Week in the Word: Embracing Healing From Unexpected Places

I’ve been taking a little break from my sharing of reflections to daily readings in our Week in the Word, to share some messages from the life of Christ.  This is a sermon I preached at the chapel at UNC Hospital during my chaplain residency on John 9.

I hope this message inspires you and gives you peace wherever you are broken and in need of Christ’s healing touch.

And I ain’t just whistling Dixie!

Your progressive redneck preacher,

Micah

micah spring hat

John 9:1-15

9:1 As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. 9:2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 9:3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.  9:4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work.  9:5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

9:6 When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, 9:7 saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see.  9:8 The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9:9 Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.”  9:10 But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?”

9:11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” 9:12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”  9:13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind.  9:14 Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 9:15 Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.”

The Word of God for the people of God.

Thanks be to God. Amen.

sitting in despair“Why?  What did I do to deserve this?”

This is a question all of us ask in times of crisis, when our health hits rock bottom, when those close to us are suffering, when we lose our job, or finances hit rock bottom.

In our Gospel reading Jesus is asked this same question.   He and his disciples encounter a man born blind.

Like most of us do in times of suffering, Jesus’ disciples want to point the finger.  “Whose fault is this?”

In the face of tragedy, we long for someone to blame.  Some of us blame the person who is suffering.  “If they just had taken care of their health, they wouldn’t have diabetes”, we say.  “What did they expect dropping out of school but to struggle at finding at work?”  “Just look at them – if they only hadn’t shot up, how would they have gotten here?”

Other times we blame ourselves – “If only I had gotten home sooner”.  “If only I had payed attention to the signs”.  “If I’d just pushed them harder to go to the doctor”.

And often we blame God.   “Why are you persecuting you?” “Where were you?”  “Lord, why have you abandoned me?”

Yet when asked why this person was suffering, whose fault it is, Jesus tells them that the blame game misses the point.  “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.”

Jesus doesn’t give us someone to point our finger at in blame.  Even though we want someone to do that sometimes, and it feels like it would be easier, life – and suffering – is more complicated than that.

jesus-park-benchInstead Jesus points us to the way forward in our suffering – not in blaming, but in recognizing God’s presence and work within our situation of pain.

This is not always easy.   In the man who is born blind’s situation, it comes through a stranger who puts mud in his eye and points him onto a path of healing.  I can’t speak for you, but a stranger putting mud in my eye is not how I would expect to find God’s presence.  It would have been easy for him to overlook that path toward healing.  Yet he is open to the path of healing God has for him – and he goes to the poor of Siloam to wash.

God’s healing presence comes to us sometimes in the voice of strangers who we might meet in a waiting room.  It may come in the hands of nurses.  It may come down a journey we would not have chosen.  It can be difficult to see, difficult to imagine.  Yet God is present on this journey, however unexpected and uncertain.

god in meAt times God’s presence comes, but in a way that brings healing without cure.  We see this in the life of the apostle Paul.   He goes through a time of suffering, and when he seeks God’s presence, he is told in 2 Corinthians 12:7-9

I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

In Paul’s case, God’s presence doesn’t come to Paul in a way that brings an end to the suffering and trials he faces.   But God is present in the midst of it, in providing him strength.

At times God’s presence may not bring healing from disease, may not bring the broken relationship back together, may not change your situation.  Yet God is present in the midst of it, just as God was for the apostle Paul – offering strength to stand, grace to carry us through.

This grace to carry us through is beautifully pictured in the words of one of my favorite songs –

There’s more that rises in the morning Than the sun And more that shines in the night Than just the moon It’s more than just this fire here That keeps me warm In a shelter that is larger Than this room

And there’s a loyalty that’s deeper Than mere sentiments And a music higher than the songs That I can sing The stuff of Earth competes For the allegiance I owe only to the giver Of all good things

CHORUS: So if I stand let me stand on the promise That you will pull me through And if I can’t, let me fall on the grace That first brought me to You And if I sing let me sing for the joy That has born in me these songs And if I weep let it be as a man Who is longing for his home

There’s more that dances on the prairies Than the wind More that pulses in the ocean Than the tide There’s a love that is fiercer Than the love between friends More gentle than a mother’s When her baby’s at her side

And there’s a loyalty that’s deeper Than mere sentiments And a music higher than the songs That I can sing The stuff of Earth competes For the allegiance I owe only to the Giver Of all good things

CHORUS

So if I stand let me stand on the promise That you will pull me through And if I can’t, let me fall on the grace That first brought me to You And if I sing let me sing for the joy That has born in me these songs And if I weep let it be as a man Who is longing for his home

Let us pray.

God I thank you that we can put aside the easy way of blame, and embrace your presence in the midst of our heartache and suffering.  I pray your hand touch our face so our eyes can be opened to see you in the midst of our heartache, suffering, & situation.   Help us to sense your grace, and join you in the journey it gives us – whether in a journey that changes the situation in which we find ourselves, or gives us the strength to stand in the midst of it.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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