Author Archives: trevor

The Way To God

The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ According to Mark.

Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo
great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and
the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.
He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to
rebuke him.
But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said,
“Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine
things but on human things.”
He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want
to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their
cross and follow me.
For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose
their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.
For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their
life?
Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?
Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous
and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed
when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”( Mark 8:31-38)

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If you have little children, then you will know about self-centeredness.
They think the sun shines only for them, don’t they?
A six-year old boy was asked, “Are you in Linda’s room at school?”
He said, “No, I’m not – but she’s in my room.”
Most of us grow up to realise the world doesn’t revolve around us.
Apparently Teddy Roosevelt was one who didn’t.
One of his children said about him, “ Father always wanted to be the
bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral.”
We are all a little self-centred if we were to admit it. I took part in an
event once, and did quite a lot of work behind the scenes. At the
evening’s end, the MC came out and thanked everyone by name –
and left me out.
I like to think that I am selfless. I like to think that anyone can call on
me at any time – except my day off!!! – and I will be there, without
thought of reward, or praise, or even thanks. But when that list of
helpers was read off and my name was omitted, I felt pretty bad.
That was a lesson to me. It told me that I am not immune to the need
for recognition.
We all want to be appreciated, don’t we?
But Jesus said, “If any of you want to be my followers, you must
forget about yourself. You must take up your cross and follow me.”
A person wanting to follow Jesus must say ‘no’ to themselves and
‘yes’ to Christ.
Doing stuff for people for the joy of doing it!
Not for the thanks!
No-one could ever accuse Jesus of sugar-coating what it means to
be a disciple, could they? These days, leaders check the polls to see
what people are thinking, what people want them to do, before
venturing anything.
But great leaders tell it like it is.

In the days of the Second World War, when Winston Churchill took
over the leadership of Britain, he didn’t offer tax breaks, increased
funding for health care. He offered ‘blood sweat and tears.’
That was it!
Garibaldi, the great Italian patriot, appealed for recruits to his cause
this way: “ I offer neither pay, nor quarters, nor provisions; I offer
hunger and thirst, forced marches, battles and death. Let him who
loves his country in his heart, and not with his lips only, follow me. All
our efforts against superior forces have been unavailing. I have
nothing to offer you but hunger, and thirst, hardship and death; but I
call on all who love their country to join with me.”
Jesus, similarly, never sought to attract followers by offering the easy
way. He sought to challenge them, and to waken the sleeping
chivalry in their souls, by the offer of the highest but the hardest way
possible.
He didn’t come to make life easier for people, but to make them
great!
And he never asked anyone to do or face anything he was not
prepared to face himself.
There was a time when Jesus had perhaps a hundred followers. If
you remember he sent out seventy-two at one time to tour the
surrounding villages to bring them the Good News.
But eventually, he was left with the twelve, and a number of women
who followed him.
And finally, when he hung on that cross, the women alone remained.
Virtually all his remaining followers would be tested, some unto death,
as they brought the Gospel to those in darkness.
Those who had been fishermen found greatness, not by being great
fishermen, but by bringing thousands of men and women to a
knowledge of Jesus.

Instead of trying to save the life they had, they found new life serving
him, and witnessing to others.
And they were glorified!
‘Whoever loses his life for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel,
shall save it. What will you gain if you own the whole world, but
destroy yourself?’
Here is a story of someone who owned all the world had to offer, and
was very nearly destroyed; the story of the losing of a life and the
finding of it.
A young woman named Marian, born in Hungary in 1913, was raised
in a castle with her aristocratic family, surrounded by maids, tutors,
governesses, butlers and chauffeurs. Her grandmother, who lived
with them insisted that whenever they traveled they would take their
own sheets. She didn’t feel it right, that when staying in a hotel, they
should sleep on sheets that the ‘common’ people had used.
While at school in Vienna, Marian met a handsome young Viennese
doctor. They fell in love, eloped, and married when she was only
eighteen. The marriage lasted only a year, and she returned to
Vienna to begin life as an actress.
While auditioning for a play, she met the brilliant young German
director Otto Preminger. They fell in love and married. They went to
America soon afterward and he began his career as a movie director.
Unfortunately, Hollywood is the pre-eminent place for selfcentredness,
as she wrote later. It was about people biting,
devouring and consuming one another. Marian was caught up in the
glamour, the lights and superficial excitement and was drawn into
living a sordid life.
When Otto found out he divorced her.
Marian returned to Europe to live the life of a socialite in Paris.

