A World Shaped by God’s Power

Sunday, November 19, 2023
Pastor Jason Bryan-Wegner

Luke 6:17-26

 

I invite you to pray with me…Good and gracious God, there are so many ways you come to us and offer us healing and wholeness. So often we’re distracted and unaware of your power in our lives. Come to us now in this space and send your power of healing and love on all who are gathered to hear your Word. Amen.

 

I once read that it is good for one’s health to receive eight hugs a day. The physical touch involved in hugging releases chemicals in our brains that are restorative and life-giving. I don’t know if there is anything magical about it being eight, but multiple physical touch points throughout the day may be a sign that it’s more than medicine that heals.

Perhaps our lack of physical contact is one of the reasons the pandemic was so hard on so many of our emotional, mental, and physical health? We would do just about anything to feel a connection to others. Do you remember the ways people came up with so kids could hug a grandparent? They would tape plastic sheets with two sets of sleeves in doorways so they could embrace their loved ones. Or remember the inserts some nursing homes placed in windows so residents could hold the hand of a loved one outside the building just to get some sense of connection? In most places we thought we could heal the separation we were experiencing through zoom calls and online game nights. And it certainly helped, but we’ve learned over time that it probably wasn’t enough.

The last few years highlighted just how many different ways disease creates dis-ease within a society. There are still plenty of lingering effects of this dis-ease that continue to need healing in us and between us.

In the gospel today, Jesus shows us both the path and power of healing – and calls his followers to move in a radically different direction from conventional ways of the world to find the healing we seek.

You’ve probably heard the adage, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” It seems that Jesus knew this too.  He has just come from a night of praying up on a mountain – in Luke’s gospel mountains are always for praying. He calls his disciples and appoints apostles to share in the work of bringing good news, because God’s work is never done alone.

Jesus’ ministry is really revving up now. He’s got his team in place and he’s ready to teach them and the crowds what the Kingdom of God is all about. Jesus doesn’t start with a lecture though. He knows they won’t be able to grasp the good news that God brings unless they experience good news. He comes down, onto a level plain to heal first and teach second – on our level. This is the first clue to the crowds that there is something radically different about Jesus. He’s not just any teacher. He’s interested in the whole person.

He’s not interested in us ascending some lofty spiritual mountain – there’s time for that later. Jesus comes down to the people, as a down-to-earth God. He comes into people’s disorders, diseases, and dis-ease with the world as it is. He steps into the lives of the haves and the have-nots. He sees how they are broken, and hungry, and poor in all kinds of ways. They know what’s going on in their lives. They know what’s not working for them and for the world they live in. They are there in that crowd because they see that Jesus has the power to heal what ails them – be it physical illness, social isolation, emotional heartache, or spiritual malnourishment. Luke says, “those who were troubled with unclean spirits were healed. And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power surged out from him and he healed all of them.” Something about Jesus has the power to heal all our dis-ease.

“People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” In the healing power of Jesus, we know how much he cares. Jesus comes with a power filled with compassion and healing. Jesus’ power takes to unclean spirits, broken dreams, dashed hopes as fire does to air. Jesus’ power and healing doesn’t shame or blame for one’s plight, or victimize the victims.

Jesus simply offers healing.

Jesus listens and loves.

This is the second clue that there is something very different about Jesus. The gods some in the crowds were aware of were indifferent to the plight of humanity. Their power was used to honor and edify themselves. Those gods saw nothing redeeming or “blessed” about someone who was seen as diseased or disordered.

Sometimes, I wonder if we too fall prey to these kinds of gods. It’s so easy to think that those who are blessed are the ones who have no worries, no debts, no diseases – that being blessed is being rich and powerful, or at least comfortable and free from dis-ease. Jesus helps us see that the blessing comes in being aware of and noticing God’s power at work in all people. I can’t help but see that Jesus offers healing and hope and the power of God to the whole crowd because Jesus is bringing about a whole new way for the world. This down-to-earth God, in Jesus, raises up the poor, the hungry, the hurting, and the hated to a level plain. His healing and compassion brings down the powerful from the broken places of judgement and discrimination and sets them on a level plain with him. And here, together we see the breadth of healing that is needed in our lives and the world. Here, we see we’re created for each other, all of us – wherever we come from, whatever our experiences. Here, we can all reach out to touch Jesus for the healing most needed in our lives.

You see, healing doesn’t look the same for every person. Our dis-ease and suffering do not all come from the same place or for the same reason. For some of us, we’re all too aware of the healing we need, and for others we’re not quite ready or willing to name it. For some the healing we need is in our relationship with ourselves, and for others it is healing we need with others.

Jesus sees it all. Jesus has compassion for it all. Jesus has power to cure it all. This power brings us all to a level plain, where the power of Jesus not only heals, but changes us. When we worship together, we are that crowd on the plain. Whether you come here for the music or the message, for the coffee or communion. Whether you worship because someone made you get up this morning or it’s the only thing you can imagine doing every Sunday, Jesus shows up to give you the goods – healing, wholeness, forgiveness, strength for the journey, and a band of people to go with you along the way. And Jesus shows up so that together we, hear and are healed, and then can show and tell the power of God’s healing for the world. Amen.

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