Sunday, March 27, 2016

Going. Telling.

Mark 16:1-8 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)  

16 When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” 4 When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6 But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” 8 So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.


He is risen!  He is risen indeed!

I woke up with that in my mind this morning . . . well, right after the first thoughts I have every morning, which mostly consist of some variety of “OK, Cat. I”m up.”  But the very next thing I thought this morning was, “It’s Easter!  He is risen!”

We are so blessed to be able to wake up on Easter morning, indeed, on any morning, and exclaim to ourselves, “He is risen!”  For the disciples on that first Easter, not so much.  The Bible is completely silent on the topic of what they were doing from Friday sundown until Sunday morning, but we can surely imagine what it might have been like.  They are together, somewhere they consider safe.  They may or may not have gone to the Temple on the Sabbath, but probably not.  They were fearful  . . . afraid they, too, would be taken and executed.  They are his followers, after all.  They’re confused . . . how did they get to this place? Wasn’t Jesus the Messiah?  How then, could he have died so soon, so ignobly?  What will they do now?  Go back to wherever he found them?   Regardless, the women knew they had to do what was right for him, so a few of them gathered the things they would need to wash and anoint him properly and set off for the place where he lay entombed.  And when they got there, what they found was not what they expected.  No stone to roll away, no guards at the entrance but most unexpectedly of all, no Jesus.  Instead they found a stranger who told them things they could not understand.

Mark tells us that first they were alarmed.  Then they were seized by terror and amazement.  And  then they ran.  And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

Well - they got the “go” part right, anyway.  They were afraid, and I don’t blame them.  After all, they went to the perfectly ordinary tomb on a perfectly ordinary morning to perform the perfectly ordinary service of cleaning and anointing the body of their rabbi . . . and when they got there, all the ordinariness went out of the day, indeed, out of their lives.

Because not only was the stone already moved away from the front of the tomb, but the body they expected to find was gone.  Instead they find a young man, dressed in white - not mere undyed wool, but a white robe - and he told them that Jesus of Nazareth had been raised.   He told them “Go, and tell the others. . . “

They got the “go” part right.  It was the telling they had trouble with.

On Tuesday there were bombings in Brussels, at the Zaventem airport and in a subway station.  The early reports were of over 30 killed and more than 150 injured.  An international terrorist group claimed responsibility.  Some politicians called on the police to keep a close eye all the Muslims in the United States.

A friend called after hearing the news.  It is incomprehensible to us that anyone could hate others so much that strapping on explosives and going someplace where hundreds of unsuspecting men, women and children are going about their daily business in order to kill as many of them as possible.  It is equally incomprehensible to us that anyone would think that just because people share a religion, they also share the political views and aims of a few crazies.  

On Tuesday there was a shooting in Selma.  It may have been gang related.  No one was killed, but four young people were injured.  Some people immediately called for a police crack down on “that side of the freeway.”   Those of us who are part of Bringing Broken Neighborhoods Back to Life understand that this is not the best way to solve the problem.  That this would, in fact, exacerbate the situation. We know that it is this very sort of situation that our work is meant to end.  If we can show the young people who don’t see any hope for getting out of the dire poverty that is their life today that there is, in fact, a way out, this kind of terrible event can become a thing of the past.  

It is incomprehensible that anyone would think that just because people live in a particular neighborhood, or speak a certain language, or share a skin color, they must be bad people.   And yet, there are many who do think that way, who hate - fear - others for no good reason but only because they look different, or dress differently, or worship differently, or speak differently.  That kind of belief has nothing to do with love. It’s not the way Jesus told us to live.  

Yes, there is evil in the world.  But it is not particular to a certain skin pigmentation, or language group, or religious tradition.  It is present in all of us.  We cannot prevent people from acting on evil.  We can however, encourage them away from the darkness and toward the light, and give them hope.  It is because evil is part of the human condition that Jesus came to teach us a better way, a way in which the good is celebrated, love is shared, hope is transmitted from one person to the next.  We are called, as Christ’s disciples, to go and tell the world the Good News of God’s love for all persons, of God’s forgiveness, of God’s great desire that the whole world be reconciled with him, and that the Word was made flesh in order that we might learn these things, in order that we might bring the light of Christ into the darkness.   

Like the women at the tomb, however, most of us are only good at the “going” part.  We’re pretty good at turning our back on that kind of belief and talk and action.  We might talk among ourselves about how terrible it is that people are like that - bigoted, fearful, hateful and angry.  We’re good at going away from the things that frighten us, huddling together, wishing there was a way to change the world so that everyone would act on the good within them.  We don’t understand why people would choose the darkness in the first place.