Then in 1948 she read in the newspaper that Albert Schweitzer, the
world-famous organist and humanitarian, was making one of his
periodic visits to Europe, and was staying at Gunsbach. She phoned
his secretary and made an appointment to see him the next day.
She found him in the village church, playing the organ. She listened
for a while, then went forward and turned the pages of his music. He
invited her to have dinner at his house.
By the end of the day she knew she had discovered what she had
been looking for all her life. When Schweitzer returned to Africa, she
went with him to work in his hospital in Lamberene.
That is where Marian lost her old life and found new life.
The girl who was born in a castle, and raised like a princess, who
was accustomed to being waited on, with all the luxuries of a spoiled
life, became a servant.
She changed bandages, bathed babies, fed lepers – and became
free!
In her autobiography, All I Ever Wanted Was Everything , she said
that she could not get the ‘everything’ that would satisfy, and give
meaning, until she had learned to give everything.
When she died in 1979, the New York Times carried her obituary,
which included this statement from her. “Albert Schweitzer said there
are two classes of people in this World – the helpers, and the nonhelpers
– I am a helper.”
God gave us life to spend, not to keep. If we live carefully, always
thinking only of our own needs – profit, ease, comfort, security – if our
sole aim is to make life as long and as trouble-free as possible, then
we are losing our life all the time.
But if we spend our life for others. If we forget health and time, and
wealth and comfort in our desire to do something for Jesus, and for
all those men and women and children for whom Jesus died, then we
are gaining life all the time.

Where would we be without the efforts of the doctors and scientists
and inventors who were prepared to risk all to serve mankind –
sometimes experimenting on their own bodies?
Where would we be if explorers, pioneers, ground-breakers, had all
decided to stay at home in front of the fire?
What would happen if every mother refused the risk of bearing a
child?
What would happen if everyone spent all they had on themselves,
with no regard for others?
What would this world be like if Jesus had not given his life for it?
We gain life by using it, not by saving and hoarding it.
I admit that is the way of weariness, and exhaustion – of giving to the
utmost.
But it is surely better to burn out than to rust out.
For that is the way to real happiness.
And the way to God.
Amen
6

W W A B O G D

The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ According to Mark

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.

And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.

And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.

He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

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This is the first Sunday of Lent.

We talk about Lent being a time for self-examination and reflection, don’t we?

It’s kind of like taking your car in for a mid-winter check-up,

Let’s face it, the weather has been pretty bad, and the old car has been out in the snow and ice, and it’s not performing up to scratch.

Like our lives, at times.

We have gone through some ups and downs, some trials, some stress, and maybe we are not firing on all our cylinders.

So maybe a spiritual check-up wouldn’t be out of line.

I hope though, that your spiritual check-up doesn’t go the same as most of my automobile check-ups have gone.

You put your car in for the special that is advertised. Not a bad price, just to keep things running well – change the oil and filter, flush the radiator and refill it – check the belts and fluid levels – what could be simpler?

Until you go to pick up your car.

The service man looks at the worksheet from the shop, punches a number into the computer and it starts to print… and print… and print.

Either it is printing some student’s essay or you are getting one big bill – again.

There was a lot more wrong with the car than you thought.

The personal check up can be like that too.

Let me see now, I attend church on Sunday – well most Sundays – well at least once a month.

Then I say grace at meals. Well, when the kids are there. You want to teach them to be thankful, don’t you?

Then I try to read a bit from the scriptures each day, although it gets to be once a week, or even once a month, if I even open the bible at all.

And I try to be honest in everything, but…..come to think about it ….I haven’t really been straight up honest……and when I think about it, I did do a bit of backroom manipulation to get that job ahead of old Smitty – he’s too old to do it anyway… and come to think about it, I haven’t really been open and honest with the wife – not totally, that is….and it’s like when you pick up your car, isn’t it?

It all begins to add up.

And you begin to wish you had never looked at it.

What the heck, it’s impossible to live a perfect life, so why bother?

I used to think, when I was a callow youth, that the churches made up rules that were impossible to keep, so you could never feel perfect.

Let’s face it, if you were perfect you wouldn’t need to come to church, would you now?

There was method in their madness.

Well I’ve grown a lot since then, and I know that no human being can live a perfect life.

Except the man Jesus. We are told that there was no sin in him. He was perfect. But he was a man, and Satan figured it was worth a try.

So the Son of God was tempted, as we are.

The Gospel of Mark doesn’t spell out how Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, but the other gospels do.

He was offered the kingdoms of earth.

