“Being a Scandalous Community!”

St. Luke Physician/Evangelist (Healing) 18 October 2015
(Isaiah 43:8-13 Psalm 124 2 Timothy 4:5-11 Luke 1:1-4; 24:44-53)
“Being a Scandalous Community!”
On the front of today’s bulletin, at the very bottom are listed three aspects of the church’s ministry of healing. They are: 1.) God’s presence with strength and comfort in times of suffering; 2.) God’s promise of wholeness and peace; 3.) God’s love embodied in the community of faith.
I intend to address each one of these aspects in my sermon this morning.
I’ll begin with a short story:
Two monks, both holy men, began a sacred journey up the steep mountain, believing Buddha was to be found at the top. Halfway up, one monk broke his leg. He couldn’t go on; he couldn’t stay; he had to be taken back down. “What should I do,” the second monk pondered? “Continue my journey to find Buddha, or go back with this other holy man?” For the sake of today’s sermon, let’s make the journey, the journey to find Christ, and let’s make the holy monks, each one of us, holy women and men on our life’s journey.
As we travel our path of life to discover Christ more completely, when we find someone broken on the mountain, do we continue our journey to Christ and leave the broken one on the mountain, or do we abandon our journey to the Risen One and carry our broken brother/sister home? This story is my compass for my sermon.
Today, we celebrate the festival of St. Luke Physician/Evangelist. In the Gospel text we hear the first five verses and the final ten verses of Luke’s Gospel. In between these two “bookends” of verses we discover a message of Good News for all peoples.
I do a lot of praying with people who are sick. Many of you have been there with me. I pray for the brokenness of our bodies, minds and spirits to be made whole; and I pray most earnestly that God will use doctors, nurses, therapists and medical staff, family members as instruments of healing.
I do not pray for God to cure individuals. Of course, I believe in miracles, and I’ve stood very close to some miracles of God’s curing, but too often such prayers lead people on rampages of scape-goating God and assigning blame for illness, inferring at some level that good, faithful, praying people should be protected from pain.
Time and time again in the Gospels, when Jesus actually does cure a person, He tells them not to say anything; or just as often, will say that everything happens (in both the sickness or the cure) so that God’s works might be revealed.
When I pray for healing, I pray that God’s presence will be revealed in the midst of the illness, because I am absolutely sure that prayer can heal. I’m also absolutely sure that prayer is one of the deepest forms of relationship—with God and with other people. And through relationship, there can be healing even when a person is not cured.
So if you are on your journey up the mountain to see the Buddha, do you stop to help your friend, or do you keep on going? Do you keep on your journey to find the Christ, or do you find the Christ in your neighbor who is injured and broken?
Which brings me to love embodied in the community of faith. . . .
I know individuals who will not come to AA meetings here because they are afraid they may see someone they know and be judged for being an alcoholic. I know individuals who are gay and are afraid to let people know because they fear being judged, especially by good Christian people. I know women who have had abortions but live in fear that their best church friends will find out and shun them forever. I know homeless individuals who are afraid to set foot inside a church because they don’t have nice-looking clothing and may not smell very good, confident that people will talk behind their backs.
I daresay that the people who are suffering most in this community may not be those who have been diagnosed with cancer, but rather, those who fear being judged for their sexual identity, their addictions, or past choices in their lives.
But hear the healing Good News of Jesus Christ! In Jesus all difference are washed away! He is, after all, healing us into Himself, dragging us alongside all the other damaged, undeserving people into His Body. Real healing, more than anything else, is a call to conversion. And you know what St. Paul says! He says that it is a scandal to decent people to embrace all those whom [quote] “decent” people push aside, those pushed to the very edges of society. And you know what else St. Paul says? He says that the cross of Jesus Christ erases all distinctions, that Christ loves all people totally and equally! To believe this is the scandal of the cross and the beginning of true healing.
By willingly choosing to be the scandal St Paul challenges us to become, we begin to live in true freedom to see that the most outrageous, impossible, bizarre, strange, unusual individuals are welcome because they carry Christ within them.
To be a healing and healed community is to welcome all the weirdoes: those who have been poisoning their bodies with drugs, those who make strange noises during worship, those who can’t walk as fast, see as far, or move as quickly; those who just want to be accepted somewhere and hear a word of loving acceptance from God and God’s people, to hear words of support when we are carrying the burden of caring for loved ones.
Healing, as we know it, goes to the most basic understanding of what it means to be a faith-filled community. We come together, wet with the waters of baptism, to hear God’s Word; to share God’s meal; sometimes to anoint; we carry the weak, hold the suffering, and give gratitude to God!
Jesus doesn’t show us how to perfectly cure a molar pregnancy. He doesn’t show us how to make a blind man see, dry every tear, or even drive out all kinds of demons. But this is what Jesus does show us: Jesus shows us how to enter into a way of life in which the broken and sick pieces of life are held in love and given meaning. Don’t be afraid, Jesus tells us; your faith will make you well! Amen.
1 Some ideas for this sermon came to birth within me through the book, Jesus Freak, by Sara Miles, 2010 pp. 63-105.

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