This is a post I wrote last month on my work blog. I'm trying to get back into posting here, and am sharing some things that I've either written or loved in the last few months.
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Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, ‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened.’ And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. -Mark 7
Sometimes I come across something—a poem or a prayer or a piece of artwork—and it just sort of undoes me. I just had that sort of moment, and I’m struggling to wrestle something big and glorious and TRUE into this space here, because I’m excited to share it with you.
This morning a co-worker sent me a link to this sermon delivered yesterday by Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber at the Festival of Homiletics that took place this week in Nashville. In his email my coworker wrote, “I thought about it as a blog post, but I’m not sure what I’d pull out or what I could add to it. The whole thing is terrific.” And that’s just it. What more can you say when faced with words of truth that knock you clean off your feet? But I’m going to try, because I’m stubborn like that.
What Nadia is getting at in her sermon is the ways in which we all tend to look for the most “broken” person in our midst, and get all holy, praying for God to heal THAT person over there. She examines the otherwise-unnamed “They” in the passage above, and how “They” begged Jesus to heal their friend.
Hey Jesus – we, the people who are just fine brought you the broken guy so you can fix him... I can’t help feeling like it would have been more realistic if all of the THEYs who brought the deaf man to Jesus would have also sought healing for themselves... But that’s not how we operate, see. We tend to let the obviously broken people carry all the brokenness for us.
The scripture doesn’t tell us what the deaf man himself wanted, but it does tell us particularly that Jesus took the man aside “in private, away from the crowd.” And what Nadia points out is that the words Jesus uses to effect healing in the deaf man is not “be healed” but “be opened.”
We so often think healing is about identifying what’s wrong and then having that thing cured, but I wonder if spiritual healing has more to do with being opened than it does with being cured.
Because, let’s be honest, it’s usually easier to not change and it’s painful to be open and healing can hurt. Like a frostbite patient … when the blood comes back into the extremities it’s incredibly painful. It can actually be more comfortable to allow parts of ourselves to die than to feel them have new life. Because sometimes healing feels more like death and resurrection than it feels like getting a warm cookie and glass of milk.
Rev. Nadia had me at “be opened.” Part of my own story is that I lost my father to cancer earlier this year, after months of dear and faithful friends praying for his healing. Now, cancer is an evil disease, truly, and praying for healing is a good thing to do, but for my dad, he wasn’t healed—at least not from the cancer—which caused a lot of pain for those who were faithfully praying for healing. But you know what he was?—he was opened. He was fully opened to the love and presence of God, in a way that I’ve never seen him, even after six decades of good and faithful Jesus-following. And that was truly a miracle that I got to witness.
Beyond my own story, though, is the reminder that this sermon was explicitly crafted for and delivered to PASTORS. It’s important, I think, not to miss this point, because it’s those of us who spend our lives working for the care and healing of others who often miss how deeply in need of healing WE are. So I invite you to click on this link, invest the six minutes that it takes to read this piece thoughtfully, and prayerfully consider what Jesus is saying to you today. I am praying with you, for the healing of us all.
Be opened to what Jesus is saying to you.
Be opened to the idea that your value isn’t in working 60 hours a week for people who might not even be paying attention.
Be opened to knowing that your own brokenness doesn’t need to be hidden behind someone else’s brokenness.
Be opened to the idea that you are stronger than you think.
Be opened to the idea that you aren’t as strong as you think.
Be opened to the fact that you may not ever get what you want and that you will actually be ok anyway.
Be opened to this whole Gospel of Jesus Christ thing actually, actually, actually being real. And actually being FOR YOU.
Because maybe that’s what healing really is.
Since the radical reign of God that Jesus ushers in destroys the systems of designated sick people and designated well people so that all that is left is a single category of people – children of God.