READINGS: 1 Samuel 3: 1-10 ~ 2 Corinthians 4: 1-12 ~ Mark 2:23-3:6
Last week, we talked about the important questions of life: Who is God for you? and Who are you in relation to that God? And then you all went home to ponder those big life questions and – maybe – begin writing your spiritual autobiography.
This week, we ponder our rules for life, which are usually connected to our understanding of God. For most of us, this is where the Ten Commandments come in. And they work really well … until life gets complicated. For example, Fourth Commandment says, Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God.
Taking a day of rest is good thing but taken too far it can lack compassion. For example, what happens when a doctor is asked to heal on the Sabbath, since healing is considered work? Well, rabbinic tradition has always allowed for humanitarian sabbath exceptions, meaning any danger to life overrides the prohibition of work on the sabbath.
But the man with the withered hand is not considered an emergency. It’s not a life-threatening situation and can wait until the sabbath has ended.
Jesus always leads with compassion and is willing to override the law to address the underlying human need. And that irks the rule followers of his day. Jesus is grieved by the hardness of their hearts and says that the Sabbath was made for humans, not humans for the Sabbath. In other words, people are more important than the rules. But once people figure out there are loopholes to the rules, it’s tempting to want to invoke them at every convenient opportunity. So, how do we decide when its okay to break one of the rules of life?
Well, Jesus says our prime directive is summed up in the two great commandments: to love God and to our neighbour as ourselves. St Augustine narrows it down to something like ‘Love God and do what you will’, because if love of God is our primary motivator then we will automatically have compassion for others. If we are still not sure we are doing the right thing by God, a good litmus test is this: is our decision healthy, life-giving, constructive and healing?
The good news for us today is that healing is part of the ministry of the church, which is why we offer an opportunity for healing prayer on the first Sunday of each month. The healing, of course, comes from God, but the community provides the space and support for healing to take place.
Its about four years ago now that Wendy and I went to Iona Abby for one of their programs. And while there, we encountered their healing service. The words to their healing prayer struck a chord.
It begins … We remember that those who encountered Jesus found acceptance, healing and the possibility of new life; that the disciples, though imperfect beings, through prayer and touch helped others to find healing in the power of your Holy Spirit.
That’s what we are about, especially on the first Sunday of each month. And I can tell you that this community is particularly gifted at offering such a ministry.
This has been a difficult week. As most of you know, I had to have Jack, my faithful canine companion, put to sleep. And it’s been hard. But, as the soggy fog of grief subsides, I can see clearly the love in action of this parish. Thank you for taking such good care of me, my dog, my family and my friends. Although it was brief, Jack got the best in pastoral / palliative care from a vet and clinic who loved him – and Wendy became an amazing chaplain to us all.
Jack was a gift from God and he has always had his own ministry. Stubborn and cheeky though he could be, he loved everyone. From the transients who arrived at our door to the strangers he met on the street and the people who were part of our lives, Jack loved them all.
Jesus talked about us living like that. About the only real rule for life being to love God and care for neighbour, recognizing that everyone is our neighbour.
We could not cure Jack of his liver troubles, but the people of this parish – this community – responded to us in our time of need. You are good and faithful people. It’s in your bones. And that’s important.
We live in world where it sometimes feels the light of God is growing dim and God seems silent. But there is also good stuff happening … right here in Almonte. Together with Karen and then your next rector, it is my prayer that you will continue to be a place that brings hope and healing.
Borrowing the words of the Iona community we pray:
God of compassion and love, we offer you all our suffering and pain. Give us strength to bear our weakness, healing when there is no cure, peace in the midst of turmoil, and love to fill the spaces in our lives. Glory to God from whom all love flows, glory to Jesus, who showed his love though suffering, and glory to the Holy Spirit, who brings light to the darkest places. Amen.