Sadly, I do understand how that choice can be made.  All that has to happen is for a person to be raised up believing that she isn’t good enough, that she will never be good enough, that even God rejects her.  All that has to happen is for people to reject him, to teach him that he is unworthy and unteachable and unredeemable just because he was born in a particular body or faith or neighborhood.  And that he is stuck, hopeless, with no way out that he can see.   I grew up believing those things about myself. I saw no point in sticking to the good path I was told about because I was going to Hell anyway.  I could never be perfect.  I could never earn my way into Heaven.  So why not just do whatever I wanted to do?  It was a long time, a lifetime, before I was brought to my knees, before I reached a point where I knew I had to find a different way to live.  And after I gave up the way I was living, it took even longer before I was willing to hear anything about a God who loved me. That was so not what I grew up believing  . . .  But I heard about that God from people who showed me that they loved me, even when I was behaving unlovably.  I learned about God’s love from people who loved me until I could love myself. I learned love from people who brought light into my life, who told me about that loving, caring, forgiving God, the one I’d never heard about in all my years in church.   I learned about love and gained hope from people who made a practice of going and telling . . . 

Go and tell the others.   We know that eventually the women did tell the others.  They must have, right?  But Mark leaves it to us to imagine how that must have happened.  Maybe the women returned, obviously shaken, way too soon to have completed the task they set out to do.  Picture it if you can, imagine how they must have been embraced in their fear and encouraged to share whatever had them so upset.  Imagine how, as they were being comforted in their fear and trembling, they must have started telling the others, haltingly, what they had seen and experienced.  And maybe the disciples, all of them gathered in that one place, began to remember some of the things he had said and some of the prophecies and wondered . . . could it be?  Is he really resurrected?  Is there still hope after all, for that new Kingdom he talked about?  Is there still a chance for the world to be changed? . . .

Yes, and yes and yes!  He is risen!  There is still hope for God’s kingdom on earth. There is still hope for the world to be changed.  All that it will take is for us, each and every one of us, to Go.  Tell.  Tell with words, of course.  But also tell with the way we live.  Tell with the choices we make about how to behave.  While driving, only use those hand signals that are intended to indicate a turn.   If you are in a conversation and someone starts talking about people of another religion or race or ethnic background or immigration status as if they are all evil . . stop them.  If someone uses the “R” word, tell them that is not acceptable.  Silence is not enough - even disapproving silence is not enough.   All it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to say nothing.  And we are not in the business of allowing evil to triumph.  And ladies, hard as it may be, please try to keep the Men jokes to a minimum.  It is in all of these small ways that we bring light where there is darkness.  It is in all these small ways that we show the world that He is risen, indeed.  

What if I were to tell you that Jesus didn’t die for our sins, but rather, that he rose for our sins.  
He rose for us, defeating death and sin for all time.
He rose for us, giving us hope for a different world, a different life.  
He rose for us, giving us proof positive that things don’t have to always be the same as they have always been, that change is possible, that new things are being done among us and with us and to us.  
He rose for us, giving us exactly what we need to know to make the changes that will lead to living in God’s kingdom on earth.  
He rose for us, showing us once and for all that God will make a way where there is no way, that with God all things are possible.

Go.  Tell the others.  Tell the world!

Christ is risen!   Shout Hosannah!

Sunday, March 13, 2016


Mark 13:1-8, 24-37 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

13 As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” 2 Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”

3 When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” 5 Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. 6 Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. 8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.

24 “But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
26 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. 27 Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35 Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, 36 or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”     **************************************************************

“Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.”   This statement really caused a problem.   Never mind that Jesus said over and over again, in many different ways, “No one knows when the last day will arrive.”  Even in the very next paragraph!  But because he also said, “this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place” and they all believed that part - there were problems.  They believed that by “this generation” he meant the folks who were standing there in his presence - the people who were alive and walking the earth at the same time Jesus was.  After Jesus’ ascension into heaven, Paul and the other apostles and disciples went around preaching the kingdom was coming - now!  In their lifetimes!  

In case you hadn’t noticed - that didn’t happen.  It’s been roughly 50 generations since then (according to the Bible a generation is 40 years, give or take) and although we’ve seen some of those signs more than a few times, the end has not yet come.  Jesus has not yet returned.   