How did he manage to resist that one. Human beings have killed and maimed, and died because men have dreamt of ruling the world.

How is it that when people sucked up to him it didn’t turn his head?

How is it that when people said wonderful things about him, he didn’t use the power that he had, to set himself up as a king or something.

How is it that when people condemned him, he didn’t falter?

How is it that minutes before he died, hanging on that cross, he asked his Father to forgive those who had done that to him?

Because who he was, was not dictated by power, or by wealth, or by reputation. No. He knew who he was. When he was baptised, in the River Jordan, God told him,” You are my beloved.”

That is how Jesus defined himself – as the beloved of God. That is who he was and he would let nothing take that from him.

When he rode into Jerusalem, he was greeted by adoring crowds.

He could easily have seen himself as a king. He could have led them in a crusade against the Romans.

He didn’t because he knew who he was.

Days later, people began to conspire against him. To besmirch his reputation.

He wasn’t being called a king now. He was being called a threat to the peace, a rabble-rouser.

How is it that this didn’t destroy his sense of well-being?

He knew who he was.

Soon, the crowds, egged on by those who conspired against Jesus, called for his death.

Surely this must have shaken him?

No, he knew who he was. Beloved of God.

In our own baptism, and in our own surrender to him as Lord, we are acknowledged as beloved of God, We are God’s children, his sons and daughters.

There are acronyms, printed on bracelets, and tee shirts, and bumper stickers. One is WWJD. It used to mean, “What would Jesus do?” Nowadays, it also means, “What would Jesus drive?” It is meant to draw our attention to what SUV’s are doing to the environment.

I can give you another. WWA BOGD.

What Would A Beloved Of God Do?

See, I think Lent is a time to reflect on our relationship to God, and to be defined by that, as Jesus was, and let that relationship direct what we do.

Should you cut out chocolate for Lent?

W W A B O G D

I think a beloved of God would do everything in his or her power to maintain a fit body, so as to be able to serve God better. If that means resisting the temptation to eat harmful foods, or overeat, then so be it.

If we define our selves as beloved of God, as Jesus did, then questions such as that are academic.

It becomes merely a question of what a beloved of God would do doesn’t it?

I tell you, that covers everything. And everybody!

I read a story some time ago that said football great Bubba Smith had sworn off booze. Off Miller Lite.

Not drinking it!

Selling it!

Bubba never did drink, but he sold a ton of beer being in cute TV ads, and at games.

He said, “I loved doing the commercials, but I didn’t like the effect it was having on a lot of little people. I’m talking about people in school. Kids would come up to me on the street and recite lines from my commercials. Verbatim. They knew the lines better than I did.

“It was scary. Kids start to listen to things you say – you ought to tell ’em something that is the truth.

“Doing those commercials, it’s like telling everybody in school,’ Hey it’s cool to have a Lite beer.’ I’d go to places like Daytona Beach and Fort Lauderdale, on spring breaks, (as a spokesman for the brewery) and it was scary to see how drunk those kids were. It was fun talking to the fans, until you see people lying on the beach because they can’t make it back to their rooms – or tearing up the city.

“As the years go by you stop compromising your principles.”

It seems like Bubba Smith had a spiritual check-up and saw something that needed fixing.

Things come up, don’t they? Temptations. Maybe not to make very lucrative beer commercials, but things come up that are tempting.

Maybe asking the question, “What would a beloved of God do?” would guide us in making decisions about such issues, such temptations.

And God said to Jesus, “You are my beloved and I am pleased with you.”

As imperfect as we are, God could be could be saying that to you and me.

Couldn’t He?

AMEN.

Thy Way Not Mine

The Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to.Mark

Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. ( Mark 9:2-9 )

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I am sure you must have been in one of those old stone churches such as you find in Europe, knelt there to pray, and become very aware of the quiet and peace that is to be found there. It’s like being in another world.

You see, the walls are mostly of stone, two or three foot thick, so outside sounds are reduced to a murmur. Moved by the quietitude, visitors walk softly, and talk in low tones.

There is a sense of history, of eternity almost, in one of those buildings, built nearly a thousand years ago. You can almost hear the whisper of countless prayers said, over the centuries. God’s presence seems to be echoed in the very stones of that old temple.

You kneel there and are steeped in the moment. You pray quietly, then rise and reluctantly head toward the great doors.

You open the door and are almost blinded by the sunlight, and deafened by the noise of traffic and commerce, and the tumult of a city full of people, and suddenly, rudely, you are back in the present, your priceless moment of transcendence, gone!

