2nd Sunday in Lent
February 28, 2021
Matthew—our grandmother’s gospel. The First Gospel. It is not really the fist one. (Mark is the first). Matthew has always been a thorn in my side. I am not alone in that opinion. I had one of my professors in Divinity School say that when he was pastoring a church, he wanted to take a vacation every time Matthew came around in the lectionary year rotation!
However, God has been at work on my attitude. I have been reading the book: “Healing in the Gospel of Matthew” by Walter T. Wilson in preparation for this Lenten season. In looking at the gospel critically he has used many more forms of “criticism”(•the scholarly investigation of literary or historical texts to determine their origin or intended form) than other theologians have done in the past. Instead of only referring to historical, form, source, and redaction “criticisms” he has also used “narrative criticism, reader-response criticism, feminist criticism, disability studies, and medical anthropology.” I am gaining a much better understanding and appreciation for the First Gospel,” which is to say it is a complex document and healing is a complex topic.
Last week we talked about humanity as Holy vessels which can break and need repair/healing. Healing is physical, emotional, and spiritual in nature. We will be using the image of sea glass through out our Lenten journey of healing.
This week’s sermon is titled “Safe Keeping.” God gathers us as a Beachcomber gathers and marvels at every precious surviving piece of beach glass she finds. I remember a trip to Nova Scotia one summer with my son and grandson. We stopped for the night at a motel along the Bay of Fundy. It was low tide when we arrived and my energetic 10 yr.old grandson immediately wanted to scour the beach to look for sea glass among other things that crept and crawled. He came running up to the room all excited. “Look what I found!” In his hand was the tiniest piece of sea glass I had every seen and it was RED! That is a real treasure when you find red sea glass even if it only tiny. I think of his excitement and joy over finding that treasure when I think about God’s gathering us up as a Beachcomber gathers and marvels at every precious piece of sea glass she finds. God too is excited and joyful. We are all treasured by God. We are beautiful. We belong! We are never alone, we are never lost to the One who seeks humanity’s wholeness.
The characters in our story are: the Centurion, Jesus, the slave, and the crowd of followers. The Centurion takes a very bold step in approaching Jesus. He firmly believes Jesus will grant him his request to heal a paralyzed man. His is emboldened by his faith and acts out of that faith in asking Jesus to heal his slave. community to grow. Just as incredulous is Jesus’ willingness to go to the Centurion’s home, if
necessary, to heal the paralytic. Jesus is once again breaking down barriers within the culture in extraordinary ways. The Centurion, a military commander and more importantly a non-Jew, is not a part of the community of Jesus followers. He is an outsider. The paralyzed man is a “nobody” and is both a gentile and slave. None of this is important to Jesus. Jesus’ mission is to bring salvation to all peoples.
Do we have the courage and strength to be like the Centurion; to approach Jesus directly and ask for healing of others and ourselves? I will never forget being asked to be part of a prayer chain for a friend. He had had the flu and was a type one diabetic. He was rushed to the hospital and his blood sugar level was 2000. The doctor believed he would not make it through the night. All the church members prayed and prayed again. In the morning this young husband and father of two was alert and his blood sugar had dropped to below 200. The doctor was amazed and claimed no part in this dramatic turn of events. He said he had never seen anything like it. We all had approached Jesus boldly and with hope that our friend would be healed. Jesus had granted our request just as he had healed the paralyzed man.
In what ways do we approach Jesus? I think we approach Jesus in many ways. Sometimes it is through direct asking. Sometimes it is mixed with anger. Sometimes it is through music. Sometimes through joy. Sometimes in silence when we can’t find the words. Sometimes it is through helping others. Do we believe that with the help of Jesus we can bring healing to our communities? Yes I believe we do with Jesus’ help.
This is not just a story of healing now. There is a thread winding through the story that is giving a vision of what it will be like in the kin-dom of God. It Is about the kin-dom of God breaking in to the here and now. The reference to the people coming from the west and from the east is a vision of bounty, joy, and fellowship with all people. It is imagining feasting at the table of God where all are welcome—no insider or outsider—all are equal and free. God gathers us all. God longs for us to be together and for us to all be safe and whole. God gives us the strength to act in helping to bring this vision to completion. We are helpers along the continuum.
In what ways is our church living out this vision? With this pandemic and given the age and number of our church members, it has been next to impossible to bring people together! We have done the best we could by meeting virtually despite all the frustration with technology. We did have a an Ash Wednesday service that brought 4 churches together on Zoom.
How are we, through the power of Jesus the Christ, bringing healing and wholeness to our communities? Once again we are doing all that we can. The church in conjunction with the local community continue to support the 5 Corner Cupboard in a very significant way. We are sending cards to shut-ins and those who are ill. We are calling on a regular basis our church families who are grieving. Meals to those families have been delivered when there is a need. We are not out of the woods with the Covid 19 pandemic. Until it is safe to meet indoors we will try to meet outside as soon as the weather gets warmer.
We affirm our commitment to be the Body of Christ that knows we cannot be personally healed until we see the interconnected community as part of the process of healing. Jesus has the power to re-vision the family of God in which false boundaries are overcome. In a year of devastating loss of livelihood, we consider the economic health that reimagines the status quo. Our bodies are connected to other bodies. God gathers us. God calls us to be Gatherers. We long for communities of recovery and none of us are free until all of us are free.
In the greatest of hope