The problem with prophetic signs is that they are so easy to misinterpret.  For example, “Wars and rumors of wars” happen all the time.  I went wandering around the internet to see if I could find a period of time when there were not any wars or rumors of wars, and the best I could come up with was an article in the NY Times in July, 2003 that stated, “Of the past 3,400 years, humans have been entirely at peace for 268 of them, or just 8 percent of recorded history.”  We know that in Jesus’ time Rome was constantly fighting “peace keeping actions” against various silly people who objected to being Roman subjects, and subjugating new territories, so war was pretty much a constant then, too.  “The sun will be darkened.”  Well, you have to know that for many centuries every time there was a solar eclipse the Western world went crazy, thinking the end had come.  The Eastern world and Pre-Columbian Americas had better astronomers than Europe, so they weren’t nearly as worried about little things like eclipses.  “There will be earthquakes and famines.”  I live in California, so I have an earthquake app on my phone. If I didn’t have it set to be quiet it would be going off constantly, because there are earthquakes someplace daily, hourly even.  And famine has been pretty much a constant in some parts of Africa for a number of decades now.    And yet, the end has not come.  Of course, there are those who claim that this prophecy can’t take place until the Temple is rebuilt so it can be knocked down again . . .

Even if we look at some more apparently specific prophecies in the book of Revelation - like the rising of the Anti-Christ - we run into disagreements over who that might be.    It seems as though a new AntiChrist pops up every few decades.  The internet tells me that the Anti-Christ has been proclaimed a number of times, including such notables as Nero, Napoleon, Stalin, Hitler, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Barak Obama, the Ayatollah Khomeini, almost every Pope throughout history, and Bill Gates.  When John of Patmos, who was, in fact, of the generation already living when Jesus died, had his revelation, he was talking about the Emperor of Rome, most likely Tiberius.  But as we know, none of these has ushered in the final days.

It is pretty well known that signs and portents are best fully understood after the prophesied event has already taken place.  We even have a proverb about that - hindsight is 20/20.  I think we can safely relegate prophetic signs and portents to the realm of things that we can’t really figure out ahead of time and pay more attention to what Jesus told us to do about all this . . . Wait.  and Watch.

About today’s artwork . . . I think Leah and I have been very very good about not using cats more often to illustrate a sermon title.  I could have used the RCA dog in that famous, “His master speaks” pose with the Victrola, but you know  . . . . cat.  I almost selected a meerkat, standing and keeping a lookout for danger, but this kitten waiting at the mail slot . . . I don’t know whether he is waiting for the mail to come in the slot or for his Human to come home, but unlike the meerkat the kitten is waiting and watching for something good to happen. I think the return of the Messiah will be a good thing.  And the reason I think that is because the rabbis say the Messiah will come - or return, in our belief - when one of two things happens:  when the world becomes so evil that he must come to end the evil, or when the world has become so good that he is inexorably drawn to join us here.  I want to believe that the second is what will happen - that we will, by loving and working to end oppression and injustice, bring the kingdom of God to earth, and that the Christ will return to claim the world as his own.

You see, I believe there are more good people than evil.  We see mostly evil on the news, but that is because good news doesn’t sell.  There is an old journalism saying, “If it bleeds, it leads.”  The horrendously brutal murder is on the front page, while the story of a little girl starting lemonade stands to fund cancer research is buried somewhere behind the editorial section.  There’s really nothing we can do about that.  Well, we can share more good stories that bad ones on Facebook and Twitter and so on.  But beside that . . .  What we can do is make sure to do the good even we think if no one notices.   Legendary UCLA Basketball coach, John Wooden once said, “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching".    It’s nice to get recognition for doing good, but the important thing is to do good, whether or not anyone is watching.  The important thing is to stand against evil and oppression, even in what looks like small things.  

18th century Irish politician and philosopher Edmund Burke said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”  He was right.  Silence in the face of evil simply allows the evil to continue.

Let’s say you see one person mistreating another.  It could be a kid or even a teacher picking on someone at school. It could be a customer mistreating a server in a restaurant.  It could be someone in a hurry pushing an older woman out of his way.  The thing to do, as difficult as that might be for those of us who dislike confrontation, is exactly that - confront the bully.  Let them know that what they are doing is not acceptable.  Protect the person being oppressed.  This may seem a small thing, but small things grow and build into bigger things.  A young person who gets away with pushing an older lady out of his way or bullying a classmate will have no trouble repeating that behavior over again, and escalating that behavior.  Stopping their violence is up to anyone and everyone who witnesses it.  It is our business.  

