Sunday, July 29, 2012

Pentecost 9: Fill me now

Dear friends,

Today's sermon was extemporaneous. I meant to audio-tape it, but in my weakened condition (I'm recuperating from dehydration from a funeral this weekend), I didn't get it done. I guess this one was for just us this week. The Holy Spirit showed up, though. One member told me I was "fairly glowing" as I gave way for God to preach through me today - even in my physical state of emptiness. I'm glad. I had nothing to offer. It was up to God alone to feed these people. The title of my sermon, "Fill me now" speaks of the theme I preached - being people who are filled with the fullness of God. Peace.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Pentecost 8, 2012: Valued, accepted, and forgiven

Proper 11 Lectionary: Jeremiah 23:1-6; Psalm 23; Ephesians 2:11-22; Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

En el nombre del Dios, Padre, Hijo, y Espiritu Santo, Amen.

In today’s gospel story, Jesus feeds the five thousand who, he says, are like sheep without a shepherd, that is, they are lost and aimlessly wandering around in a desert – a desert that is as much within them as it is the place where they are gathered. St. Mark tells us that they come to Jesus with the same kind of faith demonstrated by the woman with the flow of blood (whose story we discussed a few weeks ago). They believe, like she did, that if they only touch the hem of his cloak, they will be healed. They know that Jesus is the source of their healing, their wholeness of life, and they want to be made whole, to be delivered from their despair.

Being healed, being made whole again, is a choice all of us can make anytime. What’s in the way? Well, some of us as, we discussed last Sunday, believe the lie that we are too unworthy to be healed. What it takes then is for someone to welcome us as a friend, someone who will tell us the Good News of God in Christ that we are all forgiven, accepted, and loved by God.

Bur living in this truth, living in the Good News of God in Christ means giving up our judgments and our excuses and allowing ourselves to be guided by God alone, who anoints our heads with oil and consecrates us as holy. It means being the temples of God’s Holy Spirit that we are by means of our Baptism. It means answering our Baptismal call to proclaim by word and deed the good news of God in Christ. That means we don’t seek the kind of justice that satisfies us but the kind of justice that satisfies God, whose mercy and goodness follow all of us all the days of our lives.

In our Baptism we also promise to seek and serve Christ in all people, loving our neighbors as ourselves. We are the bearers of the grace of God to the world. As hard as it is sometimes, we forgive our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. We love one another as God loves us – and by one another, I don’t just mean our friends and family (who can be challenging enough at times), but all of our neighbors: the poor, the homeless, the addicted, los inmigrantes (immigrants), even the criminals here in Cleveland County where we’ve been planted. It means loving neighbors like the 24 year old shooter in Aurora, CO, who killed a dozen people and injured 58 more, or the suicide-bomber in Bulgaria who killed a busload of vacationing Israeli youths and their chaperones.

Following news of the mass shooting in Colorado I saw lots of postings on Facebook and Twitter about people praying for the victims, their families, and those affected by these tragedies - which is a good thing. But by Friday afternoon, I hadn’t seen a single one, even from the Episcopal Church, that offered prayers for the broken soul who committed these crimes. So I replied to a tweet by Episcopal Relief and Development calling for prayer for the Colorado shooter and his family. Their reply to me: “Absolutely - perhaps most of all. But for the grace of God, there go all of us.”

Living in the truth of the Good News of God in Christ is hard. It’s often easier and there’s infinitely more overt support for us if we live our lives according to the story told by society or culture rather than by the Christian narrative.

Society dictates very clearly to us who is acceptable and who isn’t, who is beautiful and who isn’t, who is approved of and who isn’t. And those ideals change from era to era.

In our current cultural narrative, there is the saying: “You can’t be too skinny or too rich.” Being both of those makes you acceptable, approved of, and worthy. Even if it kills you – which it often does.

Please find the sermon illustration in your bulletins (bloggers, see this at the end of the blog) and notice the way beauty was depicted in art from the Renaissance period. I’ve given you two of the most famous images from that time: The Mona Lisa by Leonardo DaVinci, and The Three Graces by Botticelli.

These women would be considered fat and unattractive by today’s standard of female physical beauty which you can see illustrated on the back side of that handout.

