(Photo credit: "Jason" from Picassa)
Grace and peace to you from the One who opens the eyes of the blind, who finds us and heals our every wound. Amen.
Not to brag or anything, but I know a lot of things. I know the earth is round. I know fire is hot. I know not to stick my finger in an outlet or my tongue to a metal pole in the winter. I know I like to sing and play music. I know if I don’t put on sunscreen in the summer I will get burnt. I know I’m going to die. I know I’m alive and I exist. I know…
However, even though there are many things I do know, there are many things I don’t know. I don’t know how everything in the universe stays in balance to sustain life on earth. I don’t know why earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, floods, and disease are allowed to wreak destruction. I don’t know why all babies are not born healthy into a stable home with two parents. I don’t know what those who have died are up to. I don’t know…
Knowing and not knowing creates a delicate balance of sanity and sometimes in life there are things that happen that disrupt our understanding of all that we think we know and don’t know. For example, take the man from our Gospel reading who was blind from birth. He is in his regular daily routine and Jesus comes along, makes some mud with his spit and dirt, spreads it on the man’s eyes and tells him to go wash the mud away. The blind man obeys and then for the first time in his life he can physically see. Everything he knows is changed or seen through different eyes.
Now perhaps the story could have ended here with a happy ending healing miracle and we’d be on to the next story, but it doesn’t. It gets really complicated as life often does. First, the man’s friends and neighbors don’t believe he is the same person because everyone knows that it is logically impossible that someone blind from birth would receive their sight in its fullest, especially from a little mud and water. Then the man is put on trial before the religious leaders for saying that someone named Jesus gave him his sight. His parents end up abandoning him because they were afraid of being excommunicated. And last but not least, the man is driven out from his own community of people when he told the facts of what happened to him. I mean, this guy cannot get a break after his encounter with Jesus! He regains his sight, but he is cast out of the community in a whirlwind, wondering what has just happened to him.
This story leads me to ponder the questions: What is healing, and how can we know we have healing in our lives? We are all in need of healing: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual healing. There will never be a time in our earthly lives that we will not be in need of healing. We get hurt by all kinds of things and people and words. We hurt ourselves and others. There is not one person in here who has not experienced brokenness in one way or another. This is why we began our service this morning with a healing rite. If you came up for prayer and anointing, you may feel different, you may not. Sometimes healing takes a long time and your experience this morning might be something that affects you years down the road.
In my own life I can rarely tell if and when healing is happening; however, I am able to recognize it when I look back a week, or a month, or a year ago, and realize how far I have come and how differently I feel. In her book, When the Heart Waits, Sue Monk Kidd, writes: “While the spiritual journey is joyous and full, it’s also long and hard (p. 24).”
Healing often comes when we take a long, hard look at ourselves and confront what is poisoning us: bad thoughts about people, self-hating words, holding grudges, abuse, addiction, depression, and among other things, death. Many of you arrive here at YCC and don’t want to be here. You have had so many awful things happen to you and it’s hard to know where to even start. But when I listen to you, especially to those of you who are getting ready to leave, you have been able to take an honest look at your life while you have been here and you have begun to let your life get pieced back together.
In our story today of the blind man, we know he gets kicked out of his community, away from all the people who are familiar to him. It is in his exile in which Jesus intentionally seeks him out and finds him to encourage him and be with him when no one else could.
This might feel like a time of exile for you away from your friends and family and all you know. It is difficult, but now that you are here, how might your time in this place be a time of healing for you? How might you let yourself get pieced back together with the help of staff, case workers, teachers, counselors, chaplains, and people sitting in the pews with you? Healing can come in and through many ways and God wants to work healing in all of us. Jesus says in John 6.37, “…anyone who comes to me I will never drive away.”
Healing comes when we feel the grace of God in our lives, whether that is through forgiveness, acceptance, love, music, prayer or laying on of hands, etc. We don’t always know how it all works, we can only tell about the change when it comes.
There is a man by the name of John Newton. John was born in London in 1725. He has a very interesting story and part of his story is that he was brutally abused by a slave trader, and was publically flogged for fleeing the conditions of the ship on which he sailed. He eventually became the captain of a slave trading ship, with all its brutalities and horrors.
“Although he had had some early religious instruction from his mother, who had died when he was a child, he had long since given up any religious convictions. However, on a homeward voyage, while he was attempting to steer the ship through a violent storm, he experienced what he was to refer to later as his “great deliverance.” He recorded in his journal that when all seemed lost and the ship would surely sink, he exclaimed, “Lord, have mercy upon us.” Later in his cabin he reflected on what he had said and began to believe that God had addressed him through the storm and that grace had begun to work for him (http://www.anointedlinks.com/amazing_grace.html).”
John gave up slave trading and eventually became a pastor. You might not know it yet, but you probably know John’s story about God’s grace and healing in his life through the song he wrote: Amazing Grace. Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see. At 82, Newton said, "My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things, that I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Saviour." (http://www.joyfulheart.com/misc/newton.htm)
This is what John knows. This is what the man born blind knows. In verse 25, the man answered the Pharisee’s question about Jesus: “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” Sometimes the one thing we do know is all we have in the moment. The one thing we know becomes an open door into a world of faith and healing (text study with Peder), where everything that happens cannot be fully explained. All we can do it witness to what we know to be true.
There is much about life and death I don’t know, but this is what I know to be true about God because of Jesus:
I know God loves you and me and all of creation. I know God desires healing, wholeness and life for us all. I know God offers God’s grace freely to any who desire it. I know God forgives, and I know we won’t always have all the sadness and junk in our lives because God is making all things new (Rev. 21.5).
To conclude, I’d like to recite what a person by the name of Sun Ai Park from Korea knows:
All the broken hearts shall rejoice;
All those who are heavy laden,
Whose eyes are tired and do not see,
Shall be lifted up
To meet with the motherly healer.
The battered souls and bodies shall be healed;
The hungry shall be fed;
The imprisoned shall be free;
All her earthly children shall regain joy
In the reign of the just and loving one
Coming for you
Coming for me
In this time
In this world.
(Sun Ai Park, Korea, All Will Be Well: A Gathering of Healing Prayers. Ed. By Lyn Klug, p. 55.)
Thanks be to God.