It is that easy to lose sight of God isn’t it? With work to do, places to be, you can easily be swallowed up in the tumult of our everyday world, and slip into a routine that just doesn’t include God. It’s not quiet enough, and there is never enough time.

It says something about Our Lord that he didn’t lose sight of God. Today’s Gospel falls almost into the exact middle of his ministry, as he now turns his face to Jerusalem, and the cross.

But Jesus needs to be sure he is doing what His Father wants. He takes three disciples with him and climbs Mount Hermon to pray.

His Father’s will was first in Jesus’s mind.

I was reading a book recently, and in it one of the characters mentioned the inscription on his family crest. Translated from the Latin, it said, “ What’s in it for me?”

It could have been written today, couldn’t it? That’s the story of today’s world.

We don’t generally do something unless there is something in it for us. The government had to introduce tax refunds on RRSP investments or we wouldn’t put money away for our old age.

Any advertisement has to have something beyond a plain description of the item being sold. Buy it today and you will get a free tote bag.

You have to explain the benefits.

I remember hearing about a company that wanted to introduce a new pension plan. The only condition the company imposed was that everyone had to belong. Everyone!

Wouldn’t you know it, there was one man, the old warehouse manager who refused to join the plan.

The people from Human Resources told the company president how they had explained the premiums, and that the company would double their employees’ contribution. They told him how the pension would be calculated, and roughly how much he could expect, and so on, but he just wouldn’t agree to join.

The President said, “I’ll talk to him.” He stomped down to the warehouse, and said, “Jack, don’t be such a horse’s rear end. Sign that form or you are fired.”

And the man signed.

Later, one of his warehouse buddies asked him why he had changed his mind. He said, “No-one had quite explained the benefits like that before.”

There have to be benefits, don’t there?

And the church is as bad. All along we have preached that Heaven will be our reward, and Hell will be our punishment, and sure enough, millions signed on.

I guess the rationale was to save their souls in any way that they could

These days you ask people why they come to church and they may say, “ I come for the fellowship,” or, “ It is my time to find some peace and quiet,” or “ I feel better after I have been to worship.” Or, “ I need my spiritual batteries charged,”

You know the sort of thing. They are all good reasons.

I don’t care if people come just for the free coffee. They might hear something that will encourage them to follow Jesus.

But when Jesus prayed, he wanted to ensure that what he was doing, was what God wanted, not what he wanted.

I would bet that the most quoted phrase of John F. Kennedy’s is “Ask not what your country can do for you, but rather, what can you do for your country.”

That’s a noble thought isn’t it? I wonder how many people, how many business leaders, how many politicians, would subscribe to that sentiment today.

Companies move from country to country in search of the lowest taxes and rates of pay; politicians increasingly work for partisan interests; in this economic climate people can’t feel loyal to their employer – they might be laid off tomorrow.

“Look out for yourself, because no-one else is going to do it,” is the cry.

But the call to Christians is – paraphrasing Jack Kennedy – “Ask not what God can do for you, but rather, what can you do for God.”

That’s what Jesus is doing on Mount Hermon – seeing what he can do for God.

He is seen by his disciples in conversation with two men, Elijah the greatest prophet and Moses the greatest law-giver. These two men are the twin peaks of Israel’s religious history. The two greatest figures in Israel’s history came to Jesus and witnessed to him that he should go on.

In them, all history rose up and pointed Jesus on his way. To Calvary!

Then a bright cloud envelopes them, and the voice of God is heard, “This is my Son the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!”

All the gospel writers write about the luminous cloud which overshadowed them. That cloud was part of Israel’s history. It stood for the shekinah, which meant nothing less than the glory of God.

The Israelites, in the desert, built a tabernacle according to the pattern given to Moses by God. When it was finished, this same cloud filled the tent. This cloud led Israel through the desert. This cloud is associated with the Exodus – the departure of Israel from Egypt, when a nation entrusted God to lead them into and through the wilderness.

That same shekinah, the glory of God, descended on Jesus as his own exodus lay before him. It was this experience on the Mount of the Transfiguration which enabled Jesus, resolutely, to go on.

To knowingly walk to his death.

Peter – action man – wanted to build three shelters for Moses, Elijah and Jesus. But also, unusual for him, he wished to stay on that mountain. He wanted to prolong the moment. He was reluctant to return to the world below. He wanted to hold onto the transcendence.

Those precious moments when we sense God’s presence, are always more enjoyable than rolling up our sleeves and actually doing something, aren’t they? Much nicer than taking up our cross.