Unfortunately, exile from the ranks of the acceptable and the approved happens to even the most beautiful and the richest among us. Diana, Princess of Wales, suffered from bulimia and self-mutilation, and she had this to say about it: “I had bulimia for a number of years. And that's like a secret disease. You inflict it upon yourself because your self-esteem is at a low ebb, and you don't think you're worthy or valuable. You fill your stomach up four or five times a day… and it gives you a feeling of comfort. It's like having a pair of arms around you, but it's… temporary. Then you're disgusted at the bloatedness of your stomach, and then you bring it all up again. And it's a repetitive pattern, which is very destructive to yourself." (Source)

“You don’t think you’re worthy or valuable” she said. The most photographed and admired woman of her time didn’t feel worthy or valuable. Why? I think because she was looking in the wrong place - both for her value and for her comfort.

It’s sad, because what she needed, what we all need, is already within us. We have this mistaken notion that if we go into the presence of God, we’ll feel like a worm.
We won’t. In the presence of God we feel only love from God and the hugeness of that love heals the worminess the world and our own inner chatter make us feel.

We are temples of the Holy Spirit. THE SPIRIT OF GOD, who created us just as we are and loves us that way, LIVES IN US.

When society or we ourselves exile us into the ranks of the unacceptable and the unapproved, we need only go into prayer, into the presence of God to find comfort and remember our value in the sight of God.

As for those whom society exiles, the letter to the Ephesians resets our thinking on that. “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.” (v 13-16)

One of the things that drew the crowds to Jesus is that they felt valued, accepted, and forgiven in his presence. Women, sinners, lepers, tax collectors, strangers, even criminals like the one on the cross next to Jesus felt valued, accepted and forgiven in his presence.

We are the presence of Christ in our world today. We are called to live the truth of the Good News of God in Christ, no matter the cost (and there is a cost), and to share the Christian narrative with all those who are wandering aimlessly in the deserts of their despair.

We’re called to receive into our love and into our family ALL whom God sends us. In our presence, EVERYONE should feel valued, accepted, and forgiven.

Here is what our Scripture says to all who are exiled and excluded: “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.” (Eph 19-21)

May The Episcopal Church of the Redeemer continue to be built together spiritually into such a holy temple. Amen.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Pentecost 7B 2012: Blessed desolation

Proper 10 Lectionary: Amos 7:7-15, Psalm 85:8-13; Ephesians 1:3-14; Mark 6:14-29

En el nombre del Dios, Padre, Hijo, y Espiritu Santo. Amen.

COLLECT: O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them…

I love the prophets! To me they are like artists, painting doorways to the truth with the brushstrokes of their prophecies. Like other forms of art, it often takes some education to fully appreciate their work.

Amos is known as the prophet of social justice, which he considered essential, indispensible, for those who held themselves to be chosen ones of God.

Amos was a herdsman and farmer who lived in Judah. This was during the time that Israel was divided into two kingdoms: the southern kingdom of Judah and the northern kingdom of Israel. God sent Amos, to prophesy to the people in the northern kingdom of Israel where Jeroboam was king.

The northern kingdom of Israel then was kind of like Galilee was in our Gospel reading, and kind of like Hollywood is for us today: a place of earthly excesses, sometimes even decadence, populated by circles of rich, materialistic cosmopolitans, who believed they earned their own fortunes and, therefore, deserved the enjoyment their fortunes afforded them. They showed little to no mercy for those in need among them. They had lost their sense of righteousness, mercy, and duty in the name of God.

It was to them that Amos prophesied in Chapter 6: “Alas for those who lie on beds of ivory, and lounge on their couches, and eat lambs from the flock, and calves from the stall; who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp, and …improvise on instruments of music; who drink wine from bowls, and anoint themselves with the finest oils, but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!” (v 4-6)

Amaziah, the priest of the temple, begged Amos to leave and prophesy somewhere else. Stop saying bad things about us, Amaziah said. This is the king’s territory and we are beloved, favored, and chosen of God. That’s why we have it so good.

Amos responded, yes, you are! Which is why you, of all people, should know how you are to live in relationship to God and one another. You have gotten lost in the satisfaction that comes from earthly wealth, power, and privilege. You believed that you deserve it, that you earned it, that it belongs to you and you can do with it whatever you will.

But your power and privilege is an illusion. And when the illusion fails, you’ll realize that you have nothing.

That’s because living life in the absence of God, there is only nothingness and Amos uses prophetic language to describe this nothingness saying, your wife will be sold into indignity, your kids will have no life in them, you will lose all you hold dear – including your land (which, for the people of Israel, meant their identity). You will even lose the dignity of your life and your death.

But God, who is steadfast in love and mercy, responds to our hubris, offering mercy and a way to go. In the vision of the plumb line, God asks Amos, ‘What do you see?’

‘A plumb line,’ answers Amos.

