Hope for the “Walking Wounded”

Text:   Matthew 9:18-26

            Remember the TV commercial that showed sick kids and a sick husband lined up outside a closed door—apparently waiting their turn with the doctor?   Finally the door opened and standing there in a white lab coat with spoon in hand to administer the cough medicine the ad was selling, saying…”Next!!….was “Dr. Mom”.

The commercial was trying to cash in on the known fact that in spite of all our advanced scientific knowledge and medical expertise—We all still long to be cuddled, coddled, and cured by the loving care of a parent or other loved one—-no matter what our age!!

            Obviously, Dr. Mom can give us what no one else can give—-Love.   And that is a very powerful medicine for the healing process.

Last night on CBS News  “On the Road” I saw another example of the power of love to heal.   It told the story of a man and woman, both in their 70’s,  who both needed heart transplants and were deteriorating rapidly health-wise and were barely able to take care of themselves.   They found each other, fell in love and now the doctors are astounded—what medicine could not do to heal their hearts has been done by their love for each other.   They are healthy and thriving and enjoying life!   The power of love is astonishing!!

Jesus message that he brought about God and showed by his ministry is that our God is a God of love!    The power of that love to heal a broken humanity is still present in the world.    Our wounds can be healed and so can the wounds of others through our loving them as God loves them.

The theme of this sermon, based on the text read, is that not only does love heal us, but it helps us to heal others.   We not only may be healed by our faith in the love of God for us—-but we as a church can participate in the healing of others through that faith and love for God.   Faith and Love heals!   Without love that comes through faith in God’s love for us; without specific caring, ‘making a healing connection’ is often impossible.   Faith and Love open up that connection between a healer and the one who desires to be healed!!!

That is what we see in the story of the woman hemorrhaging that is our text for today.   Jesus’ love and compassion for the woman and the faith that the woman had that he could heal her is what led to her healing.    It was a dangerous thing for this woman to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment—-especially with her condition, because she was ritually unclean and would spread that uncleanness to this Rabbi that she touched.   Yet she did it!   She did it out of faith that she could be healed by this loving Rabbi.    And Jesus turned and addressed her directly—-but with profound gentleness and love, and offered her encouragement to “take heart” and opened his own heart to this woman by addressing her as “daughter.”   While Love is not the cause of the healing that takes place, it is the only environment in which healing can occur.   And the woman’s faith in the healing power of Jesus’ love for her led to her healing.   Jesus told her:   “Your faith has made you well!”

            The faith of the woman was demonstrated by her actions—-just to touch the fringe of his garment would be enough.

 Faith and love are what link together the healing power of God with the wounded parts of our lives today, also. Through faith we can also receive God’s healing touch on our own woundedness and then pass it on to others around us.

And we are wounded in many ways and in need of God’s healing power today.          

            There’s a story told about a company of soldiers during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, who were surrounded and were facing fighting there way out..   The company commander ordered one of the men to get in a jeep and drive it.   The man objected:   “Sir, I’m wounded”.   And the commander answered:  “Son, we’re all wounded—-get in an drive!!”

            And so it is with our world today.   All of us, in a sense, are among the “walking wounded”

Some of the wounds are self-inflicted:

We betray a marriage partner that we love and suffer the loss of trust by that person and perhaps the breakup of a marriage and family.

In our relationship with those we love, we take actions that strain those relationships and result in our loneliness, fear, remorse, and misery.

We act to take revenge for a supposed wrong and invite the revenge by the person toward which we aimed our actions—-and both are harmed and wounded.

We abuse our bodies with substances that are harmful to us and reap the result of poor health, sickness, death.

We work long hours and neglect our families to the point they turn away from us and leave us lonely and feeling unloved.

But some of the wounds are ones over which we have no control:

An accident, heart attack or cancer strikes us or one we love quickly and our lives are changed in an instant.

An accident leaves us crippled for the rest of our lives.

A stroke takes away our ability to do what we love to do and changes our lives forever.

We lose a loved one in a tragic accident or illness and are left alone and hurting.

We lose our jobs through lay-offs when a new employer takes over a business and are left bitter, disappointed, and anxious as to how we will care for ourselves and our families.