It is always encouraging, I think, when people linger after church, talking to each other, relishing the moment. But maybe it would be better if people were so excited at what they had just heard, or experienced, that they rushed out to tell a friend or neighbour about it. Or just had to hurry home to put into practice what God has laid on their heart to do.

‘I just can’t stay for coffee, I have to get home and rush off a letter to President Biden.”

Or, “Like to stay, but I have got to send off a cheque to support a child in Africa.”

Relishing the moment and wanting to prolong it are alright as long as we realise that when we leave we should be taking the presence of God with us. That’s one of today’s challenges. To remain within His presence.

But it’s not always a comfortable thing to do. It’s easier to leave Him in church isn’t it?

It’s in our human nature to want things to be as comfortable as possible, and sometimes, in the process of being comfortable, we allow God to slip out of the equation.

We become complacent.

There is a story about a clergyman went into the bedroom, and surprised his wife in the act of hiding a shoebox under the bed. She said shyly, “This is the only secret I have ever had from you. Please don’t ask me to explain.”

As you might imagine, he was consumed with curiosity, and later, while his wife was out he snuck into the bedroom and opened the box. Inside was a big wad of money, and three eggs.

Being a holy man, though, he had to admit to his wife, what he had done. He asked for her forgiveness, and then asked her what it was all about. After a bit of persuading, she explained, hesitantly, “You see, every time you preached a boring sermon I would put an egg into the box.”

“Well,” he started to say, “ In eight years, three eggs isn’t that bad…………”

“Then” she said, “When I had a dozen I would sell them.”

Maybe this minister had become complacent. He had found a way of banging out a sermon every week without too much effort.

It was working for him, but it wasn’t always working for God.

Maybe, it is time to ask God, “ In this life of mine, conscious as I am of the gifts, the skills, you have given me, Lord, what’s in it for you?”

Jesus was always praying wasn’t he? What could he be doing all that time, in prayer?

You can only say the Our Father so many times.

He was checking in, that’s what he was doing. He was checking his life, the way it was headed, the things he was doing, the direction he was taking, the journey he was on, to see if everything was in line with what his Father wanted for him. He made sure there was something in it for God.

How would you know otherwise? If you don’t ask? If you don’t offer?

Are you doing what your God wants you to do? When you consider your life, do you ask, “ What’s in it for me?” or “ Lord, what is in it for you?”

The words of the old hymn have special meaning for us today:

Thy way not mine O Lord,

However dark it may be!

Lead me by thine own hand;

Choose out the path for me.

Not mine, not mine the choice

In things great or small;

Be thou my Guide, my Strength,

My Wisdom, and my All.

Amen.

You Should Have Been There !

The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ According to Mark.

As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.
Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door.
And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him.
When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.”
He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.”
And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons. (Mark 1:29-39)

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This is Vestry season, isn’t it.  It is the time in the church, when we  look back on the past year, to recognize what has gone well,  and to look forward, and to plan for the coming year.

Outside of church, of course,  continuing ‘event’ has been Covid which is still around. It was  the main event of 2020 and possibly of 2022 . Many people have continued to suffer from it, some  have recovered, but with residual effects that may last a lifetime, and many have died.

There have been other much more serious tragedies, of course, the continuing war in Ukraine, and more recently, the events around Gaza – a tragedy of untold proportions.  Other areas in the Middle East are in the throes of violence, and destruction of homes, hospitals, infrastructure, and so on.   

The extent of tragedies, the number of them, the sheer horror of them, is such that we despair at times.

We do what we can, don’t we,  taking care of our families, being there for our friends, helping out where we can in our community and donating to the causes that touch our hearts?

We look at the world and wish we could do more, even though the world’s problems are so big and worrisome, that all we can do is donate to support those who are trying to help, and pray for God’s care for those affected.

When I was a little boy, listening to the stories of Jesus, it always puzzled me that Jesus just didn’t heal everyone in town and then go on to the next and heal everyone there, and so on.  I also used to feel sorry for those who missed the chance to be healed. Maybe they were away, visiting friends, or something, when Jesus went through, their neighbors telling them, “Oh you should have been there. He healed everyone!”  

Then there were those who waited on the edge of the crowd, unable to push through, and finally had to leave without getting near to Jesus.  

But there would be others who would  be healed, and others who somehow found  a way to bring a sick friend to Jesus. 

Do you remember the story of the friends of one sick man, who got onto the housetop and hacked a hole in the roof, and lowered their friend inside the house so that Jesus might heal him?