Right, says God. “See, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass them by; the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.” (v 8-9)

In other words, by the mercy of God, all that the people cling to, all that seems desirable to them but leads to their destruction must be removed. All will seem lost because those things – the luxuries, the power and wealth, the success, and the approval of the others in their elite circles – had seemed so important, so supremely important.

But God, who loves us with steadfast love, knows that these things are to us humans like pills are to an addict. They are a lie and they lead us to death. They trick us into believing that we are satisfied and happy even as they destroy our relationships with God and one another. They cause us lose sight of the suffering of our needy sisters and brothers – those who are hungry, homeless, infirm, and alone – because we are too focused on ourselves and what we think we need/want/deserve. They also lead us into error, tricking us into believing that we are the source of our success, our wealth, and our happiness.

Detaching from these things is a lot like detoxing from an addiction – it’s painful at first. The body and mind fight against it. We cling to the lie which is preferable to the truth that is coming into view – the truth that in their absence, all that’s left is emptiness, nothingness. It feels like desolation.

And, in fact, it is desolation, blessed desolation: complete emptiness, the utter destruction of a false reality we had constructed for ourselves. It is only in that complete emptiness, in the stark, cold, darkness of the tomb, that the people of God (then and now) stripped of our illusions of power and self sufficiency, can discover what is truly important – what is true at all – life in the presence of God.

From that place of desolation we call out to God who is always there waiting to save, remembering again, or finally, that it is only God who saves. We believe that our salvation is in Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, God, who came to live among us, to minister among us, and to give his life for our salvation. Jesus did it and it has been done – once, for all. There is nothing we can do to save ourselves. No amount of obedience or good works can save us. Indeed, they are the fruits of our salvation, not the means to it.

We need to remember that if we do anything good it’s because the grace of God has been lavished upon us, compelling us to do our part in Christ’s continuing work of the redemption of the world. If we do anything good, it’s because the Spirit of God lives in us and touches the world through our grateful hearts and willing hands. If we do anything good, it’s because we have “heard the word of truth,” believed it, and surrendered ourselves and our lives to it.

Therefore, no matter how many modern-day Amaziahs ask us to stop speaking the truth, we won’t stop. No matter how many of them condemn us for welcoming all into the Church, all into presence of God, we’ll keep doing it anyway. And no matter how impossible or desolate the path ahead seems to earthly minds, we’ll continue to pray for and gratefully receive the grace and power to do what God would have us do.

I close with a prayer from Sir Francis Drake:

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push back the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.


Friday, July 6, 2012

Weaving Christian formation into the fabric of our lives

One of the strengths Redeemer possesses is our love of and devotion to our children, and right now, the Holy Spirit is moving among us in a big way, leading us to act on a very important part of our call as a community of faith: the formation of our children as Christians. As we welcome new families into our community, we are experiencing a renewed desire to provide structured and meaningful programs and activities to help form our children in their faith and life.

One of the curricula available this year for children ages 3 years through 5th grade is called "Weaving God's Promises." This is a three-year, lectionary-based program which teaches children how God's promises of salvation weave throughout our lives, not only in church but in the world. This curriculum gives children a strong foundation for a lifetime of faith.

"Weaving God's Promises" is Scripturally-based and tells stories from the Old and New Testaments with a focus on the life and teachings of Jesus. A second focus is on the Episcopal Church itself, teaching about church practices, how to use the Book of Common Prayer, and the principal sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist. Finally, the program covers Christian living, including the practices of prayer, service, and outreach. There are lessons on Advent, Epiphany, Lent, and Easter, as well.

With online accessibility, individual teachers and parents can download activity pages and student pages for each weekly lesson. The curriculum offers age-appropriate lessons for pre-school through 1st grade; 2nd-3rd grade; and 4th-5th grade. These age ranges can easily be arranged as best fits our needs.

A presentation/demonstration of this program will be offered at a breakfast gathering between the services on Sunday, July 29. At that time, an opportunity will be given for questions, as well as a chance to volunteer to teach and/or assist with any grade level. Please join us as we show how "Weaving God's Promises" can help us to live into our passion for bringing God’s little ones among us to a real-life experience of faith and service.

We will also be discussing a bit of restructuring for ourselves in order to pursue our call to lifelong Christian formation. We offer up the option of moving our second service from 10:30 to 11:00, allowing enough time between the services for a bit of coffee hour together, then ample time for Christian formation to take place. This would also enable those who are serving at the later service as well as those who are in the choir, to participate in Christian formation. As it is now, one has to choose between choir and Christian formation.