One of my favorite commercials, which I’ve only ever seen on Facebook because it is apparently from India, shows a young woman walking along a road. Two young men see her and begin to follow her, obviously meaning her harm.  They pass her and block her path.   Another man comes along and takes a stand between her and the other two.  Then a second man joins him, then another, until there is a circle of men, hands joined, protecting that one young woman.  That’s how we love - that’s how we bring the kingdom of God on earth to reality.  We stop evil in its tracks and protect the oppressed . . . one victim at a time.  We must do good with love, changing the world into a place so filled with goodness that the Christ will be drawn to return to us.  

Back to the kitten . . . and watching . . . I don’t know about this cute little kitten, but if it was Doofenschmirtz watching for the mail to come it would be so he could chew up all the paper that comes through the slot.  I don’t know what it is with me and pets. They have all seemed to love chewing paper.  The Reverend Samuel T. Rabbit would eat any piece of paper he could find.  And Dinah, the psychotic lovebird, used to turn any paper she could get her beak on into confetti - a real problem if I’d thoughtlessly left cash sitting out on a table.   But Doofenschmirtz waiting for me, that’s an entirely different thing.  He knows the sound of my footsteps so even if he has been sound asleep when I come home - which is entirely likely as cats nap about 20 hours a day - by the time I have the key in the door he is on the window sill.  When I go to the mailbox or the laundry room, he sits and watches until I get back.  He  has no idea when I will be back, but he waits for the sound of my footsteps,  watching for the sight of me putting the key in the door.  

Jesus tells us, “about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”  Regardless of signs and portents, regardless of how this person or that tries to persuade us that the time is now, or that they are the one we must follow, we must remain steadfast.  We have no idea when Jesus will be back, but we must wait and watch carefully so we are ready when he comes.  We must prepare our hearts and the world, so that it is ready for him when he comes.  We must do good, even in the smallest ways, even when no one else is watching what we do, so that we can make the world the kind of place our Lord will want to come to.  We must be faithful, acting as if the Christ is coming back soon although we know not when, not putting off the things we know we should do but doing the good, stopping the evil, protecting the bulled and oppressed.   

Keep awake.  Be alert.   Do good.  Live in peace.  Watch.  So that the day of God might draw near.   

Sunday, March 6, 2016


Mark 1:28-44 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

28 At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31 He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

32 That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34 And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37 When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” 38 He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” 39 And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

40 A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, “If you choose, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I do choose. Be made clean!” 42 Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, 44 saying to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

You may have noticed a few things about the messages so far during Lent. 
First:  They all have one word titles.  That is because I am using the coloring pages that go with the narrative readings for Lent as the source of the titles.  Each page has a word, beautifully embellished, to be colored as a meditation on that word.  Or just cause you like to color.

Second:  None of them seem to have anything at all to do with our theme of “Walking to Easter.”  We haven’t even sung Siyahamba!   But we are walking with Jesus.  We are following his ministry, his journey through Galilee, Samaria and Judea that led him inevitably and inexorably to the cross in Jerusalem.  We are walking alongside his disciples - the Twelve and all the others, the women and others who followed and listened and learned from him.   We are hearing what he said and witnessing what he did in those days as he tried desperately to teach them everything they needed to know about what the Kingdom of God really is before the end of his road.   We have learned about Changing, Giving, Serving and Listening.  Today - Loving.

Granted, all of the messages are about love.  To have any sort of relationship with God and with each other we have to learn to love.  Jesus told us that the first and greatest commandment is to love God, and the next is to love everyone else including ourselves.  Love is the most important aspect of being a Christ follower - a Christian.  Today, we heard about Jesus healing two people - Simon Peter’s mother-in-law and a leper along the road.   
“He came and took her by the hand … then the fever left her.”
“Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him…Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean”

Now, I have been known to make some snarky comment about Simon Peter needing his mother-in-law healed so she could fix dinner for them all . . . but that’s really not what this is about.  This story is about loving and healing through love.   It’s about healing through touching.

Today’s medical doctors don’t touch us much.  I was in my doctor’s office on Friday as a follow-up after having bronchitis.  Except for a handshake when he first walked into the examination room he spent the entire visit sitting at the computer. He never looked in my throat or ears or listened to my chest.  I kind of miss the hands on approach to medicine . . . but I’m afraid my experience has become the norm.  M.D.s are beginning to be more accepting of treatments like chiropractic and acupuncture, and certainly send people regularly to physical therapists.  But they still often look down on the kinds of healing touch therapies that have become so popular lately - massage, reiki, .  Healing Touch is a big thing right now.  If you go online and search for Healing Touch you can find over 8 million listings.  Some are companies with Healing Touch in the name, some are Wikipedia entries about what healing touch is, some are blog posts, news articles, advertisements for schools teaching healing touch . . . and so on forever.   But healing touch has been around forever.  Healers have known from the beginning of human relationships that touch can ease pain of both the physical and spiritual kind. 

