Crowded healing – Br. Jack Crowley

Br. Jack Crowley headshot

Br. Jack Crowley

Mark 5:21-43

One of the many things I love about Jesus is that he knew how to work a crowd. Jesus dealt with crowds all the time. Crowds to be fed, crowds to be healed, crowds trying to anoint him king, crowds trying to arrest him, and finally a crowd who crucified him. Jesus knew crowds.

These crowds were not just crowded with people, they were crowded with meaning. Everywhere Jesus went, people tried to figure out what Jesus meant. Jesus’ words, actions, and very being were jammed with meaning. The crowds around Jesus unloaded all sorts of expectations, baggage, and misunderstandings onto what Jesus meant. Yet through it all, Jesus just kept on healing.

Jesus kept on healing, because healing cuts through the crowd. Healing has the power to unite a crowd. Healing even has the power to make us love a crowd.

Our Gospel this morning is a perfect example of the power of healing. We are told by the Gospel writer that Jesus was being followed by a large crowd and that the crowd was pressing in on him. That’s a powerful image. Read More

Wholeness in the Midst of Brokenness – Br. Jim Woodrum

Br. Jim Woodrum

Luke 23:32-34; 39-43

During Lent, we dedicate a considerable amount of time reflecting on our relationships with God and each other, focusing on concepts like repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Repentance involves recognizing that we’ve deviated from God’s intended path for us and deciding to change direction (the Greek term for ‘repent’ is metanoia, meaning “a transformative change of heart”). Forgiveness entails releasing resentment or even the demand for compensation for harm caused. Reconciliation is about reuniting or coming together again after a separation. Despite the positive nature of these concepts, achieving them can be challenging. This difficulty often stems from a place of brokenness, encompassing damaged lives, relationships, expectations, and hearts.

This evening is the last installment of our preaching series “In the Midst,” which endeavors to help us know and experience Jesus’ presence in the midst of all that challenges and even troubles us. The theme of tonight’s sermon is “Wholeness in the Midst of Brokenness.” I’ve chosen to explore this concept from the vantage point of Jesus’ crucifixion in the gospel of Luke.

To begin, it is important to recall just what crucifixion was in first century Palestine. Crucifixion was a method of torture and execution used by the Roman empire against those they deemed criminals or enemies of the emperor. Victims were nailed to a cross made of wooden beams and suspended. This suspension made breathing difficult unless the victims attempted to pull themselves up by their wrists while pushing with their ankles, a task they couldn’t sustain for long due to the pain caused by nails driven through their joints. Technically, crucifixion was execution by asphyxiation which could last hours. When the victim was believed to be dead, the executioner would confirm this by breaking the legs of the remaining corpse hanging from the beams. Crucifixions were public events usually held just outside the city gate. They were intended to traumatize not only the victims but also those who witnessed the spectacle on their way into or out of town. Read More

Becoming Whole; Becoming Holy – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

Romans 6:19-23

Saint Paul writes about our “sanctification” as if we would know what he is talking about. In the original Greek, the generic meaning of “sanctification” is “the state of proper functioning.” To sanctify someone or something is to set that person or thing apart for the use intended by its designer. A well is “sanctified” when it is used as a source of water. A wineskin is “sanctified” when it is used to store wine. For us, eyeglasses are “sanctified” when used to improve sight. In the theological sense, things are “sanctified” when they are used for the purpose God intends. A human being is “sanctified” when they live according to God’s unique design and purpose for their life.[i]

When we wake up each morning, we can presume God’s presence, and power, and provision. We have been kept alive for as much as one more day to know God, and to love God, and to serve God as only we, uniquely, can do. [ii]  We wake up each morning on a mission to bear the beams of God’s light, and life, and love as only we, uniquely, can do. It’s why we are still alive. Which turns life into such an amazing adventure. This is the core meaning of “sanctification”: living our lives according to God’s unique design and purpose for our life. Read More

Properties of Mercy – Br. Jim Woodrum

Br. Jim Woodrum

Matthew 9:27-31

Our lection this morning is one of three or four concentrated stories of healing in Matthew’s gospel. Usually, they are considered together in context. But this morning we hear only one of these: two blind men following Jesus and crying loudly, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” Jesus engages with them and asks, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They reply, “Yes, Lord.” He then touches their eyes and says, “According to your faith let it be done to you.”

For me, this story brings to mind a prayer which we find in the Rite I liturgy of the Eucharist in the Prayer Book. The Prayer of Humble Access[i], while beautifully worded in the archaic poetry of the Rite, evokes different feelings in people depending on their experience. Some find the language self-deprecating. Yet, others find in it inspiration. It begins: “We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table.” Read More

Acts of Humble, Loving Service – Br. James Koester

Matthew 8: 1 – 4

Today’s passage from Matthew’s gospel, though brief, just four verses, is significant, because it captures some of the essential qualities and characteristics of God. In this encounter between Jesus and leper, we see again the nature of God, and God’s desire for all humanity.

…a leper … came to [Jesus] and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.” [Jesus] stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed.[1]

What stands out for me this morning, is not only what is said, but also what is done, for Jesus stretched out his hand and touched the leper. While leprosy is contagious, it is not necessarily contracted through touch, as was once believed. That Jesus touched the leper, is significant, and in itself demonstrates something about God. In that one action, we see that nothing is beyond the touch and reach of God.

What is also significant is the dialogue. Lord, if you choose … I do choose….

The essential quality, characteristic, and nature of God is one of healing, wholeness, and life, for the God who in Jesus came that [we] may have life, and have it abundantly,[2] is the same God who reaches out and touches, saying I do choose. Be made clean.

Yet while it is God’s nature to choose to reach out and touch us, our nature runs in the opposite direction, as we choose to hide, to turn our backs, and to reach out for what is forbidden. In our pride and arrogance, we choose to stretch out our hands, not to God, but to the forbidden fruit, thinking that by eating it, we will become like God.[3]

The paradox is that we become like God, not by stretching out our hands in pride, but by choosing to stretch them out in humility and loving service, just as did Jesus.

The fruit that makes us like God, is when we choose to stretch out our hands in loving service, touching the untouchable, and bringing to them the healing, health, wholeness, and life which God chooses and desires for all humanity.

This passage, though brief, is significant, because it reminds us what God is like, and what God desires for humanity: healing, health, wholeness, and life. In choosing to reach out and touch, Jesus invites us to do that same. When we do, we become like God, whose very life and nature is bound up in acts of humble, loving service.


Lectionary Year and Proper: Friday, Year 1, Proper 7

[1] Matthew 8: 2 – 3

[2] John 10: 10b

[3] Genesis 3: 5

Breaking the Power of Evil – Br. David Vryhof

Mark 5:1-20

I reckon that most people, reading this story for the first time, would find it quite strange.  It certainly is unusual, and describes a scene most of us would never have imagined.  We would likely attribute the man’s condition to severe mental illness or trauma, rather than suspecting demons at work.  Casting out demons – and sending them into a herd of swine – would be a very odd cure in our minds, and probably not one that we could imagine or recommend.  The story is odd, but let’s take a closer look at it to see what insights it might provide.

The gospel writers recorded the miracles of Jesus as evidence of his divine nature, and this story certainly reveals his amazing power.  But one thing that sets it apart from other miracle stories is that it takes place in the country of the Gerasenes, and it involves people who were not Jews, as Jesus was.  It is remarkable that Jesus would deliberately cross over the Sea of Galilee to reach this place and bring himself in contact with a person who was ritually impure, to say nothing of being possessed by evil spirits.  But Jesus, as we know, had a habit of setting aside the religious laws and practices of his day in order to show compassion – which is what he does here. Read More