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Preach and Heal

Sermon for 7/22/2012         By:  Reverend Pete Gdula

Based on the Gospel reading of Mark 6:30-34,53-56.

In today’s Gospel we find Jesus doing the things he felt most compelled to do.  No, not looking for rest and food or sailing around in a boat.  Although, it is interesting how he climbs into the boat once but exits twice.  For a moment it seemed that one of us; either the writer, Mark, or myself were having a Yogi Berra moment and it was “Deja vu all over again”!    It wasn’t until I saw the citation showing that we omit several verses that I understood what didn’t seem right.    What then, are the things that Jesus was doing?  One prominent modern day mystic, the Franciscan monk Father Richard Rohr, suggests that in the context of all four gospels, Jesus does primarily two things:  He preaches and he heals.  He preaches and he heals.  Here we find just that.  First he preaches:  We see Jesus’s compassion and sympathy for these people who came to him from all over the land; for in his eyes they are like “sheep without a shepherd” and he begins to teach them.  They come to him with their questions and he gives them answers with words to live by.  They carry the ill to him on cots and mats and lay them down to simply “touch the fringe of his cloak”, knowing that by doing so they would be healed.  And he healed them – without complaining – even after what seemed to be a failed attempt to get some rest, food, and more than likely – time to pray.  As Christians, upon hearing this, we no longer need to ask ourselves the question; “What then should we be doing as followers of Christ?”  If we listen to the Gospels in earnest it certainly would be; “preach and heal.”  And so it is that we, too, should preach and heal.

Now I’m sure you’ll agree with Richard Rohr and me in also observing that we, as Christians, preacha great deal more than we heal!  And we preach it well!  We know all about every subject imaginable and the moment we see somebody doing something wrong we begin to preach.  Being human, I am as guilty of this type of preaching as the next person, my family can vouch for that, but preaching at someone – which is what it really is in this case – can easily turn into negative based, guilt induced, scare tactics that heals nothing.  When we preach at people we come to believe we are the finest orators and lecturers in the world.  We tell people what they should be doing in order to be healed.  And it doesn’t stop there; we get preached at through social media, radio talk shows, and reality TV – which by the way – are frequently mistaken as legitimate sources of information, when in reality, they merely serve as poor entertainment venues; venues that more than a few people use as their personal agendas to spread and foster division and fear.  They teach nothing, and keep us on the surface of every issue they confront.  Seldom does this type of preaching produce the type of healing that is necessary for us to grow in truth and spirit.   Our preaching must teach.  It must be formidable and informative, giving the people something to use in life that will allow them to grow and help others to grow.  This is how we preach the Word of God.  Preaching in ways that teach; teachings that plant the seeds of hope, and nurture our ideas into mature and functional practices.  Preaching is a wonderful way to spread the word of God and educate folks with information and inspiration, but let’s not forget that it should also heal.

In nearly every service in the prayer book, from the daily office to the Liturgy of The Word and beyond, we include intercessions for prayer.  And most of those are prayers asking for healing, mostly healing from physical ailments and life challenges that need our attention.  But there are many things that need to be healed.  In our families and communities we need to heal brokenness of spirit, faulty behaviors, and strained and battered relationships.  In our places of work we may need to heal moments of anxiety and frustration from every day conflicts.  In our schools we need to heal layers of resentment and fear, built up from years of bullying, abuse and neglect.  Throughout our world and societies we need to heal centuries of segregation and divisiveness that stem from our misinterpretation of written words and errant speech.    We need to heal a world that at times seems to be beyond help from the damages done to our environment, and the damages done to so many souls from an utter lack of decency and respect towards those who appear different from us….

And of course, we need to heal the riffs that are currently being started by those who have attempted to ignite sparks; sparks of discontent among a church that continually seeks to do the preaching and healing that Jesus tells us to do by taking ourselves out into the world and putting action to the spoken word, a church that already has the shepherds who the people are looking for and are already in place doing the work that is ours to do.

The list of things that require healing goes on and on.  Each person has their own identity with their own struggle and their own history, and each person is to be respected for who they are.  And if their identity is not something we can visually or intellectually relate to or it makes us feel uncomfortable, then that just may be a signal that perhaps there is something there that we can learn from – that will prevent actions that require healing in the future.

Yes, there are primarily two things that Jesus does throughout the Gospels:  He preaches and he heals.  As members of the body of Christ, they are ours to do as well.  I mentioned that it was a Franciscan monk who brought this to my attention.  It reminds me of another monk – the one who started the order which it is named after.  St. Francis understood what Jesus wanted us to do maybe more than most people ever will.  And he said it so well by his actions that it’s one of his most famously quoted instructions:  “Preach the Gospel at all times.  Use words only when necessary.”  It goes along wonderfully with Jesus’s own words, “They will know you by your love.”  As is my duty as your deacon at the end of the service when I dismiss all of you, I’ll be using words quite similar to this that echo these instructions, may you then and every day, truly go into the world to preach – and teach – and love – and heal, just as Jesus showed us.  Amen.

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