Sermon – February 4, 2018 – Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

Mark 1:29-39

Jesus’ healing stories are among some of my favorite in our entire body of scripture. I find great hope when I read them. Jesus shows up. Jesus seeks out. In these stories Jesus rarely holds back, healing those in need almost instantaneously. And in response to being healed, those people’s lives change forever. In their healing they are repurposed, they go out and share the good news of Jesus with people (even when they’ve been told not to), they serve, they become bigger parts of their communities. What is there not to love about these healing stories? This healing story, however, gives me some pause.

After Jesus heals Simon’s mother in the privacy of their home, somehow the word gets out that this Jesus is someone who can work miracles. So the entire town shows up at the house; Everyone in the city crowds around the door, bringing anyone they knew who was sick, hurting, or in need of healing. Here’s the part that makes me a little concerned: the story says that Jesus then “cured many who were sick with various diseases and cast out many demons.” The story tells us that Jesus cured many but not all. That means that there were people there that day, desperately wanting healing from Jesus, that went home with the same illness they came with. There were people there that day that witnessed others be cured but still found themselves hurting. There were still people whose lives were controlled by demons.

Church, I have been living with anxiety and it’s effects since I was a child. I have lived with depression. I have lost all of my hair. There has not been a week in my life that I haven’t prayed and wished and asked that I not have to live with these illnesses. When I read this gospel story I cannot help but feel like I am one of the people who walked away that day without healing. Maybe you have felt this too. As we go about life we witness people die way too soon, we witness people who have been overcome by horrible, life-shattering illnesses, people who have struggled with things they should never have to struggle with. When I read this passage my heart aches because I ask, “why couldn’t have Jesus have healed them too?”

Here’s the thing though and here is where I am finding hope in this story: I wonder if our expectations of healing are different than Jesus’. See, often when we think of healing, we think of someone being made physically, psychologically, or emotionally perfect. Often times when we think about healing we think about someone being fixed or cured but I wonder if Jesus just may be getting at something a little different. See, there were other healers at Jesus’ time. There were people who dabbled in magic who healed, the religious institutions held rites that healed, there were other miracle workers. Jesus traveling around and simply healing, bringing people back into wholeness measured by their perfection would be nothing new.

What Jesus was doing was different. Jesus wasn’t trying to be the latest sensation, he wasn’t trying to be magician. His purpose was clear: Jesus was bringing a different kind of healing. This healing came with a message that the reign of God was at hand. In this new reign of God, one’s personhood is not defined by their struggles or illnesses…but by the love of God. In Jesus’ healing, who you are does not need to be fixed, how the world gathers around and sees those in pain, those who struggle, does.

This is why nearly all of Jesus’ healing stories in our scripture have an immediate effect on the community. The person who is healed is changed, yes, but the community in which they are a part is also changed and remolded for a bigger purpose…one that serves God. Wholeness in these healing stories is rarely about a person becoming restored to perfection. Instead, they are often about the healed person being brought back into connection and community. When the person possessed by demons is released, they are brought back into a community that once shunned them.  When the person with leprosy is healed, they are able to be around people again. When Peter’s mother-in-law was raised she was able to fulfill her vocation— to do the things she was made to do with purpose and meaning. These stories are not about magic, they are not about fixing; these are stories of communities being healed from the brokenness that sickness, disease, and mental illness can bring. You don’t need to be perfectly healed to experience the healing that comes in community.

Proclaiming the Kingdom of God for Jesus is about healing but it’s not about fixing. Jesus’ healing demonstrates what God’s reign actually looks like. God’s reign is communities coming together to rally around someone who is hurting. God’s reign is communities that embrace each other, no matter what they are going through, even when it would be easier to just ignore the problem. God’s reign is saying, “So, you got that diagnosis. Stay strong, we’re going to get through this together and when you’re not feeling strong, we’ll be strong for you.” There is nothing more healing than the power of true community.

For those of us today that are feeling like Jesus’ healing has passed us by, hear this: You are not your diagnosis. You are not your stigma. You are not your demons, your disorder, or past, or your future. Who you are at your core, as a beloved child of God, does not need to be fixed. Jesus knows that we are not defined by our stuff. But it is up to us as Church, the hands and feet of Jesus, to ease one another’s pain. Because remember, even Jesus does not go about this work of healing alone. Even Jesus, God’s own son, could not keep up with the brokenness of our world. So he commissioned his followers, he asked for help, to go out into their communities and share this message—to heal, cast out demons, preach the Good News, and most importantly, baptize because we all need a tangible reminder of God’s ever-present embrace through the yuck and muck of our very human lives.

So, what does healing look like in our community? Healing looks like providing space for people to be themselves. Healing looks like not ostracizing others for their past or present struggles. Healing looks like embracing one another no matter what we each are going through…even when we cannot understand it. Healing is bringing communion and community to people who cannot be at worship. Praying. Sharing meals. Worshipping in the midst of brokenness and confusion—not in spite of it and definitely not in denial of it. Healing is to ask for help and to offer help. Healing is telling someone that they’re not alone.

Whatever you are seeking healing from, know that you have not been forgotten by Jesus, but Church, we have work to do. It’s up to us to continue Jesus’ work of sacred healing, the real healing that brings us together and shows us the reign of God. May we all show up here to Church every week and expect to meet Jesus just as we are. And in the community that is cultivated here, may we all experience healing.