amazing. We heard fabulous gospel music, saw Hispanic dancing and Native America dancing. Our church is a democratic church. So what we do and decisions that are made are discussed, debated, and then voted on. Any prayer book changes or additions take two general conventions, the change is read at the first convention, we live with it and see how it feels, and then we vote on it at the second convention. We don't take change lightly, but general convention is where change happens. In these last couple of general conventions, we have talked about the foundation of Baptism to all our ministry and the priority of Life-long christian formation. We talked particularly about Confirmation as a mature witness to the transformation that Jesus calls us to. We talked about Holy Communion and it's place in our faith journey's. What became clear is something I've known for a long time, that a faith journey is not linear. We don't achieve baptism and then communion and then confirmation and then marriage or ordination and then children... It's much more like a deepening, it's much more like a spiral. The events of our lives, those that are painful and joyful, may cause us to ask questions that cause us to reconsider and recommit and deepen our relationship with God and with others, that may cause us to spend a season of our lives in service or in silence. Anyway, that's a lot of stuff to consider.
Considering these things as an entire church elicit both excitement and fear in people, some get excited about doing things in a whole new way, some get fearful about doing away with time-honored tradition. It's very scary to give up the sure thing for something that is only just being imagined. THis time we voted on the enabling resolution to begin prayer book revision. Being able to have these conversations is very important.
We continually ask the question, what is God calling us to do? Who is God calling us to be? Nobody really knows the answer, we are Episcopalians, but we are willing to go into the very frightening unknown, we are willing to take the risk of being refined, made into something we couldn't even imagine before, so that we can respond to God's call in this world of technology and immediacy, and in this world that is so desperately in need of healing. The reality of Jesus in our lives and in our world bring us to a place where we are willing to be transformed, it is scary and risky business.
We are Episcopalian, and we don't all agree. But I believe as a church we are in a very graceful place, a place where we can be transformed by God's love, we do believe that Love wins, and Jesus' healing puts us back together and makes us new.
And we have this new and amazingly wonderful Presiding Bishop elect, the Rt. Rev. Michael Curry, who reminds us that we are part of the Jesus movement, and that healing and wholeness and compassion are part of God's dream for us and for the world. He also reminds us to follow Jesus into the neighborhood bringing God's love and healing, and to travel light.