Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Healing, Hope, and Proclamation in Christ

Pastor McCarty's Sunday Sermon
Christ Lutheran Church, Staunton, VA
February 8, 2015
Tags:  Isaiah 40, Mark 1, Healing, Hope, Proclamation, Community

We move back upstairs for worship this morning, but we bring with us that sense of community formed by our worship downstairs.  To that community, our scripture for this morning adds Hope, Proclamation, and Healing.  That is what these lessons are about.  Hope comes from the Isaiah passage...

  It is he who sits above the circle of earth,
    and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
    who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
    and spreads them like a tent to live in. (Isaiah 40:22)

And even more hope later...

  He gives power to the faint,
    and strengthens the powerless.
  Even youths will faint and be weary,
    and the young will fall exhausted;
  but those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength,
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
    they shall run and not be weary,
    they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:29-31)

Proclamation you hear in the first sentence of Paul's passage. (I won't read that verse again.) To be clear, the proclamation he is talking about is the good news that you have in the cross of Jesus Christ. Good news that not only the Corinthians had, but good news that you have as well. Healing, of course, comes to you in the Gospel lesson. Though to be frank, the Gospel lesson has healing, and hope, and proclamation. All three are wrapped up in this one lesson.

Obviously, Jesus heals the sick. Perhaps that just might be your favorite image of Jesus. Jesus is the one who heals the sick. You and I believe that, and at times desperately hang on to the image of Jesus healing in stories like our gospel lesson. Jesus heals. Jesus cleanses the lepers. Jesus heals the man with the withered hand or the woman who could not stand up straight. Good stories that go back to our childhood lessons about Jesus. And yet, sometimes you lose the good news of the cross of Christ, if all you know is Jesus the healer. The gospel risks getting lost because healing itself is not the end result. Healing leads to hope. The gospel about Jesus is a little bit about healing. The gospel is a whole lot about hope. Amen.

To get you thinking about hope, I invite you to consider the possibility of healing. Just remember how miserable you felt when struck down by a common cold or a stomach virus. Paul's mother in-law had a fever; she laid in bed with a fever. Most of us have been there, done that, don't want to do it again. Now consider the possibility of healing. Even the possibility of healing leads to hope. Hope inspires in you ideas for what you can do when you finally feel better. And hope fulfilled when you do feel better leads to activity, and energy and thankfulness and joy. Praise God.

One of Jesus healing miracles was a man with a withered hand. I had a teacher whose right arm and hand had atrophied.  She would always keep her arm close to her side. Gary Burghoff, the actor who played Radar O'Reilly on MASH actually had an undersized left hand. Though he could still do quite a few things with his left hand, including holding a football or coffee cup, or clipboard. But for the man with a withered hand, or my teacher, imagine living and adjusting to life with essentially just one hand, and then having the hope of healing. What might you do first chance you got with your healed hand? Those who have ever had a broken arm or broken leg might remember that image of hope connected with the day the cast comes off. Jesus brings hope, and that hope changes you for the better. Amen. Sometimes that hope comes from healing. Sometimes that hope of Jesus making us better comes from the promise of forgiveness. Sometimes that hope, that being better in Christ comes from being nurtured by this holy word, strengthened by this Holy Supper, and blessed in the remembrance of your baptism.

Here is a point for you beyond proclamation, and healing and hope. Jesus brings hope, and that hope changes us for the better. And that hope changes us for the benefit of the community. Jesus heals Simon's mother in-law, and she responds in an appropriate way, through service. Later that evening you hear, it is not just her, the whole city gathered around Jesus. The whole greater community came to where Jesus was. He stood in the doorway and the whole city gathered. “The whole city gathered,” those words exactly, and “they brought all who were sick or possessed with demons.” “They brought all,” those words exactly. Why did they bring all? They brought all, because they had hope. And hope is powerful. The word choice is interesting, what comes next. They brought all, Jesus healed many, not all, just many. Jesus healed many with various diseases. He cast out many demons. Now, you cannot be sure why Jesus did not heal all. You can trust that the community is stronger because of those who he does heal.

While lifting up healing, the gospel does not let you make healing the end all and be all of the message. As Jesus will remind those closest to him and you as well, healing is not his primary purpose. At the end of the Gospel lesson Jesus is off praying, because that is what Jesus does, he goes off to solitary places and prays. When Simon and his companions finds him, Jesus instructs them, “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.”

Proclamation: Jesus proclaims “God with you” to these neighboring towns. Soon, though not yet, the proclamation will shift to “The Son of Man will be lifted up...” and also, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son....” And the proclamation of the Good News will be accompanied by signs. Healing is one of these signs. Forgiveness is another sign of the proclamation. Miraculous feedings is another sign of the blessing of Jesus message. This worship is a sign of the proclamation and a beacon of hope. For the sake of this community, you are made better and stronger by this proclamation. You are fed and nurtured by the holy meal. You live in your baptism. Jesus changes you for the better. Praise God. You and I live in this hope, we are recipients of healing and we share in the proclamation of Christ our savior. Amen.