And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity. (Luke 13:12 KJV)
He healed her. He saw her, stopped what he was doing, and healed her. There, amid the flurry of everything else going on – the teaching, the gathering, the fellowship, and the Sabbath activities in the synagogue – He healed her.
Yet all some people saw was a reason to denounce and criticize. They criticized Jesus for offering healing and the woman for accepting the healing. What is wrong with some people? Why do some people have to look for the worst in every situation, even if they must completely fabricate some imaginary evil? Such people display symptoms of spiritual diseases that need to be healed. They cannot experience the joy of their salvation because they are focused on all the bad they can conjure instead of the good right in front of them. An African-American Spiritual includes the verse:
There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin-sick soul (African-American Spiritual)
Those who were blessed were those who saw through the cloud of distractions and thereby became a part of the rejoicing. Her healing became their healing, and her joy became their joy. Those who participate in the recovery from the margins experience wholeness alongside those at the center. Look for the various types of healing moments throughout the Bible. In current news events, look for how the world’s problems are being addressed to bring healing, wholeness, solutions, and salvation.
Manuscript of the sermon preached on August 21, 2022, at Briensburg UMC [Video]
11th Sunday after Pentecost
Psalm 103:1-8; Isaiah 58:9b-14; Hebrews 12:18-29; Luke 13:10-17
God forgives us and heals us.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; (Psalm 103:2-3 KJV)
God invites us to join in the work of bringing wholeness wherever there is brokenness, even if it is only the proverbial cup of water given in the name of Jesus (Matthew 10:42). Forgiveness is the heart of the Gospel because forgiveness brings reconciliation and wholeness to everyone involved with whatever brokenness and heartache they share.
With the Psalmist, we bless the Lord from deep within our souls as we remind each other of all the ways God has provided for us and helped us and strengthened us, and healed us in all kinds of difficult circumstances. John Newton expressed his praise in the hymn “Amazing Grace:”
Through many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,And grace will lead me home. (John Newton)
God invites us to participate in the forgiving and healing process.
And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon day. (Isaiah 58:10 KJV)
There are many forms of affliction and infinite forms of healing. Whatever the hurt, God’s love addresses the solution with wholeness. We may not recognize the good if we only let ourselves see what we want. We pray with Jesus, “nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42 KJV). We trust God with the methods and outcomes. We say with Isaiah, “Here am I send me,” as we offer “our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness” (UM Baptismal Covenant). We watch with anticipation to see not whether but how God is answering our prayers and not whether but how God is empowering us to be part of the solution.
When we encounter a situation where healing is needed, let us pray that God will show us our part in the process. Our part may only be the prayer itself, or perhaps a word or an action that comes to us during our prayer or later in our reflection. We are empowered to look for an opportunity to minister our spiritual gifts to bring improvement to the situations we encounter, no matter how insignificant our role may seem. The tiniest act of goodness and generosity contributes to the whole of the healing process when combined with everything else God and other people are also doing.
The Message translates the last half of this verse, “Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once. Your righteousness will pave your way” (Isaiah 58:10 MSG). It’s the pathway to Heaven and the pathway to joy. When we look for good where others only see bad, the proverbial light shines on our path and makes our whole lives brighter.
Today’s Bible readings encourage us to focus on the healing in every situation.
But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just people made perfect, And to Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant… (Hebrews 12:22-24 KJV)
Some people may prefer to walk in the darkness and murkiness of conspiracy theories, gossip, and smoke screens of fear, hatred, and misinformation. But we are invited and called and challenged to the “Higher Ground” Johnson Oatman, Jr. wrote about in his hymn:
My heart has no desire to stay
Where doubts arise and fears dismay;
Though some may dwell where these abound,
My prayer, my aim, is higher ground.
I want to live above the world,
Though Satan’s darts at me are hurled;
For faith has caught a joyful sound,
The song of saints on higher ground (Johnson Oatman, Jr.)
This passage in Hebrews assures us that we have “not come unto the mount that might be touched, and burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest” (Hebrews 12:18 KJV). We have come to a spiritual place, a heavenly place, full of goodness to be shared with all those who have come to see the good in everyone (even those who have yet to realize the good in themselves).
The Cokesbury Hymnal has this song by Thoro Harris:
Look for the beautiful, look for the true;
Look for the beautiful, life’s journey thro’.
Seeking true loveliness, joy you will know,
As to the home above onward you go.
Think of the beautiful, think of the pure;
Only the beautiful long can endure.
God to His lowly ones “giveth more grace”;
None but the pure in heart look on His face.
Speak of the beautiful, speak of the pure;
These to eternity fadeless endure.
Error shall vanish soon, evil decay;
God and the beautiful pass not away.
Look to the stars of light (not down to earth);
All that is beautiful there had its birth.
Upward and forward go, looking above;
There is the dwelling-place of perfect love.
Look for the beautiful, seek to find the true,
God and the beautiful will dwell with you;
Look for the beautiful, seek to find the true,
You shall be beautiful, beautiful within. (Thoro Harris)
Wherever we encounter any form of brokenness, let us minister some form of wholeness. We may not realize how much good we are doing. Let us always look for the good in every person and every situation. Let us see in the world what God saw each day of creation and called good – “very good” in the King James Version (Genesis 1:31 KJV). Let us see in ourselves what God sees in us that motivated God to send Jesus to be our Savior. Let us see in each other what Christ saw in the people whose lives he touched with forgiveness and salvation and healing.
I close with these words from St. Paul to all of us through his Letter to the Philippians:
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. (Philippians 4:8 KJV).
In the Name of Jesus, Amen.