February 4, 2018

ANTHEM All My Trials Norman Luboff Chancel Choir

Keeping Quiet by Pablo Neruda
Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would not look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

Mark 1:29-39
And right away they left the meeting place and entered the house of Simon and Andrew along with James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her right away. He went up to her, took hold of her hand, raised her up, and the fever disappeared. Then she started looking after them.

In the evening, at sundown, they would bring all the sick and demon possessed to him. And the whole town would crowd around the door. On such occasions he cured many people afflicted with various diseases and drove out many demons. He would never let the demons speak, because they realized who he was.

And rising early, while it was still very dark, he went outside and stole away to an isolated place, where he started praying. Then Simon and those with him hunted him down. When they had found him they say to him, “They’re all looking for you.”

But he replies, “Let’s go somewhere else, to the neighboring villages, so I can speak there too, since that’s what I came for.”

So he went all around Galilee speaking in their meeting places and driving out demons.

Jesus had a busy day.

It begins in the synagogue on the Sabbath. He preaches:

“The time is up. The empire of God is right here. Change your ways and trust this good news!”

An unclean spirit objects to this and Jesus casts him out.

Then Jesus and his entourage go to Simon’s house to see if they can get something to eat. Unfortunately, Simon’s mother is sick with fever. Jesus takes her by the hand and viola, she’s better.

Then she makes Jesus and the rest of the disciples a sandwich.

Word gets out. Jesus is swamped. Everyone in the whole town is at the front door.

Jesus opens a clinic. He heals people and casts out demons all night long. He doesn’t let the demons speak because they know who he is and he wants to keep his identity under wraps, at least for a while.

Finally, Jesus sneaks out for some quiet time. But there is no rest for the son of God. Simon and his friends find him and say, “Everyone is looking for you!”

We can bet that there is more healing to be done. He could probably put up a shingle right there and get all the business he needs for life. Not Jesus. He says:

“Let’s go somewhere else, to the neighboring villages, so I can speak there too, since that’s what I came for.”

Jesus and his traveling salvation show hit the road. Healing. Casting out demons. Telling the truth that the empire of God is now. Live into it.

End day one.

You get the feeling when you read the gospels that Jesus really isn’t into the healing miracles and the exorcisms that much. He does it but what he really wants to do is encourage people to do stuff.

He wants to talk about big ideas and how change is possible and now is the time to throw off the shackles and transform the world with goodness. It’s like its 1967 and peace and love are possible. But most of the people just want to feel better, and maybe get a little high on the Jesus vibe.

Jesus isn’t stingy. He does that. He does make people feel better. But he doesn’t stick around long. He won’t stay in one place. He has big fish to catch. He is on the move. He wants to share his message far and wide.

Like every social reformer before him and since, he wants people to wake up, believe in themselves, and change the world.

A tall order. Most folks are not as committed as he is and changing the world is a lot of work. And we are tired. And while it is true that things are precarious and change should happen, it is sometimes all we can do to feel ok today.

Even Jesus gets tired.

“In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.”

I like the scholars version where it says:

“And rising early, while it was still very dark, he went outside and stole away to an isolated place, where he started praying.”

“Steal Away” is the name of an African-American spiritual.

Steal away, steal away,
steal away to Jesus

Steal away, steal away home

I ain’t got long to stay here

My Lord, He calls me

He calls me by the thunder

The trumpet sounds within-a my soul

I ain’t got long to stay here

Green trees are bending

Po’ sinner stand a-trembling

The trumpet sounds within-a my soul

I ain’t got long to stay here

Steal Away has that double meaning. Steal Away to heaven and steal away to a secret meeting to learn to read, to plan, to meet companions. Nat Turner used that song to call out followers in 1831 for a revolt. Singing was a way to express faith and to communicate and organize for freedom.

I am guessing that the Jesus Seminar purposely used that phrase “stole away” to recall that spiritual.

Jesus steals away or sneaks out to have time for himself, to rejuvenate. Perhaps for his own spiritual healing. You can’t save the world on an empty heart.

If Jesus took time to rest and pray, even if he had to sneak out to get it, maybe it is good for us to do that too.

How do you do it?
To where do you steal away?
What rejuvenates or centers you?
What is your healing place?

In the gospels the word translated in English as healing or wholeness being made well, is the same as the word translated into save or salvation. In other words, healing, wholeness, being well, and salvation are the same thing or at least closely related. To save the world is to heal the world.

There is an old story that Henri Nowen tells in his book, Wounded Healer. This is a paraphrase:

A rabbi seeing what bad shape the world was in wanted to know when the Messiah was going to arrive and make things right. So he goes to the wisest old rabbi and asks him:

“When is the messiah coming?”

The old rabbi said, “The Messiah is already here.”

“Where?” asked the young rabbi.

“The messiah is at the gates of the city sitting with the poor and sick,” said the old rabbi.

“How do I know which one is the messiah?” He asked.

“That’s easy,” said the old rabbi. “All the sick dress their wounds by taking off all of their bandages at once and then putting on new bandages. The messiah takes off one bandage at a time and replaces it, saying to herself, “I must always be ready if needed.”

Thus, the wounded healer. The one who knows that most of the good that is done in the world was done by people who weren’t feeling that well that day. The wounded healer doesn’t wait to get better to heal. She or he heals while wounded. The wounded healer doesn’t heal in spite of her wounds but because of them.

Stories of healing and casting out demons and other miracles by Jesus cry for some sort of interpretation. How do we translate that to us and to our time? I don’t know exactly but I see these stories as parables. As such they invite us to use our imaginations.

Imagine what the world would look like whole and healed. Imagine what your life would look like whole and healed. We know that healing might include changes in our physical bodies, but it must be more than that. No body lives forever. All bodies no matter how healthy break down and die eventually. No manner of healing helps us defeat death.

Imagine healing as more than healing of the physical body. What would that look like? What healing does the world need? What healing do you need? It may be the same.

The healing that each of us provides for another is likely related to the wounds we carry and bandage. Those wounds do not keep us from being healers, they provide us with the com-passion the “feeling with” to recognize the wound in another and to be a healing presence for them.

Next Thursday is Zach’s birthday. He would have been 31. He has been on my mind. One of the most healing things I did was to attend a suicide survivors group. Bev, Katy, and I attended. The reason it was healing was that it was a space to tell our story. To cry it out. To rant. To share gallows humor. To know that others got it.

When I say it was healing, that does not mean I am all healed, as if one could ever be, really, but you bandage one wound at a time. You be a healing presence for others as best you can and remember to steal away on your own now and then as well.

As such, wounded healers all, we save the world.