Jesus touched her, and the fever left her.  Jesus touched him, and immediately he was made clean.  Jesus took the girl by the hand, and she rose from her bed.  The woman came up and touched the hem of his garment, and her hemorrhage stopped.  Jesus reached out his hand, and the evil spirits left.   His touch, his loving touch, never failed.

Jesus wasn’t the only one to heal through touch, of course.  Faith healers were just as common then as now.   Some were quite famous, like today’s Benny Hinn.  We hear of people coming to faith healers in the hundreds and thousands, abandoning their canes and crutches and wheelchairs, crying out suddenly “I can hear!” “I can see!”   Some of those healers and healing are genuine. I personally do know people who have been healed by the laying on of hands by an individual or a congregation praying together. I know that nothing is impossible with God.  

Sadly, some of them are frauds.  Stories about fake faith healers are always good for the plot of any number of cop and lawyer shows on TV.  We hear how they hire people from all over to pretend to be wheelchair bound or otherwise disabled and pretending to be healed.  Often, people who truly suffer may get carried away in the moment and believe they have been healed, only to discover later that they still can’t walk more than a few steps, they still have seizures, they still have cancer.   Another thing you can find on Google is a long list of people who have been exposed as fraudulent “faith” healers, and even - much to my surprise - instructions on how to be a fake faith healer!  

Then there are people who spend their lives healing people with their hands quietly and with no fanfare - like Janice, who eases the bodies and hearts of her clients as a massage therapist.  When I was serving as a student chaplain at the State Mental Hospital, one of my classmates would come around to each of us at the end of the week and perform reiki, a sort of energy healing where she held her hands just above our shoulders and somehow eased our stress. I don’t pretend to know how it works,  exactly, but I’ve received great benefit from that kind of not-quite-touching healing.  Quite a few of my clergy colleagues also practice healing touch of various kinds. 

Any one of us can bring healing touch to another.  Perhaps the first thing I learned when I began to work with older adults was the healing power of touch.  So many who live alone are rarely touched with affection or care.  Even those who are in retirement communities and care facilities go without a hug or any sort of caress and are starved for some kind of loving touch.  Gently holding or stroking someone’s hand when you visit can make a every difference in their day.  

There are sorts of healing through love.  Many of you know that Pastor Josue and his congregation go out on Saturdays to distribute food.  They randomly pick a street corner and set up their truck, so they can give food to whomever shows up and pray with them. On February 20th they went to the corner of 4th and Grove.  Little did they know that earlier that day a homicide had been committed on that very corner.  The people of that particular neighborhood were in desperate need of the healing touch Pastor Josue and his people brought to their corner that day.  

Jesus was filled with pity for him and touched him . . . immediately he was made clean.   

According to the dictionary, pity is a feeling of sorrow and compassion caused by the suffering and misfortunes of others.  It is a by-product of love.  You cannot pity - you cannot know compassion - if you do not first love.  You cannot heal another, if you do not first love.  Healing is more than making someone feel better.  The doctor made me feel better by providing medications to take away my bronchitis.  But healing required the kind of loving touch that I received at other hands - ice cream from Marsha, oranges from Elmo, phone calls and emails from various people checking to see how I was doing.  Although the antibiotics took care of the physical illness, wholeness came from knowing I am loved.  Healing came from knowing I am loved.

When the people of Judah were suffering under evil kings who cared only for their own power and property, the prophet Jeremiah asked, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored?”  (Jeremiah 8:22)   Later, Jesus would say,  “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick;  I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance.”  (Luke 5:31-32)  Jesus came to touch us with love, so that we would be made whole, restored to spiritual health, and learn to love others so we, in turn, could restore our world to wholeness.  

The Good News is that there is, indeed, a balm in Gilead.  There is a physician who came to heal the world and restore it to wholeness. There is a way of living and being, rooted in love, that has the capacity to heal every soul, fill every heart, ease every spirit.  That way is the way that Jesus the Christ taught us, and continues to teach us - loving one another as we are loved.

When we go out from this place today, let us remember that we are sent out to love so that we may heal the sick at heart, comfort the prisoner of depression and loneliness, cast out the demons of self-loathing and despair, and welcome into our family those who feel they don’t belong anywhere.  Let us go out with love, to touch all those whose hearts are weary, whose souls are sick.  Let us go out to be that balm, that healing ointment, our love poured out on our neighbors as Jesus also pours his love out upon us.  Let us go, and restore wholeness in this fragmented world.