Services of Healing / June 8, 2008 / Matthew 9: 9 – 13, 18 – 26 God Is Good!
How did God know? As I began preparing for today’s sermon, it dawned on me that when we chose this particular Sunday for our services of healing (which we try to do on a quarterly basis), I didn’t even think to look at today’s lessons, especially, the Gospel lesson. And so you can imagine the number of prayers that suddenly shot up to heaven as I started to turn through the Bible in hopes of being pleasantly surprised by what I prayed would be a text on “healing”. All I can say is…God is good (all the time).
In fact God is so good…that we have been blessed with not just one but three stories of healing that Matthew has intentionally woven together for us to hear. In fact they are meshed so tightly together that it is hard to discern where one ends and another begins.
That is why in your bulletin, we have intentionally divided the text into three distinct settings…much like a three course meal…that is intended to be digested all at one time. Which is my way of saying…get your napkins ready, because the first course is about to be served.
How appropriate for us that the call of the disciple Matthew ends up at a dinner table…with Jesus surrounded by all of Matthew’s so-called ‘friends’. They say that “birds of a feather flock together”...which is why it should come as no surprise to learn that folks didn’t cotton to the fact that Jesus was spending way too much time with the likes of Matthew and his ‘friends’.
Didn’t he know that tax collectors were the most despised of people…and for very good reason? Even when Jesus tried to explain that it was the “sick” who needed his attention, not the “well”…they still didn’t get it. That is why Jesus said what he said, quoting the prophet Hosea, quoting God:
‘I desire mercy…not sacrifice.’
While the religious folks of Jesus day were perfectly willing to write off the likes of Matthew and his ‘friends’, Jesus was not. According to Jesus…it was mercy that was to prevail. And that mercy was to be extended to everyone…without exception.
All it took was two words spoken by Jesus…and the man who had lost his way was suddenly back on track…and well on his way to a full recovery. Matthew, of course, standing in for every one of us here today. How did Jesus know which words to say? Again…all I can say…is God is good (all the time)!
Our second course begins with Jesus being interrupted by a man who should have known better. A leader of the synagogue comes from out of nowhere and kneels at Jesus’ feet…imploring him to come and lay his hand on his daughter’s now lifeless body…in hopes that she will live. One of the things Matthew wants us to be sure and not miss is that this is one of the rare occasions where we then see Jesus follow someone else.
Without saying a word…his actions speak volumes. Jesus will go wherever he is welcomed with open arms…even to those presumed to be dead. And if I didn’t know better…I would say that that includes every single one of us who have been baptized into the life, death, and resurrection of this same Jesus.
Our third and final course is one that tugs at everyone’s heart strings. Sandwiched between the other two is the story of a woman who knows full well that she is in dire need of God’s healing touch. No doubt she has tried everything that she can to bring healing to her body. Every one of her doctors has told her that her time on this earth is limited. And that she needs to just get out there and live.
But what do we say to those folks whose life circumstance has become at best…difficult. Difficult to get around due to lack of mobility. Difficult to concentrate on one’s health because we see it slipping away if every so gradually. Difficult to simply let go because in the letting go…we just might end up with nothing in return.
And so begins a day in the lives of Phil and his wife Betty. Having been married for 64 years, Phil found himself visiting Betty every single day on the Alzheimer floor of their building. On a good day, Betty would recognize Phil and even engage in polite conversation as they strolled outside in the gardens. On a bad day, Betty couldn’t even recall Phil’s name or who he was in relation to her.
On the day that the Pastor came to visit, the sun was shining and the garden made a perfect place for celebrating holy communion. The only problem being that Betty didn’t have a clue who the Pastor was, who Phil was, or why they were even there.
And yet, she was able to take the wafer and dip it into the chalice of wine…without spilling it or seeming to get confused. But it was when it came time to say the Lord’s Prayer that things really started to gel. From somewhere deep down inside of Betty’s memory came the remembrance that this was a very special prayer…a formula of sorts that she had memorized as a child going through Confirmation Class.
And so when the Pastor began to pray…to everyone’s surprise, Betty took the lead and said every single word from memory, making sure that she was good and loud. It was a formula for success…allowing her to once again join in the family of faith.
Too many times, we find themselves in search of a magic formula that if followed, we believe…will increase our chances for a better life. That is what the woman suffering from the bleeding problem had finally been reduced to believing in.
“If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well,” she said.
When Jesus turned and really looked at her for the very first time…he couldn’t help but be moved. She was doing the best she could with what she had left, and the only thing she had left to draw upon was her unshakeable faith in God to provide.
When nothing else was left…it was her faith in God that made all the difference. And even that was a gift.
Which leaves just one thing left to say: God is good (all the time). Amen