This sermon was preached at Trinity Episcopal Church on July 19, 2015 the Eighth Sunday of Pentecost, Proper 11, Year B.
If you needed healing, where you would go? Who would you reach out to? I guess it would depend on the type of healing you needed, right? If you needed physical healing you would probably go to a doctor; specifically a doctor who specializes in the part of the body that you need healed. If you needed emotional healing you might go to a psychiatrist or a therapist or a counselor. But what if you needed spiritual healing? How would you even know if you needed spiritual healing? Is spiritual healing actually separate from other types of healing?
I am always fascinated by the healing stories in the gospels. When people hear about Jesus and recognize him, they rush to him, bringing all of the people who are sick to be healed by him. People shared their stories of healing with others, so Jesus would have gotten a reputation, especially given some of the healings he performed. People had lowered a paraplegic through the roof of a house so he could be healed by Jesus. Jesus had brought a little girl back from the dead, who had died when he was on his way to see her. When he got there he had said, “Talitha cum!” “Little girl, get up!” And she got up! He had exorcised countless demons from people and as more and more people were healed, more and more people came to him, seeking to be healed. Because who does not want to be healed, right? We all want to be healed.
Where we pick up the gospel story this morning, Jesus had sent out his disciples to do the same things that he was doing—to preach, and to teach, and to heal. And they had been! Now, they had come back and they were telling Jesus all about what they had been able to do in his name. And it sounds like he saw that they were tired.
They had been working hard, rushing around, coming and going, not even taking the time to eat or take care themselves. He said to them, "Come away, with me, by yourselves. You need to rest." This is what they were doing and where they were going, when the people recognized Jesus.
There is a question that I often ask myself, that I find myself asking this morning: How do we follow Jesus, when we are not Jesus? (It is related to the question about where we go when we need to be healed, I promise.)
As Christians we are called to follow Jesus, meaning we are called to follow the way of life that he lived to do the things that he taught, to live the way that he showed us to live. To love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Now that Jesus has ascended to heaven, we are the ones who are still here—on earth—who are to share the gospel, and make disciples, and work for the coming of the kingdom. We are called to be Jesus to others.
Have you ever heard that phrase, “Christ has no hands or feet on earth but ours"? We are called to incarnate the love of God the same way that Christ made the love of God incarnate to us. But that phrase, “the same way” is tricky. Because we are not Jesus. There was only one Jesus, only one "Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, light from Light, true God from true God."
I don’t often quote the creed. We are not a creedal church, the way some other churches are. We don’t define who we are by what we believe. Which I think is a good thing, because it means there is room to believe lots of different things in the Episcopal church. What we believe does not hold us together, but how we pray, coming together in the act of prayer and worship, that is what holds us together. We don’t all have to believe the same thing, to be a part of the same church. We don’t even have to do the same thing to be a part of the same church. We belong because God has made us belong. God has made us one. We belong because of what God did. Not because of something that we did. God has made us one human family. Knowing that we belong in Gods family should have an effect on what we do and why we do it.
So why did I go off on that little tangent? Well, because the only way we can answer my earlier question: "how do we follow Jesus when we are not Jesus?" is to do it together. None of us can discern what it means to be a Christian alone. None of us can be a Christian alone. Together and only together we make up the body of Christ. Together we show God’s love to the world. We may have been left here on earth, when Jesus ascended to heaven, but he didn’t leave us alone. He left us with each other and he left us the Spirit. He left us God’s Self.
That all might seem like a lot of heady theology, but in the midst of pain, in the midst of suffering, it is really helpful to remember that we are not alone.
I know that I can feel myself getting overwhelmed when I’m trying to do too much or when what ever is going on seems too much to handle. Sometimes just being present, just showing up in the mist of all that goes on in our communal lives, can feel like too much. And then I feel guilty that I can’t do it all. But why? Even Jesus did not do it all, not by himself. Even he had to take care of himself--spending time resting, praying, eating, sleeping, being with his friends, restoring his soul, so that he could continue to heal and take care of others. He never did his ministry alone. So why do we think that we can? Or that we have to or that we should?
Do you rely on others to help you in your ministry or do you feel like you have to do it all by yourself? Do you have as much compassion for yourself as you do for other people? Do you come to this community to be healed? Do you come to Jesus to be healed? Do you even know what that would mean?
Sometimes I hesitate to give examples in sermons, because I don’t want anyone to think there is only one way for something to happen. But just this morning, I got a text from a friend of mine. There are five of us who use a group text message to keep in touch and this friend sent a message saying she was having a really hard time. She didn’t go into detail, but she said that getting through this morning was going to be really hard and that she needed our prayers. One by one we responded sending love, support and prayers. Even the one of us who is out of country right now-- I bet she didn’t get the text (although you never know) but I know she is praying for my friend right now, too, because we pray for each other every day.
Something as simple and as difficult as reaching out to people who love you and saying, "I’m not ok. I need help. I need your prayers." That’s asking for spiritual healing. Saying to God in prayer, "I’m not ok and I need your help." It is nothing fancy. It is not that complicated. But those little acts of courage and reaching out can mean all the difference.
We are all the walking wounded. We are all in need of healing. Sometimes we are the ones reaching out desperately need that connection to make that ache inside of us go away. And sometimes we are the hem of God’s garment, the fringe of Jesus’ cloak, offering a healing touch, a southing word, a comforting presence, a connection to the body of Christ, that heals someone else.
We will always be both. Wounded Healers. The Broken Body of Christ. God’s loving presence in the world as people who need each other and love each other and who are bound together in God. May we let that message seep into our bones so that we never forget our power to heal and where to turn for our own healing. Amen.