The new schedule would look like this:

8:30 am: Holy Eucharist (said)
9:30 am: Coffee hour (Main Parish Hall) and/or Choir rehearsal
10:00 am: Christian formation for all ages (runs till 10:45)
11:00 am: Holy Eucharist (sung)

This structural change is offered in response to many of our parents who said that getting their young children up and ready by 9:30 was stressful and often impossible. In addition, the older youth and some of their parents have expressed an interest in meeting later in the day. This change would allow formation for older youth (grades 6 and up) to begin with lunch, immediately following the later service.

This change is also is in response to choir members who expressed an interest in participating in and/or leading the formation discussions. Finally, it is in response to those who regularly attend the early service, but would like time to meet and get to know those who attend the later service – which is when most of our newer members attend.

Please share your thoughts and ideas on this with Mother Valori, Deacon Pam, RoseAnn Evans, or Matthew Kiggen and remember to MARK YOUR CALENDARS FOR SUNDAY, JULY 29! We look forward to seeing everyone, sharing breakfast, and planning our life of formation together!

Joyfully yours,
Mother Valori and RoseAnn Evans

Serving in God's name with the help of an HHH grant

As you have heard, Redeemer is the grateful recipient of a Human Hurt and Hope grant in the amount of $25,000. This grant is designed to help us continue and grow our feeding ministries - The Shepherd’s Table, Food Pantry, and Community Garden - and will help us to:

• keep up with the financial demand our feeding ministries have place on our resources
• hire a part-time program manager to oversee the feeding ministries and expanded programs
• use the time between breakfast and lunch for life-skills education and training, health screenings, referrals to local help agencies, job preparation, as well as the hiring of a part-time social worker to schedule and coordinate this part of the program
• expand the Community Garden to increase the harvest for use in the Shepherd’s Table
• expand and open the Community Garden to more Shepherd’s Table guests as well as other church partners who will use their harvest for their own feeding ministries
• engage the local community in addressing hunger and poverty in our area through our ministry so that the people we serve cease to be a concept (the poor) and become people whose lives and stories we know and care about.

Since many of our Redeemer members are new, I’ll share a portion of the cover letter I wrote for the grant as it offers a concise history of the means by which we answer Christ’s call to us to serve in his name:

"In February, 2010, The Episcopal Church of the Redeemer launched our premiere mission: The Shepherd’s Table. We served our first lunch on February 17, 2010 to 35 people and have been serving each Wednesday ever since. We began serving breakfast in addition to lunch in April, 2010, one of only two local churches providing both meals on our feeding day. The Shepherd’s Table now serves an average of 350 meals each Wednesday. In addition, our Food Pantry ministry gives out an average of 50 bags of food and supplies (toiletries, diapers, feminine products, etc.) also on Wednesday.

It has always been our priority to serve friendship as well as food. Knowing that the majority of our guests are dealing with hypertension, diabetes, and other physical issues, we want to serve as much fresh, healthy food as we can. We are also feeling compelled to teach our guests “how to fish,” rather than just handing out the cooked fish to them. Responding to the needs our guests bring to us, we also want to help them make connections to the local resources that will improve the circumstances of their lives.

Redeemer shares our space with an African-American Pentecostal Church, Living Waters Ministries. We invited our friends at Living Waters to become our mission partners, sharing in our feeding ministry, which they have done enthusiastically. They had discerned a call from God to serve in exactly this way, but due to economic hardship, had been unable to do so. Given the surprisingly sharp rise in demand for the Shepherd’s Table, Redeemer would have been unable to continue this important mission without our mission partners at Living Waters. In fact, the leadership teams of The Shepherd’s Table Ministries are each comprised of one member from Redeemer and one from Living Waters.

God’s abundance has been undeniable and spiritually nourishing for so many involved, both volunteers and guests. The demand, however, has outpaced our resources. We are, therefore, re-birthing ourselves, formalizing the mission by writing policies and procedures, developing volunteer trainings, etc., to enable us to write for grants from other sources to support and grow this mission."

Operating the Shepherd’s Table, Food Pantry, and Community Garden is not only a call from God, but a gift to us at Redeemer. Serving others in God’s name using the gifts of our building, our amazing kitchen, and our compassionate people has been a big part of our healing as a faith community, enabling us to find our own path to rebirth and renewal these last three years.

