A Time for Healing
Jeremiah 17: 14-22
3 John 1: 2-5
October 29, 2023 – A Healing Sunday
To pray … to hope … to wish “that all is well with you” is the admonition from John in the Third Epistle, which he wrote to his dear friend Gaius. What a clarity of connection … what a call to every single Christian to use our words, our voices, and our social media to do everything to make sure that all is well with the people in our world.
John noted that he was “overjoyed by how Gaius is living according to the truth of the Gospels;’ a joy we should have when our friends, our neighbors, our family members, our fellow church members, and even strangers do likewise. Living our faith … it is well with our souls then regardless of the outward challenges we’re facing in life.
Because after all friends… don’t we each want ALL to be WELL with everyone? Isn’t that the culmination of our declaration that we love God and then love ALL of our neighbors as ourselves warts, faults, and challenges pushed aside because we know that each of our lives is better when ALL IS WELL with ALL of US … even when ALL is WELL … with that nasty neighbor down the street. It is a time for healing.
At least once a week for most of our lives we each have prayed “forgive us our trespasses AS WE FORGIVE those who trespass against us” and nowhere in that prayer do we ask God to empower us to put down others with vehemence that can bring them down emotionally, physically, or even within their chosen vocation. Jesus declared that we are to “turn the other cheek and hand over our coat” after someone has taken our shirt … not quite the 21st Century’s way of doing things but because the world needs a time for healing … Jesus declared it begins with each of us.
The conclusion of today’s short reading from one of the Bible’s shortest chapter should have been a beckon call to those of us in church today as well as to those who were unable to drive over to St. Paul’s and are online … simple words related to our faith obligation but a loud wake up moment … “You act faithfully in WHATEVER you do for our brothers and sisters even though they are strangers.” WHATEVER you do!
That friends is how we begin to establish the healing desperately needed in this Twenty First Century time of me, mine, and self ACT FAITHFULLY … but there seems to be a race amongst some in our society to see how quickly they can put their specific complaint about someone else up on the Internet. Attack dogs grow rabid even amongst people who sit in the pews not concerned with how much the post might hurt, embarrass, or do damage to another individual or group of individuals because after all EVERYTHING especially others’ dirty laundry needs to be on social media or on talk radio. Gossip and rumors seem to capture the interest of millions … “reality.”
The clarion call of Jesus to love ALL of our neighbors as we love ourselves. It just doesn’t seem to be as much fun and satisfying as tearing apart or criticizing someone who can’t explain nor defend themselves online does it? They might not even know they are under attack until hundreds have seen and nodded their heads with the original attack dog poster. Once it’s posted the message is there forever FOREVER offering other folks the opportunity to enjoy reading the attacks and comments as a perverse entertainment that didn’t exist 20 years ago or even tossing out their own words online to demean the target whom they more than likely don’t even know as well. INFLUENCE MAKERS
Just look at the politics and entertainment of the age … attack, put down, and tear a little hole into someone’s soul for the sake of MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! Our politicians, entertainers, and sports figures do it and find nothing wrong in putting down or attacking others so why not us even though we have heard Jesus say LOVE ALL. Of course, if every ME got what they wanted exactly when they wanted it … what chaos and insanity that would be … oh, wait … that’s why we are in need of healing.
And, there lies one of the challenges of moving into a time of healing. The prophet Jeremiah was a God message sharer. At one point in the recorded teachings of Jeremiah he tells us that the Lord God declares, “you become secure by doing justice and CORRECTING oppression … so stop shedding innocent blood in this place.” Wonder what his commentary would be in the year 2023 about posts to social media by folks who say church matters to them. If Jeremiah had each of us alone in a room for an evaluation our use of words and our actions for healing … what would he say as he looked into your eyes? Into my eyes? Would he say we were in need of a time of healing because there is no doubt that the world is ….
