We continue on with our “Why I Come To Church” series with the topic, healing. Enjoy!
Rehoboth Congregational Church
August 21, 2016
Summer Sermon Series, Why I Come To Church: Healing
Healing Happens In Community
For those of you who do not know, my mom underwent surgery on Wednesday afternoon; a mastectomy following a July breast cancer diagnosis. She is doing very well and happily recovering at home.
This surgery came on the heels of a less-than-stellar summer for my mom’s family. While my mom and I were in Europe, we got word that her uncle had passed away after a valiant battle with pancreatic cancer. Less than a month later, my mom called to tell me that her mother, my grandmother and, at that point, the only living member of that generation of our family, had died unexpectedly.
Now, I am not sharing this to get your pity or anything, but to point out the irony of God’s timing. Early in the week, as I was discombobulated and working quickly to put together today’s bulletin in order to be out of the office and in Connecticut for my mom’s surgery, I said out loud, “Okay, so what is the topic of this week’s ‘Why I Come To Church’?”
You can imagine my delight when I opened my worship-planning document and looked it up.
Well that is a loaded one for me right now.
Last summer, I preached on one of the healing stories from the Gospel. I was struck, as I read that particular story, how much the physical act of touch played a role in Jesus’ healing and so I asked John Haynes, who was the deacon that month, what he thought about me offering a short sermon that week and then creating a space for healing prayers; a time when we literally laid hands on every single person in the church and prayed over them; a time when we acknowledged the unexplainable nature of God’s healing and yet trusted that it was real.
Neither one of us really knew how this was going to work (and I would be lying if I said we were not a little bit nervous to do something so touchy-feely with a group of mainline New England Protestants), but suffice is to say, it exceeded all of our expectations. As we prayed over people, we embraced their stories and shared the burden of their struggles. There were moments when we wept; when our words seemed insufficient.
And yet, it was holy. It was powerful. It was real and raw and hard and exactly what we were supposed to be doing. When John and I walked back up to the chancel after it was over, we just looked at each other with our eyes wide open, as if to say, “What just happened?”
Well God happened; and even though Jason Bacon slammed his finger in a car door about an hour after church was over, I do believe that real and powerful healing happened that morning.
I was so deeply moved by that worship service that, when we started planning our summer sermon series, I asked Anne Marie if I could be the one to preach on healing. Honestly, I planned to do the same type of healing prayers.
And yet, this scripture – a scripture that I chose kind of arbitrarily, long before this challenging summer started – really is not about the healing that we do not understand. It is about healing that we do understand; the healing that happens in our midst; the healing that we are a part of; the healing that I saw this summer.
This scripture talks about Jesus moving through villages and teaching people, sharing the Good News with them and healing those who were sick and hurting. The need was great; scripture describes the crowds of people who were in need of hope and healing like “sheep without a shepherd.” And so at the end of this passage, there is a call; a call to the disciples to go out into the world and do what Jesus was doing; teach people, share the Good News with them and heal those who are sick and hurting.
Here’s the thing: Jesus knew his time on earth would be brief. He knew he needed to commission a group of people to carry out the work he started and to pass this call on to this next generation so that, long after he died, healing would still be real and powerful.
Healing happens in community. While I am certainly not denying the unexplainable and divine healing that happens in our lives, I also know that real and powerful healing happens when people come together in a spirit of faith and conviction and work tirelessly to meet the needs of others.
I have seen healing in community happen this summer. It happened in the form of greeting cards, thoughtful emails and text messages filled with heart and prayer hand emojis. It happened when people all around the country lifted my family in prayer. It happened when meals showed up and flowers were delivered. It happened when family and friends checked in with us over and over and over again. It happened when people intentionally filled our lives and the spaces we were in with positivity. It happened when the love surrounding us was so great that our tears turned into laughter and our fear, pain and sadness turned into peace.
Healing happens in community; healing happens here in community.
What we are doing here matters. Here we meet people wherever they are on their journey through life and walk alongside them. Here we help them find healing. Here we seek to meet people’s physical needs as well as spiritual needs. Here we allow people to be broken and vulnerable. Here we pray for one another. Here we laugh together and cry together. Here we hold onto the sacredness of one another’s struggles and make a promise that we are all in this together.
Today, instead of throwing myself a pity party for a challenging summer, I am choosing to celebrate the healing that I witnessed in the midst of it, the healing that was created in community.
And I am also making a pledge; I pledge to intentionally create a space of healing in this community so that others will witness what I have witnessed and so that the work of Jesus will continue on in our generation.
So here is what I need from you: After church today, as we gather on the lawn and eat cookies, drink lemonade and shop at the farmers market, please do not ask me how I am doing or show me pity me in any way; while I do want to be honest with you all about where I am at, I do not want to spend our gathering time after church talking about it.
Because there is something much more important that I actually do want to talk about: I want to talk about is how we can create healing in this community. I want to talk about how we can help the people in Louisiana whose lives have been devastated by flooding. I want to talk about how we can reach out to the families in our own church who are struggling. I want to talk about how we can actively respond to the concerns and celebrations that will be shared shortly. I want to talk about how this church can make a difference in our community and in the world. I want to talk about how we can be the hands and feet and face of Christ to the people we love when they need it most. I want ideas, I want passion, I want excitement and I want energy. I want to see joy in your eyes and call and conviction in your hearts.
So let us go forth and, like the disciples, be labourers of the harvest that God is gleaning in our midst. May we create healing. May we find healing. And may we believe that healing is possible.
Thanks be to God!
 Matthew 9:36, NRSV
 Matthew 9:37-38, NRSV – the passage reads, “Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.” I have always interpreted this passage as the harvest being the work of God on this earth and the labourers as us, those who God calls to work and minister in the world.