For those who are new at Redeemer, you should know that we started our feeding ministry with no money set aside, watching in awe as the abundance of God flowed into us and provided what we needed to serve. It was an inspiring and exciting experience. Two years later, these ministries continue to inspire and excite. We invite you to join in, serve with us, and be inspired – by God, the ministries, and our guests.

I wrote this grant, with the help of Caswell Martin, your Jr. Warden, because the demands of the ministry had begun to strain our financial resources. Knowing how tight the economy has made all of our budgets, it seemed a good idea to look beyond ourselves for additional resources. That doesn’t mean that we’re relived of our need to commit our financial and other gifts to this ministry. We just don’t have to do it alone, thanks to the generosity of Human Hurt and Hope and the Diocese of Western North Carolina.

I am happy to announce that Dan Allen has agreed to be the part-time Ministry Program Manger and Larena Cherry has agreed to do the social work portion of the expanded program. Please consider volunteering to help them. There are even more ways you can help now with the expanded programs thanks to the grant.

Ask anyone who volunteers now – you get so much more than you give. That’s how serving God always works - we give a little from our faithfulness and God gives us back a hundredfold.

Also, if you haven’t made a pledge to the church, please consider doing so. According to our canon law, our budgets are formed from pledged income only. Unpledged monies, also called loose plate collections, won’t reach the feeding ministries except on the third Sunday of each month when they are designated to go there. In addition, the loose plate collection is designated for a missional purpose each week and does not support general church operations.

If you have any questions about the grant, the feeding ministries, or how you can help, please contact me. If you know of other resources that can financially support our work, please let me know. The grant search continues…

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Pentecost 5B, 2012: Feed this child of mine

Proper 8 Lectionary: Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-15; 2:23-24; Psalm 30; 2 Corinthians 8:7-15; Mark 5:21-43

En el nombre del Dios, Padre, Hijo, y Espiritu Santo. Amen.

In our gospel story last week, Jesus and the disciples found themselves in a small fishing boat, in a terrible storm on the Sea of Galilee. After Jesus stilled the storm, they arrived on the “other side” in the Gentile country of the Gerasenes where they encountered a demoniac who called himself Legion. Since the lectionary left this story out, I’ll remind you that this is the story where the unclean spirits leave the demoniac and jump into a herd of pigs which then goes and jumps off a cliff and drowns in the sea. After witnessing this healing, the Gerasene people were so frightened that they begged Jesus to leave their neighborhood – which he did.

Getting back in their boat, Jesus and the disciples travel back to the Jewish side of the Sea of Galilee. And this is where our gospel story picks up today – with two more healing stories: the daughter of Jairus and the woman with the flow of blood.

By presenting these stories as a group, Mark is offering a comprehensive picture of the kinds of storms the presence of God in Christ can heal in our lives. There are spiritual storms, like the storm on the Sea of Galilee which gave the apostles the opportunity to recognize and deal with their own lack of faith in Jesus. There are emotional storms, like the storm going on within the Gerasene demoniac. And there are physical storms, storms that happen in our bodies, like those described in today’s gospel story.

As Jesus and his disciples stepped out of the boat onto the shore, a great crowd began to gather. Out from this crowd steps Jairus who is the leader of the synagogue. Jairus approaches Jesus and kneels in his presence… a pretty amazing thing because as this man had clout and Jesus was an itinerant preacher - an institutional nobody.

Kneeling before him, Jairus asked Jesus to come to his home where his 12 year old daughter was dying. Jesus agreed and set off for Jairus’ house.

As they walked through the crowd, Jesus felt healing power leave him. As a healer myself, I can attest that when God chooses to unleash healing love, it flows through my body and I can feel when it moves out from me. I often feel a sensation of heat, many times in the palms of my hands and my attention is drawn toward the person needing the healing. Other healers report the same kind of felt experience.

So Jesus felt the healing power move through him and turned toward the one needing the healing and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” I can imagine his disciples looking around at the crowd and saying to him, “You’re kidding, right? Do you see all these people? A whole bunch of people probably touched your clothes.”

But Jesus wasn’t simply asking who touched his clothes. He was asking to whom the healing power of God had flowed. The woman with the hemorrhage fell down before Jesus, admitting that it was she who had touched his cloak. The woman was scared because she knew she was not supposed to be near people – her flow of blood made her ritually unclean and anyone she touched would have been made unclean too.

In that culture, ritually unclean people were exiled from their community until the priests declared them clean. And this woman had been exiled from her community for twelve years! According to the law, both she and Jesus should have left the area until declared ritually cleaned by a priest of the temple.

