via Healing Welcome
I had an opportunity to participate in an interview for my own project, Faith from the Margins to the Web. It always amazes me how these things work: something will happen (in this case, someone canceling with a cold). I’ll initially panic and wonder what I’m going to do, and then in the calmness I’ll just realize that it will all be well. On the day of this particular interview, I ended up leading Dale into the quiet chapel and filling in for the missing interviewer. As soon as we began to speak, I knew beyond a doubt we were meant to be in that space, at that time, opening up this conversation with each other.
Seeing the light of my own ministry through the eyes of a person who is blind was an unexpected gift. I share this small point of light with you, since it illuminated my own path.
Many blessings on this evening of the Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany!
Epiphany 5, Year B
Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
After Jesus and his disciples 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.
Co-authors: Dale and Sarah
Dale and I sat together in the chapel as we opened up this Gospel lesson together. I hadn’t spent a lot of time talking with Dale until today; he is the friend of several others who attend Red Door lunch and healing service regularly. We’ve exchanged pleasant hellos but we hadn’t really talked. Today, our bible study numbers were a bit uneven, so I filled in at the last minute. What a blessing that serendipitous decision turned out to be!
As we began, Dale asked if I would do the reading since his eyesight kept him from being able to read out loud. I noticed, even from the intent way that he listened to the Gospel, that he was hearing every word with a clarity most of us miss.
“I like that reading, I do” said Dale. “I didn’t get that part before but this time I heard that James and John were there too. Jesus was there, but the others, they had God’s word there with them. I wonder, did they have power or something, like Jesus, to heal?
“That’s a great question, Dale! I hadn’t even picked up on that. Jesus does say at other times to his disciples that they have the power to heal, that Jesus gives others the power to heal in His name. You know, I think about that a lot. On Fridays here, when we have the healing prayer service, that’s something that is powerful to me when I say it each week before we offer prayers together in Jesus’ name. I don’t have the power to heal. It’s not like that, like a magic power or something, but when we hold a healing prayer service we pray together because we have been told that there is healing in God. I’m not in charge of that healing: giving, or receiving healing. But healing is there with us when we are gathered together because God is with us. So, when we stand together, when I pray with people, it’s in the presence of that healing that God is made known to us.”
“You know, I believe that” said Dale. He continued, “…because back in 2012, when I lost my eyesight from glaucoma, I was blind totally for about 18 months. I went to the eye doctor and he said there wasn’t much hope. I was imagining never seeing again, learning to read braille and stuff. Then the doctor said, ‘there is this surgery, but its really 50/50 whether it will work or not.’ But, I thought, ‘I’m already blind, what do I have to lose?” So, I had the surgery, but then there was nothing. Six months went by, nothing. Then one day I thought I saw light starting to come in. So I started to pray, not begging but just feeling thankful to see light again. And other people, they started to pray for me. And always, those prayers were in the name of Jesus Christ.”
“That’s wonderful!” I said, “I think about that whenever we pray. I may pray, I may ask, but we are asking in the name of Jesus Christ who is with us all.”
“Praying, you know, it’s like blessing. We get blessed, we feel blessed. But it isn’t about that. It’s about passing along that blessing, that is also in Jesus’ name.”
Something else stood out for me, too. “I keep going back to this part…about Simon’s mother…who is healed and then gets up and starts serving everyone. At first I want to say, “hey, let the poor woman rest!” and then I thought about it. She chooses to serve. That is a show of love, a gift of family and community. That is an action of thanksgiving and grace. We can never say ‘thank you’ enough for our healing so we do what we do best: we serve as healed people, showing our thanks to God.”
Dale nodded. “You’re right, because her way of serving, her way of saying thank you was to keep serving. I’m just like her. I wake up and keep seeing God. My eyesight isn’t all back, but it is clear enough now that I can see light. When I wake up, I say thank you God, because that light makes me know that God is there in that healing. And then I want to get out, and to serve others.”
“It’s like our thanks, our blessing, our healing are all together” continued Dale. “I don’t know which is the right word to use. But maybe they are all part of the same thing.”
I thought about this.
Dale went on, “Maybe this blessing falls to us, because it is so present with us. I ask myself, ‘how do I live into this blessing, this healing’ and I see that here in this place. Here, there are a whole lot of people who feel shame and hunger and think they will be looked down on. But they come here, and there is healing, and there is food, but there is also spiritual healing where we are fed. I’m surprised sometimes by who I see come into that service. But you are never surprised…you just show love to everyone. I see that in you.”
I felt myself smiling; I was blessed by hearing this, but I knew the story was deeper than Dale probably realized. So, it was my turn to share. “You know, Dale, there was a time that I was one of those people who was least likely to come into a church. You see, I was mad, angry. Really angry. Then, one day I decided to just go to a church not because I had to but because I wanted to…actually because I wanted to sing. And that day, the clergy person seemed to just look right at me. Instead of feeling judged, I heard him say, “All are welcome…you are welcome.” I felt that in my entire soul. I knew that welcome came from more than just that person; that welcome was from God. That welcome was God. And in that welcome is where I found healing from all that anger. Slow, just like your eyesight! But gradually, the light comes back in and we are filled with thankfulness and gratitude. So, I want to live into that now. I know there are people every week who come here feeling broken, angry, and not welcome. I know exactly how that feels. So, I stand in that place of healing I have known, and I pray. My prayer is always that I can offer up that healing and welcome to others, too.”
“I notice that too” said Dale, “when you all say the prayers, you always say that at the beginning. You know you are welcome, you can be here just as you are. Welcome is a gift, and a blessing. Welcome is healing. You know, I’m glad this was our lesson today”
I’m glad too, Dale.