July 03, 2018

Healing thoughts on Canada Day

On Canada Day, it’s appropriate to reflect on where we’ve been, where we are, and where we are going.  What vision do we have for our country?  What do we lament, and how do we move forward?  When we look at our lives through the lens of scriptures, what are we called to in our Christian journeys in this land?

The one phrase I hope we never use to describe Canada is “Oh how the mighty have fallen.” I Always thought this came from a Shakespeare play, and didn’t realize that David used these words to lament his friend Jonathan’s death.  What heartbreak he was speaking.  And if we read this scripture in context, in 1 Samuel 18, we can see a family dispute over David’s loyalty.  Saul was struggling with mental illness and David would play his harp to calm Saul.  Then Jonathan met David and the verse says, “When David had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.”  Saul got jealous, started to plot how to kill David and at a memorable family party, Saul swore at his son Jonathan and tried to kill him in front of everyone.  He used his political power to bully and control not just his people, but his own family as well.

When we have families that don’t know how to talk to each other, when we use our power to push people like David and Jonathan into conforming to society norms, when we don’t admit our frailties and our mistakes, things can erupt into civil wars and broken lives.  Countries become full of suspicion, tension, prejudice and hate.

Jesus lived in a country like that, one where temple officials seemed out of touch with ordinary folks.  Jesus could have reacted negatively to the people who asked him for help.  He was approached by both a rich and famous man named Jairus, head of a large household and a poor, unnamed woman full of desperation.  Both came with a humble heart to ask for help.  Both had to be vulnerable in the face of a crowd.  Jairus, despite his status in the community, fell at Jesus’ feet and admitted that he needed help that only Jesus could provide.  The unnamed woman admitted that she, a woman seen as cursed because of her hemorrhaging., had done the unspeakable by touching a Rabbi in public, making him unclean.  Interestingly enough, Jairus, even though he knew Jesus had been touched by the woman, still allowed Jesus into his house to heal his daughter.  Somehow on that journey, Jairus forgot to worry about that, was more focused on being a parent than a temple official.  And maybe just maybe, the unnamed woman came with him on the journey.  Maybe, just maybe, they became a community of faith on the Way.

I wish I could heal people the way Jesus did, especially when I see someone in the hospital who is young and sweet and gifted and loved by many dying of cancer.  The truth is that I can’t, we can’t heal physical diseases the way Jesus did.  Doctors can cure, but not heal.  They too will say that there is no telling who will respond to treatment and who won’t.  Nurses will tell you that they can’t predict whether a patient will live for days, weeks or even months with the final stages of cancer.  But what we can do is come like Jesus did, not to point fingers at sick people, but to be with them and accompany them as best we can, forgiving them if such needs to happen, like Jesus forgave the unclean woman, and hear them when they are vulnerable, like Jesus did with Jairus. To go to them like Jesus did with the young girl, and treat them with respect and love.

In the end, only God heals.  God gives us tools and skills that we can learn and practise.  Those skills of listening, gentle presence, kind actions, prayers and thoughtful touches can bring healing that may indeed be more important than the physical healing we so desperately crave.

 A professor of mine says that the greatest part of suffering is often mental, and that people can endure a lot of physical pain if they have worked on healing their minds, their emotions, their relationships and their community.  Let us remember that our presence can help with the suffering when we open ourselves humbly. In the days ahead, may we be strengthened by God to be bearers of healing presence to the pain we see in our world, our community and our country.

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