But the woman’s faith compelled her to ignore all the earthly barriers that stood between her and Jesus. Rather than being angry at her Jesus declared to her and all in the crowd who could hear: “Daughter, your faith has made you ‘whole’ (which is a truer translation from the Gk than ‘well’) Go in peace and be healed of your disease.”

In fact, if we look at the stories of Jesus’ healing throughout the gospels, we almost always hear Jesus say, “Your faith has made you whole.” Or we might hear him say, “Your sin has been forgiven.”

Sin, as we have discussed before, is a state of separation from God (as Paul Tillich describes it). It is whatever stands between us and God and disrupts our wholeness, our hol-i-ness.

Today we will offer anointing with holy oil and healing prayer. As we do, remember that healing is simply this: by the power of God in Christ we are made whole. Our sin, that is, anything that separates us from God, is forgiven. And our faith, which comes from a deep knowledge that we have been made in the image of God, that we are beloved children of God, compels us to risk everything and cross any barrier that human systems and humankind (including ourselves) have placed between us and God.

Wholeness, hol-i-ness, is divine. Cures are earthly. There’s a difference. That’s why Jesus said, “Go in peace… and be healed…” To be healed is to be made whole through God in Christ. To be cured, that is, to experience a change in the state of one’s body, may or may not be part of that.

Those of you who know me, know I’m a huge science geek. I am joyfully amazed and grateful for the advances humans have made in medicine and medical technology. The list of what doctors can cure nowadays is impressive. What they can’t do, however, is provide wholeness of life.

When Jesus did healings, he always restored a person to wholeness of life. Those whom Jesus healed were returned to their families and set free from their exile. Returning to their work and their livelihoods, they were no longer forced to beg to survive. This restoration of life relieved them of the emotional pain of their exile, the shame of their sin. Jesus’ healing always brought about wholeness of life - harmony of body, mind, and spirit, and restoration of relationships.

Back to the Gospel story…

While Jesus was still speaking with this woman with the hemorrhage who interrupted his journey, people came from Jairus’ house to tell him it was too late – his daughter was dead. Jesus responded by saying to Jairus: “Do not fear, only believe.”

The only thing that interferes with our wholeness is our fear. What if God doesn’t really love me? What if I’m too bad, too sinful, too unworthy to be healed? What if I didn’t pray right? What if I’m being punished?

To that, Jesus says, “Do not fear, only believe.”

As they reached Jairus’ house, professional mourners, whose job it was to announce to the community that someone had died, were making a mournful commotion. Jesus asked them why they were weeping. This child is not dead, he said, she’s only sleeping.

These mourners, who had a lot of experience with death laughed at Jesus. We know death and it’s plain to see that this child is dead.

But Jesus saw beyond what was plain to earthly eyes. He saw what was true – that nothing is impossible with God. Taking the child by the hand, he told her to get up, then he told her community to feed her.

This is our message too. Feed this child of mine, God says to us. She may seem dead to you, but she is not dead to me. Feed this child. Nourish him and restore him from his exile, his shame, back into love.

Do not fear. Only believe.

All of us who have ears to hear, please hear this command from God. People of Redeemer, this is the ministry of healing our church practices all of the time, but especially and outwardly on the first Sunday of the month.

The healing ritual we practice reminds us that our faith compels us to come into the presence of the healing power of God, to receive God’s grace into our bodies, minds, and spirits, and be restored to wholeness of life.

It reminds us that it is our responsibility in this faith community to nourish each child of God being raised out from sin and death to new life. We are the home where the healing love of God is made available to all. We are the home where all of the children of God are nourished by the Word and sacraments.

We are the community to whom the exiled children of God are returned so that they can live into the newness of life God is birthing in them. We are the ones called upon to treat one another with the reverence due to one who is a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.

I close with a quote from theologian Howard Thurman, a favorite of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In fact, this quote comes from Thurman’s book, Jesus and the Disinherited, which (I’m told) Dr. King used to carry in the breast pocket of his suit. Some of you saw this quote on my Facebook page recently – the product of my search for something inspiring during a particularly demanding day of pastoral care.

Howard Thurman said: “This is how Jesus demonstrated reverence for personality. He met the woman where she was, and he treated her as if she were already where she now willed to be. In dealing with her he “believed” her into the fulfillment of her possibilities. He stirred her confidence into activity. He place a crown over her head which for the rest of her life she would keep trying to grow tall enough to wear.” ~ Jesus and the Disinherited, 106.

May our confidence be likewise stirred into activity as we strive for the fulfillment of our possibilities, in the name of God and for the welfare of all God’s people.