We are Trinitarian, which means we believe in God, three in one. And although we are not as some of the orthodox churches, in needing to do everything in threes (just ask Maria), three is a special number. And today, I just couldn’t get away from threes.
It started with a neat suggestion from Seasons of the Spirit for a way of making the gospel passage real--“the practice of ministry,” they called it. You traced your hand (I know you all have done this!), and cut out three copies. And then, you were to think about how your hands: 1) Heal, 2) Serve, and 3) Pray. This was because they saw healing, and serving, and praying in the focus passage from Mark. Jesus healing, Simon Peter’s mother-in-law serving (after being healed), and Jesus going to a lonely place to pray.
I liked that idea that we were asked to consider where we fit into this story. Certainly, we all need healing—that’s part of the reason we show up in church. And I notice that unlike all the people who follow Jesus around, and accost him in the streets, begging to be healed, Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, doesn’t put herself forward. Very like a “good woman” of the day, she is in the background, trying not to make trouble.
But others in the household, maybe even Peter himself, or his wife, tell Jesus of her illness and Jesus heals her. And the minute she is feeling better, after the fever left her, she is up and serving again—taking care of everyone who has descended on her house. So we are like Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, and all the others, in need of healing, in need of Jesus. And many of us here are also like Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, finding ways to serve others.
We can also see ourselves in the act of praying. We are told by Paul to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:16). And whether we pray routinely or only when we get in a bad spot, we can see ourselves as following Jesus in this. We may pray when we walk in the woods, or when we lie down in bed at night, or when we bow our heads, or when we clasp others hands. We try to be like Jesus and have a prayer life.
So there we are, Healing, Serving, Praying. It’s a short sermon this week. But wait. That first hand, and the title of this sermon, is healing, not being healed. We all know we need healing. Do we all know we are healers as well?
Now I am not saying we should become a congregation of snake charmers, or charlatan healers “Be healed!” What I am convinced of, is that we are called to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, not just to pray, not just to serve, but to heal as well.
Healing comes in all types and forms. Some might be skilled in the healing arts of medicine, or therapy, or use chiropractics, or aromatherapy, or cookie healing, or friend listening, or singing at the bedside, or a workout technique, or writing that perfect letter to someone, or a thousand other ways that we bring healing and wholeness to ourselves and others.
I think Seasons of the Spirit is onto something. I invite us all to make hand prints this week, and write down ways we serve, and ways we pray, and ways we heal (or would like to learn how to heal).
Healing is something that we all need. It is something that the world needs! And that is where I tripped over the second threesome of our gospel. Because we read the Bible is discreet little sections, sometimes we might forget (or God-forbid have missed!) the week before’s reading. And so don’t see the full picture the writer is trying to convey.
In the first chapter of the gospel of Mark we have been introduced to Jesus, heard about him from John the Baptist, seen his baptism in the Jordan, heard he was tempted in the wilderness (for 40 days and 40 nights), watched as Jesus began to collect disciples by the seashore, saying “Follow me.” We are whipping along in the story when we come to a screeching halt. Days have been flying by, and now we come to Capernaum, and it is Sabbath. Sabbath: God’s day. Sabbath: our day to learn about God.
(In last week’s reading) Jesus goes to the synagogue in Capernaum on that Sabbath and teaches/preaches a spectacular sermon! He also runs into a man with an unclean spirit, who he heals. Then it says, (the beginning of our reading today) “As soon as they left the synagogue” (Mark doesn’t use the word “immediately” in this context, but you sure feel that we are moving quickly to the next important story). So as soon as they left the synagogue (and the healing there), Jesus steps into Simon Peter’s house, and heals Simon Peter’s mother-in-law.
And after she serves them dinner, it says “That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door.” More healing.
And a trifecta. Another three. In one day, in Capernaum, Jesus shows where healing is needed. In church (in the religious institutions of his day). At home (I loved one slide that said “the domestic Jesus”). And in the marketplace, in the city, in the rest of the world.
So there are so many places and people that are broken, that are possessed, that are cracked and worn-down and belittled and frightened and confused. And in one day, Jesus touches them all. And I’ve got bad news—that “follow me”—we just heard? That “follow me” that we signed onto—that we marched around the sanctuary—I think it means we are to heal, those people, those places, our very selves.
And that leads me to the last of the threes. We often think in dualities: black or white, great or insignificant, good or bad. Rarely are these accurate portrayals of reality. Here is another one. Healer or In need of healing. It is a false dichotomy. One that the great Dutch Catholic priest, Henri Nouwen, made famous as “The Wounded Healer.” I love this quote “The great illusion of leadership is to think [we] can be led out of the desert by someone who has never been there.” In other words, we can only offer healing because we have been healed (or are being healed again and again and again). We need not shirk from participating in healing because we feel we are not yet whole, or perfect. And we see this in Mark’s gospel as well. Jesus wants to be baptized like everyone else. Jesus is driven out into the wilderness (to be tested and tried and tempted, like all of us). And after Satan took his best shot—“the angels waited on him.”
Angels waited on him. Because he was higher than they were (as told in Hebrews, as some of us talked about in the last week)? No. Angels were needed because Jesus was exhausted, drained, maybe even physically ill. He hadn’t had much food or drink. He can’t have been sleeping well. He was in an inhospitable place. He had been fighting with the master of demons. He needed healing. And angels waited on him.
That is what we are called to do. Maybe we can’t see ourselves as a healer extraordinaire, like Jesus. Maybe that is something we have to grow into. And maybe we know all too well how much healing we have yet to do in our own body and mind and soul. And so we shy away from thinking of ourselves as even “wounded healers.” But God has need of angels, messengers of the gospel of love and grace and healing and wholeness. God has need of angels who come to those in need, and “wait on them.” God has need of angels with barely visible wings, and certainly NO halos, but with ready to serve hands and feet and hearts and minds.
Healer. // In Need of Healing.
The “wounded” (angel) healer.
With Hands to pray.
Hands to serve.
Hands to heal.
Healing the church.
Healing our homes.
Healing our world.
Just one day in the life of Jesus.
Do we hear the call?
Not just one day, but Every Day for us.
May it be so, Alleluia, Amen.