When there was so much illness, and when medicine was undeveloped, and when being sick could be such an economic tragedy, it was hard for me,  as a child to understand that Jesus could move on to the next town, and leave behind so many people still to be healed.

Healing was an important part of the ministry of Jesus. The gospel writers want us to know about it because it proves that God was indeed working in this man. That in him, God did suspend natural laws and bring about miraculous events.

But Jesus’ ministry only lasted about three years, and he was here to do something much greater than the physical healings that he wrought, as wonderful as they were.  He had to touch as many people as possible in that time in a different way.

He had to bring the Good News to as many people as he could.

He had to set the world alight, and the image comes to mind of someone running through fields of dry grass, touching here and there with a lighted torch.

But he had very little time.

His ministry would include healing the sick, but a bigger challenge was to heal souls, so that those healed souls, could carry the Good News of love and healing throughout the world, and heal other souls.

He needed help because he was limited in what he could do as a man.

Mostly, in our prayers, we pray for people to be healed, of sicknesses, or other conditions, don’t we?  The things that we can see, that need fixing. We rarely, if ever, pray for someone’s soul.

But what good does it do for someone to have a healthy body, or mind,  and yet an unhealthy soul?

We use these bodies for seventy years, give or take a few, but our soul will live for eternity.

I am reminded of an account of a miraculous healing I heard about some years ago.

One of the members of a small church,  a youngish woman, confided to her prayer group  that her husband, who was not a member of the church, had been told he had a killer illness and only a few weeks to live.

The group gathered together and prayed for this man. They prayed that he might be healed of his illness.  

Soon, the sick man asked for a group from the church to visit him and pray over him at home, and to take communion to him.

This they did.

He asked them to come back again, and he told them of something that had happened to him.  He said he was conscious of being enveloped in a sense of peace, and a feeling of well-being. He was surprised at this himself, since he thought that given the circumstances, he should be feeling angry, and anxious, and panicky.

His wife said that he had become more open  – made himself more vulnerable, if you like – and that they were experiencing a deeper love for each other than they ever had before.

When he was able, he would attend church. He became a part of the church family. People noticed that in this man, someone who only attended church sporadically, there was something that exemplified what a spirit-filled Christian should be.

He impressed them with the fact that he had become a man at peace – with himself, with the world, and with God.

God had answered the prayers of his wife and friends, and this man had been made whole in a very wonderful way. 

And  after three months, when he died,  it was as if a light had been quenched.

His friends knew that although the illness had persisted, there was no doubt that this man had been healed.  Healed of a sickness that no-one could have seen!

A sickness of the soul.

And perhaps that is the bigger miracle.

As Jesus asked the Pharisees when they accused him of forgiving sins –  something they said, that only God could do –  ” Which is easier, to heal someone, or to say your sins are forgiven?”

To give freedom to people formerly enslaved to sin and worry and guilt, is obviously the bigger challenge, when you think about it.

It is often said that Jesus had compassion for the sick.

I think it was more that that he empathized with them.

Empathy, is defined as, ” An understanding so intimate, that the feelings, thoughts, motives of one, are readily comprehended by another.”

When you sympathise with someone, you express your compassion for them; when you empathise with someone, you share their pain.  And if someone shares your burden, it is lightened, isn’t it? ?

Jesus must have empathized with those he saw.  He must have been very close to them at that moment.  And since sickness of mind or body or of soul, cannot exist in close proximity to God, then perhaps the root cause of their illness could be rejected and healing could naturally take place. 

Paul talks about empathy in a slightly different context, as he tells us how he shares  the Gospel with people.  He talks about being as one with people, empathizing with them, so that he could bring them the Gospel.  

And Paul shows that everything works better when we are in solidarity with Jesus.  We become a part of the process of the healing of the world.

The people of the time saw Jesus primarily as a healer. Not too many of them, not even the disciples at first, saw him as he really was, the Messiah, the One who would suffer and die on a cross, the Messiah, sent to heal the rift between us and God.

Jesus came to empathise with us – to be so close to us that our feelings, our very thoughts, and our very needs, are known to him.

And when that takes place, he is able to answer those needs, and  to bring about a healthy inner person.

As we move through Epiphany, and as we ponder the works he did, let us ask that in His love for us, in His compassion for us, in His empathy with us, He might do those works in us, healing us and making us complete, so that we may better serve Him in this His Kingdom on earth.

” How good it is to sing praises to our God,  who heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.”

 Amen