Sunday, February 15, 2009

Hiding the Healing - A Sermon

5 Epiphany

February 8, 2009

There was once a boy who always carried a bandaid with him because his big brother was a scout, and their motto was “Be Prepared.”  One day he was out playing with his friends, and one of them got a cut.  Out comes the bandaid, and they go on playing.  A couple of days later, they’re out again, and another friend gets a cut.  They go to the boy, and out comes another bandaid.  After that, friends start coming to him for every little cut.  He has become “Bandaid Boy.”  They even get mad at him when five kids come to him at once, and he only has two bandaids. 

Bandaid Boy is a lot like Eternal Doorman.  You probably know Eternal Doorman -- maybe you’ve been him.  You know, you’re going to a restaurant, and you hold the door open for someone (to be polite).  Only, the second you turn around, you discover there’s a quarter-of-a-mile-long line streaming in behind that one person, and you can’t figure out how to get into the restaurant yourself.  Someone even hands you a tip!  

Well, Jesus is like the bandaid boy -- or the endless doorman.  Suddenly, that’s how people see him when that’s not what he came for.

He healed Peter’s Mother-in-Law out of compassion. (For Peter’s mother-in-law, it’s more than physical if only because hospitality was so important in those days -- people went into debt to practice hospitality.  It meant everything.  If she’s sick in bed, she can’t practice it, and she feels shame.  Worse than shame.  If she’s the householder, it’s a big deal.  So, for her to be able to get up and serve is relief.) Which seemed to spark a chain-reaction of everyone wanting healed -- and he couldn’t refuse.  So he took off in the morning even though everyone was looking for him.  He wanted to get back to what he came for.


The point of this gospel is that physical healing isn’t the point.  It’s not bad per se, it’s just not the point.  Sure, he healed many because it was the compassionate thing to do, but if Jesus came to raise the dead and heal -- then why would he pick and choose (discriminate)?  And Why would he stop?  Because it’s not the important thing in the big picture.  

What he really came to heal was our relationship with God, the relationship that is way beyond physical.  Because no matter how many times our bodies are healed, we know we’ll die.  We all do.  Healing is always at best temporary.  God’s love is eternal.  

That doesn’t mean we don’t heal those around us.  Of course we do to the best of our ability!  Jesus healed those who asked -- that’s compassion -- but he had to make it clear that it wasn’t his maid task or our main concern.  So do we.

Of course there’s another way to hide the healing going on -- refuse to see it.  When we see God at work -- heck when we refuse to see the good going on around us -- we have hidden the healing that is at work in the world all the time. 

Small example: A comedian named Louis CK was talking about how we live in an amazing world -- and nobody’s happy.  One small example he gave was airplanes.  He said nobody ever says, “Wow, I had a great flight.  We took off, we flew through the air, we landed safely.  I love it!”  No, each flight is a nightmare because they only served peanuts.  Or that the internet -- at 30,000 feet in the air -- was on the fritz.  Or that we had to wait for 40 minutes while they de-iced the plane.  How about looking out the window and thinking -- what a miracle that we can sit in a chair in the sky and go from coast to coast in a matter of hours, not months. 

There are more subtle miracles, too, and we refuse to see them as well.  People whose bodies fail them but who grow so deeply in their souls through a long sickness that they are healed even as they die.  People who find peace in the midst of turmoil, large and small.  This is healing, and we often miss it perhaps because we’re not looking.

This seems to be what Isaiah was getting at when he chides the people of Israel for not seeing God at work.  He calls out in frustration to the people, “Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these?”  God’s work seems hidden -- because we choose not to see it.  We too often see only the surface -- hidden healing sees deeper.

So, there are two types of hidden healing -- the kind Jesus hides so he can get to the main point.  So he doesn’t have to be bandaid boy or the eternal doorman.

And the kind we hide because we can’t see the miracles before us -- when we’re the airplane riders complaining about poor internet reception -- when we can’t see God at work before us. 

It seems the remedy for us all is to heal others as best we can -- and to celebrate the healing that is all around us -- but to remember that it’s the deeper, hidden healing in our souls that matters most of all.  Amen.