All are broken, including you, and all need to be healed: when you see this is true about yourself you will be opened to be healing to others.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The Sixth Sunday after Epiphany, Lect. 6 C
Text: Luke 6:17-26
Beloved in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Everyone in the crowd today was trying to touch Jesus to be healed. Everyone.
The large crowd of maybe fifty disciples. The twelve of that group who were just named leaders. And the rest of the multitude there who came to see Jesus. Luke says everyone in the vast crowd needed to touch Jesus.
And Jesus said to those multitudes that they were fortunate people. Happy people. Blessed people, as our translation puts it.
You folks who don’t know where you’re going to find food – you are happy, he said. You’ll be filled. You who have nothing to your name – you’re fortunate. You’ll receive God’s whole reign. And you who are weeping, Jesus said, you are blessed. You’ll be able to laugh.
Now, Jesus never deliberately hurt or misled people.
When he says to hundreds, maybe thousands, that their suffering, their pain, their need, is a blessing, is fortunate, it wasn’t to mock them, or patronize them. He promised they would receive what they needed. These are real poor people, and starving people. People in grief. And they are promised relief. Filling. Abundance. Even laughter in their tears.
The reason many came to Jesus, Luke says, is they sought healing from diseases and unclean spirits. Because people saw that God was in this Jesus, and he had power to heal physical and spiritual illness.
But in these blessings Jesus says that God has also come in person to address more universal suffering and pain – poverty, hunger, grief – and offer the same promise. You will receive what you need. In the verses that follow today’s Gospel – which we’ll hear next week – Jesus tells those who wish to follow him that they are part of God’s plan to end people’s hunger, to lift up the poor and lowly, to comfort and help anyone in pain. God embodied in the followers of Christ will directly work on all the suffering Jesus promises to address, will be the blessing to those Jesus blesses with his words.
But go back to the beginning: everyone there that day needed to touch Jesus.
Even beyond the obvious ones with diseases and possessions. They or their family and friends would have made sure they got close to Jesus.
But as far as we know, most of the disciples, the women and men who’d been following Jesus for weeks now – not just the twelve set aside as leaders, but the whole group – didn’t need that kind of healing from Jesus. Mary Magdalene was possessed of demons, but we don’t know of others. Yet these followers also needed Jesus, needed his touch, his kindness, his words. His healing.
Can you see yourself in that same camp? Or do you have a hard time admitting to God or to others that you also need to touch God in Christ for healing and life?
It can be hard to admit.
Many of us want to give the impression that we’ve got it together, that we’re doing just fine. But the secret is, not everyone here is doing as well as you might imagine. We all can hide our own pain or doubt or struggles from others, especially if they’re not physical ones. (Most of us are OK to have physical needs put on the prayer list.) Maybe we’re ashamed of our weakness, afraid no one will understand our inner pain. Maybe someone told us we were supposed to have a strong faith and how can we say that we don’t?
And many of us who live with a privileged status in our society, whether due to the color of our skin or the gender we identify with, or our lack of economic insecurity, or whatever, struggle with naming our own pain. How can someone who doesn’t face what so many of our neighbors face every day, someone for whom this society works and makes sense, how can they complain? How can someone who doesn’t fear the police, someone who’s never been denied housing or help because of who they are, ever say they hurt? If there’s always another who’s worse off, we can feel we shouldn’t name our pain, or doubt, or fear, or struggles with our lives.
But everyone needed to touch Jesus that day, and he blessed them.
He said to those in pain of any kind, you are blessed, happy, fortunate, because God is with you and will help you, heal you. The point of the Incarnation, Jesus showed us, was for the Triune God to be with all God’s children, reach out to all God’s children, love all God’s children, bring healing to all God’s children. Everyone. Whatever their pain.
Everyone means you, too. Pain is pain, no matter who feels it. Anxiety is anxiety to everyone. There’s no need to hide yours because you want to put a good face on your life and not let anyone know you struggle. There’s no need to compare yours to another’s and diminish it or dismiss it because you know that your neighbor is struggling more than you.
If God has come to be with us in Christ, and to bring each of God’s children back into a healing relationship with God, you’re in, too. And that’s a huge promise you don’t want to ignore.
Maybe that’s what Jesus is doing with these woes.
The life in Christ Jesus calls those who follow him to walk is one where those who follow share a life together for the sake of each other and the world. All have enough. All weep when one weeps, all rejoice when one rejoices. No one is hungry or has unmet needs because God’s abundance is shared. That’s the blessing of God in Christ for the whole world. So if you’re laughing while others suffer, or delighting in your wealth while others starve, woe to you, Jesus says. You’re not living in the life of Christ.
But Christ’s healing begins when each of us honors both our own pain and suffering and the pain and suffering of our neighbor. When we don’t neglect our own suffering, because that can harden us to be uncaring and cruel people. And when we also don’t neglect the suffering of our neighbors. When we become Christ ourselves, ready to respond to whatever need God puts in front of us, whatever hand reaches out for help, as Jesus will say next week.
Everyone needs the healing touch of God’s in their lives. You, included.
Let yourself admit your need to God. And maybe to one or two others. Learn to say, “I can’t handle this. I don’t know where to turn. I don’t know what to do. Please help.” Those who reached out to touch Jesus didn’t hold back out of fear. They trusted in this One from God and put their lives in his hands.
When you do that, you will know what it is to be blessed, fortunate, happy. And in your healing you’ll never be able to look at the pain and suffering of another – your family, your neighbors, your world – and not care. You’ll be healed by God’s love and also given the heart of God to be a part of God’s healing touch in Christ that belongs to the whole creation. Blessed are you, indeed.
In the name of Jesus. Amen