In my work as a hospice chaplain I was taught to assess patients for four types of what we called  “spiritual pain.”   They are:

Meaning painwhat significance do our lives have?   What meaning does our life have to us and to others/    Whatever has significance for our lives defines our reason for existence.   If we can find no meaning, then there is no reason to continue to exist, and we are in “meaning pain”.

Forgiveness Painmore often than not the most challenging person to forgive is not someone else, but ourselves.   However, all of us have been let down, dishonored, abused, lied to, cheated on, and somehow diminished in life and spirit.   Forgiveness is not condoning that, denying it, or forgetting these wounds.   Forgiveness is the willingness to let go of the other person’s “jugular”  as someone has said.   We need to surrender the right to get even with another.   And don’t forget that we need to forgive ourselves–sometimes the hardest thing to do.   If we don’t, we are in “forgiveness pain”.

Relatedness PainThis is pain caused by a strong sense of separation and alienation from loved ones or from a job or a role or an identity. It often happens when roles change from caregiver to the one taken care of.   Or when we no longer can perform our occupation that has defined our existence.

Hopelessness Pain Referred to as the “terminal illness of the human spirit.”   It is to believe what the Italian poet, Dante, wrote over the gates of Hell in his poem, The Inferno.   “Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here!!!”    Sometimes the loss of hope is not connected so much to one particular event but to a cumulative set of losses.    “Hopelessness”  pain is the worst pain of the four types.

In Hospice I also saw another kind of pain that I would add to the above list—-Religious Pain.   That is pain that has been experienced at the hands of the church or at the hands of fellow-Christians, or even a pastor.   It leads to the spiritual pain of feeling that God has abandoned us—that God no longer loves us!     That is Hopelessness pain to the nth degree.

When dying persons are experiencing one or more of these types of pain we found in hospice that it is not possible to give enough morphine to ease the pain of the patient.    Not until these 5 types of pain are eased could we ease the physical pain of the patient.

Yes—-truly all of us are “walking wounded” in a sense—-either through self-inflicted wounds or by those over which we have no control—-or both   All of us!!

 Just as the woman with a hemorrhage reached out to Jesus in faith and was the recipient of his love and healing—-so must we reach out to claim his love and healing power for ourselves and for others.  

Remember that our faith links the healing power of God with the wounded parts of our lives and the lives of others.  

We need to reach out to God’s  love for us  for the healing of ourselves.

We need to reach out to God’s love in prayer for the healing of others.

We need as a church to be a “healing place” where the love of God may be felt and seen in our actions towards each other and toward others.We need to be a “nurturing” place for the wounded people of our world. Remember that the mission of the church is  ” to live the Great Commandment in our community and beyond.”

 

Let me close with this story—-and a challenge…….

            A holy man was having a conversation with God one day and said,  “Lord, I would like to know what heaven and hell are like.”

The Lord led the holy man to two doors.   He opened one of the doors and the holy man looked in.   In the middle of the room was a large round table.  In the middle of the table was a large pot of stew, which smelled delicious and made the holy man’s mouth water.

The people sitting around the table were thin and sickly.   They appeared to be famished.   They were holding spoons with very long handles that were strapped to their arms, and each found it possible to reach into the pot of stew and take a spoonful.   But because the handles were longer than their arms, they could not get the spoons back into their mouths.

The holy man shuddered at the sight of their misery and suffering.

            The Lord said, “You have seen hell.”   

They went to the next room and opened the door.   It was exactly the same as the first one.   There was a large round table with the large pot of stew which made the holy man’s mouth water.   The people were equipped with the same long-handled spoons, but here the people were well-nourished and plump, laughing and talking.

            The holy man said, “I don’t understand.”

It’s simple” said the Lord. “It requires but one skill.   You see that they have learned to feed each other.   That is why it is heaven.

There’s a world out there beyond our doors and even within our doors that’s dying because they haven’t heard and experienced God’s love for them through Jesus Christ and directly through us.   They are “walking wounded.”  

 Will you feed them?  Will you nurture them with your love and God’s love for them?   Will you aid in their healing through your love and God’s love for them?   Will you be healed yourself by God’s love for you?

 

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