As I was scrolling through my social media yesterday, I put the brakes on and smiled seeing a meme from one of you. A simple loving posting of faith made me pause and consider today’s message … today’s need … today’s challenge to this church, which today is celebrating how we have again cared for families who were once homeless at Family Promise, a church that is holding a special Church Charge Conference in our United Methodist system reflecting how good things are here and thankful for the hard work by volunteers, and appreciative of the time donation of Reverend Baitinger, doing a happy dance and holding a get together for folks wanting to join the church, and of course welcoming our community’s support of our ministry through the barbecue thanks to members who are giving their time back to ensure that everything was ready. Friends, today’s a chaotic overwhelming day but yesterday I put the brakes on when I read the meme … there was no time to add the slide because time was already at a premium but one of you who values St. Paul’s in the sunshine and in the storm ALWAYS is posting messages like the one posted yesterday … does a better job than the pastor … this father-to-be’s social media meme had these words … “Jesus went through Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom.”
Friends … at that very moment I looked at those words … YESTERDAY … I needed those words YESTERDAY because I needed some healing because I was hurting. JESUS went everywhere proclaiming the good news … now isn’t that what healing is all about? Isn’t that what Christians are supposed to do? Shut down the bad news … bury it, shred it, and never share the bad stuff especially with a finger pointing at someone because it is the GOOD NEWS the world needs to hear … it’s the understanding of love that needs to be taught to our children, our neighbors, and strangers rather than give me give me give me exactly what I want. I know I want and need Jesus … then I am ok.
I have been pushing the GOOD NEWS of Psalm 23 this year because rather than joining the polluted stream of the world we need restoration … we need healing … we need to focus on what matters to God … onto the proper paths for God’s sake. Time is definitely fleeting but here we are and I have a soup pot with me.
Two weeks ago, I couldn’t help but notice in the Sunday Times’ magazine a quote that said, “If any recipe needs to fight for its right to survive, it’s soup.” The author writes, “the food that we get the most comfort from and feel most relaxed and confident to make can be the very food we don’t include on the pages of a cookbook.” And I thought about healing … I thought about the global Christian community … I thought about us, and I thought how we have changed these healing Sundays over the last 4 years into something special by focusing in on sharing love as Jesus taught through the envelope ministry. We heal.
An empty soup pot is not good for much of anything … you can hit it with a spoon and it makes noise that is disturbing. The transformation occurs as you add ingredients … as you turn on the heat and start to stir spices together … the kitchen fills up with something that is reassuring, calming and filled with anticipation of what is to come.
Those of you old enough to remember Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Green Jeans from the days when morning television offered more than news, political talking heads, and advertisements you might remember the Captain’s repeated reading of the children’s book STONE SOUP. It was a story about how a community eventually fed traveling strangers by sharing produce from their homes … sort of like a Gospel lesson on morning television … Matthew 25 perhaps serving as the reference.
So, my physical health can be made better by having two wires inserted into my wrist, up my arm, and into my heart where a minute piece of some material now helps the blood flow. You can take a Tylenol to rid yourself of a headache. There are amazing achievements in 21st century medicine that have created miracles and there are miracles amongst this congregation this morning both here in person and online.
But, our faith healing begins with ending the clanging and adding the ingredients that begin to change the world … beginning with each individual and each church. When you start to add amazing ingredients, talented people willing to give more than receive, and hearts filled with love it doesn’t take too long to feel the vibes … sense the aroma … and feel called to join in. The real Jesus message becomes apparent.
In the story of the Stone Soup once the soup is made up of more than stones … once the community has shared together … they meal is transformed into a shared experience with strangers and community. That’s the call of faith … that’s the resolution of healing … when we value love over self … when we believe God matters first and then ALL of our neighbors.
As much as I love all of you … not a single one of us is perfect but only One perfect individual has walked with the world. If healing is to begin with me … I need to remember that simplicity … we all make mistakes, no one is perfect, it does not have to be my way all the time, and I need to always be forgiving!
The call of the prophet is mine today … I know I need God … We need to be sincere in our call … find the quiet places for restoration and then with all honesty ask God to “Heal me, Lord and I’ll be healed. Save me and I’ll be saved. You are my refuge in time of disaster; You are my heart’s desire.”
Church, I hope you can join me in those declarations … I pray that we all do better as we enter Advent to focus on the good in all others, to slow down on our desire to be critical and to attack others, and to show love and understanding in all that we do.
In talking about making soup the author of the Times article concludes by writing that there’s a “gift and joy we actually experience easily and simply and joyfully day-to-day and week-to-week, at home.” And, if your faith is lived the same way beginning at home … what amazing healing will begin in your lives that those around you will want to be sampling too.” Jesus went through Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom.” It’s our turn now. AMEN