Can We Hope?? . . . Can We Heal??
Rev. Michael D. Halley June 24, 2018
Suffolk Christian Church Suffolk, Virginia
A ninety-five year old woman at the nursing home received a visit from one of her fellow church members. “How are you feeling?” the visitor asked. “Oh,” said the lady, “I’m just worried sick!” “What are you worried about, dear?” her friend asked. “You look like you’re in good health. They are taking care of you, aren’t they?” “Yes, they are taking very good care of me,” she replied. “Well, then, what are you worried about?” her friend asked again. The lady leaned back in her rocking chair and slowly explained her worry. She said, “Every close friend I ever had has already died and gone on to heaven. I’m worried that they’re all up there wondering where I went!”
Hope and healing. We all need this and I pray that these next few minutes will help us along the path to hope and the path to healing. There is a very interesting story in the New Testament. It is found in the fifth chapter of the Gospel of John. Jesus was in Jerusalem and went to an area of the city where a pool of water was located. The pool was called in the
Hebrew language “Bethesda” (buh THEHSS duh). Appropriately, the name “Bethesda” means “House of Mercy”. There was a tradition there at the pool of Bethesda that every now and then an angel would come down and stir up the water. The first person to be able to go into the water at the time of the stirring up would be healed of their infirmity. You can imagine that many lame and blind and paralyzed people regularly gathered at this pool, waiting for the waters to be disturbed so they could be the first in to be healed.
Jesus saw a man there at the pool that day who had been ill for thirty eight years. And then Jesus asked him what at first appears to be a strange question: “Would you like to get well?” (John 5:6, Living Bible3) Think about that for a moment. Here was a man, ill for 38 years, hanging around the famous healing pool of Bethesda, waiting for the troubling of the waters . . . and Jesus asks him if he wants to get well. I believe Jesus was touching on something we can well ponder on this day in which we are thinking about hope and healing. You see, in a strange twist, there is a case which can be made that this man might want to stay in his illness. Strange to say, yes, but think about it. All this time the man has been ill nobody expected a whole lot from him. Nobody expected him to work. He had a built-in excuse for just about everything: I am ill, I can’t do that; I am sick today; That’s not possible for me because I am ill.
After 38 years no doubt this man had come to a certain accommodation with his physical status. Life had become comfortable, we might imagine. To become healed would mean that things would be different and that he would have to stand up and take his rightful place in society as a whole man. This searching question of Jesus is also valid here in this Sanctuary
today: Do YOU want to be healed? Are you ready to throw off your old excuses and quit nursing your wounds and move forward with your life? These are penetrating and possibly even disturbing questions, but these are precisely the questions Jesus would ask of us. Do you want to be healed? If we answer, “Yes, I do want to be healed,” this is not to say that our wounds are minor and it is not to minimize the pain we have felt and it is not to say that our way has been easy through all this. “I want to be healed” is simply to say, “It is time I get on with my life and move to spiritual and emotional health and healing.”
If this fairly describes you this morning, I want to offer you some assistance. These have been troubling times for us. In our current culture, longheld values are being questioned and in some cases done away with. Nonprofit civic organizations find it harder and harder to find members who will step up and do the work of the club. Churches are not exempt from this
cultural shift, and we see a number of churches going through turmoil and dealing with various controversies. And adding fuel to the fire, the political climate in our country is in
very sad shape. There seems to be little cooperation between political factions, and the “blame game” is in full swing. Disagreement with others is not a bad thing; in fact, it is healthy when done with respect for the other party. But when disagreement comes in a disagreeable manner, it is very hurtful to all concerned.
I pray that none of us wishes anyone ill. I pray that we can all move forward and like the man at the pool of Bethesda say “Yes, I want to be healed.” The first thing we need to do to find hope and healing is to recognize and own the hurt we have experienced. This unfortunate man at Bethesda knew he was sick and that he was in the right place to be healed. Let’s acknowledge our pain. Let’s admit our hurt. Let’s call it what it is, a painful time in our life.
Next, we need to acknowledge that God feels our pain along with us. Each Christmas we affirm that the central message of Christmas is “Emmanuel” . . . God is with us. Saint Paul picks up this thought in his letter to the Philippian church, chapter 2: Though He [Jesus] was God, He did not demand and cling to His rights as God. He made Himself nothing; He took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. And in human form He obediently humbled Himself even further by dying a criminal’s death on a cross. (Philippians 2:6-8, Living Bible) God knows. God knows what we are, what we have, and what we have
been through. That is where hope resides . . . God is with us. Next, we need to acknowledge our own sins and weaknesses. We are not perfect, of course. We are not entirely blameless. We are fallen and sinful creatures. Would you join me right now and confess our sins? We will just stop right now and do so. Would you please turn in your hymnal to number 523. Leader: “Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord. Everyone: “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”
Leader: If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
Everyone: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Let us not treat this confession as mere ritual, but let us truly search our hearts for all the places and times that we have erred and hurt others. This is where true healing can begin.
Finally, the process of hope and healing is not complete until we forgive others. If you saw Mel Gibson’s film, The Passion of the Christ, you saw in great graphic detail the punishment that Jesus received. Until I saw that film I don’t believe I fully realized how much our Lord suffered. And yet, at the end of it all, Jesus forgave them; every one of them. He did not hold it against them. He did not retaliate. He did not send them to eternal torment. He forgave them. Can we not do the same for those who may have wronged us?
The Greek word we translate “forgiveness” is charizomenoi5 (khar-ID-zohmehn-oi). The word means to be gracious to a person, to cancel a debt, to pardon another for some wrong done. The emphasis in this word is on being gracious, not to begrudge the other person. St. Paul uses this word in Colossians 3:13 when he says, You must make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Easy to say, isn’t it? Much harder to accomplish. Why should we do this? Why should I let you off the hook for your terrible and hurtful behaviour? Simply this: Because Christ has forgiven me.
“No matter how much wrong a person has done against us, it cannot match the wrong we have done against Christ. Yet, Christ has forgiven us. Therefore, we are to forgive those who have done wrong against us — no matter how great the wrong is.” This does not mean that we can easily do this. It may take a long time to work through the pain, but we must work toward a complete forgiveness of those who have wronged us. If not for their sake, for our own sake. It pains me to know how many people I have hurt over the course of my life. Most of them have been gracious enough to forgive me and to look beyond my weakness and my faults. I am very humbled by this. Some, however, have not been able to forgive me and I certainly understand that, too. I try every day to be as loving and caring and as forgiving as I can be, but I am not always successful in accomplishing that. Please help me and pray for me, as I pray for you, too.
I want us to close with the reading of a great passage of Scripture, from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter 8. You will find it in your hymnal at number 587. Please turn to that and stand as you are able. Please note the readings for men and those for women and those for everyone.
Leader: For we know
Everyone: That God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
Leader: For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren.
Men: And whom He predestined, these He also called.
Women: And whom He called, these He also justified.
Men: And whom He justified, these He also glorified.
Leader: What then shall we say to these things?
Everyone: If God is for us, who is against us?
Leader: He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will he not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect?
Everyone: God is the one who justifies.
Leader: Who is the one who condemns?
Everyone: Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.
Leader: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
Everyone: Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
Leader: Just as it is written, “For Thy sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
Everyone: But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.
Men: For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels
Women: Nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,
Everyone: Nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.