It remains a challenge for me to "post" my Wednesday sermons because I only use an outline and it is much more interactive sermon that Sunday mornings. But since it was requested that I try to post this, I'm doing my best to recreate what I said last night:
What things did Jesus do in his ministry?
Teaching, preaching and healing. Anything else?
Why healing? Do you think it was to get people’s attention so that they would pay attention to him? Do you think it was so people would like him, come to listen to him? Was he trying to be liked?
Jesus spent a lot of time touching, caring for, listening to, and engaging people that other people rejected. Those with leprosy were outcasts. They couldn’t live with their families and it was assumed that someone in their family or the person themself, must have done something wrong and that is why this person was sick. Disease was seen as punishment. Some people still have this thinking but they call it Karma. While some have a different understanding of what Karma is (so I’m not knocking the idea itself), others believe that while it may not be clear why some suffer and others don’t, they must have done something to deserve it, either in this life or in a past life. But Jesus first confronted it with words like “the rain falls on the righteous and the unrighteous.” and “He replied, “Do you think the suffering of these … proves that they were more sinful than all the others? No, I tell you!” But he went much further than just declaring that it wasn’t their fault that they were afflicted.
He touched, he talked to and he healed any who were in need – the rejected, the outcast, the condemned, the judged, the dismissed. He touched them, included them, treated them as the incredible and beautiful people that they were, regardless of how others treated them.
I have a ten dollar bill here. If I mangle it and squish it and stomp on it, if I make it dirty or even filthy, what is it then worth? It is still worth ten dollars. The appearance, the condition, the outward attributes of this money don’t change it’s worth. Well, Jesus was able to see that this is the same with people. He saw beyond the outside of the bill. He saw beyond the dirt, the scrounge, the disease. He saw beyond the vocations, the judgments, the rejections. He saw beyond their mistakes, their sins, their choices. He saw beyond all of that to who they WERE. And who they were is the same as who you are – you are a child of God. Worthy of infinite value.
I came across an article in Sojourner’s Magazine that was talking about Henri Nouwen. Henri Nouwen was an amazingly gifted priest, professor and writer. I love his books, I love the way he thinks. He has a brilliant as well as deeply faithful and spiritual mind. But after teaching for many years, he was invited to become pastor to a community of people with intellectual disabilities. He soon discovered that they didn’t care how brilliant he was, and all the wonderful things he had written and taught just didn’t mean that much to them. He told the story in one of his books, Life of the Beloved, of one particular woman, Janet who one day asked Henri for a blessing. When he tried to bless her with the sign of the cross on her forehead she became very upset and said, “No, I want a real blessing!” He didn’t know what to do with that, but that evening at worship, he mentioned that Janet had asked for a real blessing and she marched up to the front and gave him a huge hug. In that moment, he found the words that were needed. “Janet, I want you to know that you are God’s beloved daughter. You are precious in God’s eyes. Your beautiful smile, your kindness to the people in your house, and all the good things you do show us what a beautiful human being you are. I know you feel a little low these days and that there is some sadness in your heart, but I want you to remember who you are: a very special person, deeply loved by God and all the people who are here with you.” She gave him a satisfied smile, but as Nouwen then turned away, he found himself bombarded with the others in the community also asking for blessings. Henri gave each a hug and affirmation that they are loved as they are. And Henri walked away a changed man.
I am reminded of this clip. The man who did this did one for men as well, but I’m just including the one for the women here:
This is a beautiful sentiment. But the reality is that it is a different thing when that kind of blessing comes from someone who really knows you and really loves you, when the blessing is genuine because it is real. One of our lines that we sing is “This is what I’m sure of, I can only show love When I really know how loved I am. When it overtakes me, Then it animates me, Flowing from my heart into my hands.”
Jesus not only healed bodies of the outcast, of the oppressed, of the disadvantaged, of the physically broken. He healed their souls by showing them, reminding them, acting in a way that said beyond a doubt that they were loved and valued, that they were worthy, that God still saw them as more important and beautiful than anything they could imagine. We are invited to do the same. As we are called to follow, we heal others by showing them how loved they are. Go into the world, affirming, uplifting, and healing one another. Amen.