Healing

Scripture: Matthew 11:28-30

Title: Healing

Structure:

  • Introduction
  • Hope vs. condemnation
  • Energy vs. exhaustion
  • Appreciation vs. entitlement
  • Lament vs. denial
  • Inter-dependence vs. independence
  • Nurture vs. neglect
  • Giving vs. greed
  • Conclusion

Introduction:

It’s been a difficult week for many in our congregation

–         I had originally planned to preach about the Trinity but it didn’t seem to fit for the week we’ve had – so this morning we are going to draw from the well of Jesus’ wisdom in caring for the soul

In Matthew 11, Jesus says…

–         Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Jesus was a carpenter by trade and as a carpenter he made wooden yokes to go across the shoulders of oxen

–         The purpose of a yoke is to make it easier to carry something

–         A yoke for a team of oxen wasn’t a one size fits all, it was custom made to fit the individual animals

–         The ‘yoke’ Jesus speaks of is his wisdom or his teaching

–         When we take on the yoke of Jesus’ wisdom we find that it fits who we are and makes the burdens we carry in this life a bit easier to bear

–         Jesus’ wisdom brings healing, well-being and growth to our soul

 

A few weeks ago now, as Robyn & I were walking around Lake Taupo, I gave some thought to some future sermon series ideas and came up with this acronym:

–         HEALING.

–         Each letter represents a word which, when put into practice, is life giving to the human soul…

–         Hope, Energy, Appreciation, Lament, Inter-dependence, Nurture & Giving – these are all strategies for well-being

–         They help us to carry our burdens without rubbing our backs raw

–         At some point I would like to take seven weeks to explore these words and their application, through a sermon series – but for today I will simply introduce the concepts to help us in taking care of our soul

–         First let’s consider hope

Hope:

Hope is the ability to imagine a good future

–         If life is good in the present then we tend not to think too much about the future

–         But when life is difficult we find the strength to get through that difficulty by imagining something good coming our way in the future

–         Without hope, without the thought that something better awaits us on the horizon, our burdens seem impossible to bear

The Christian hope, the picture of the future we hold in our minds, is heaven

–         Heaven goes by a number of different names including eternal life and the Kingdom of God

–         The best thing about heaven is God’s presence

–         In the book of Revelation chapter 7 we find these verses of hope…

He who sits on the throne will protect them with his presence. Never again will they hunger or thirst; neither sun nor any scorching heat will burn them, because the Lamb [that is: Jesus], who is in the centre of the throne, will be their shepherd and he will guide them to springs of life-giving water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

Revelation was written for Christians in the first Century who were suffering persecution – they got through it by placing their hope in Jesus, by imagining a future in the presence of God

–         In the same way we get through the difficulties we face in this life by believing that one day (through Jesus) we will abide in God’s presence forever

Sometimes we understand what something is by its opposite

–         Condemnation is one of the opposites of hope

–         To feel condemned is to feel like there is nothing good for us in the future

–         Jesus (the Son of God) did not come to condemn us – he came to redeem creation, to save the world

–         There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus

Sometimes we lose our hope – we lose our ability to see a good future and we might feel condemned

–         It’s like the clouds of depression hang low & thick so we can’t see the sun’s rays of hope and everything is grey & gloomy

–         But just because you can’t see the sun behind the clouds doesn’t mean the sun isn’t there

–         Hold on – the clouds will pass and the sun will become visible again

–         Jesus does not promise a life without clouds but he does offer us certain hope of a future enjoying abundant life in God’s presence, when we put our trust in him

 

Energy:

‘E’ stands for Energy

–         The opposite of energy is exhaustion

We have different types of energy – physical energy, emotional energy, mental energy, sexual energy, spiritual energy and so on

–         Two things that help to sustain and support our energy levels are rhythm and balance

–         It’s like riding a bike – to keep the bike upright and moving forward you need to maintain the rhythm of your pedalling and your balance

To put it in more practical terms, we get energy from maintaining regular sleep patterns, eating a healthy balanced diet, as well as taking the right amount of exercise and rest

Our primary source of energy though is the Spirit of God [1]

–         The Holy Spirit is often compared to the wind

–         In fact, the Greek word for spirit (which is pneuma) is the same word used for wind, just as the Hebrew word for spirit (which is ruach) also doubles for wind

Like the wind, the Spirit of God is a powerful energy, untameable and free

–         We can try and do things under our own steam (by rowing or paddling the ship of our soul against the tide of circumstance) but it is far better to trim our sails to catch the wind of God’s Spirit and be carried along by the energy of God

 

Sometimes though we hit the doldrums, where there is no wind

–         We might trim our sails by reading the Bible, spending time in prayer and seeking to listen to God but nothing seems to happen and we sort of drift spiritually

–         We can’t control the Spirit any more than we can tell the wind what to do

–         When we find ourselves in the doldrums we simply have to wait for God

–         Keep up our daily & weekly devotional rhythms & rituals until the wind of God’s Spirit visits us again

 

Appreciation:

‘A’ is for appreciation

–         Appreciation is a word that carries more than one meaning

–         It can mean gratitude or thankfulness but it can also mean enjoying what is in front of you, not rushing past but stopping to smell the roses

A sense of entitlement is poison to appreciation

–         If we think we’re entitled to something because we’ve worked hard & we deserve it then we will lose the simple joy of appreciating what we have

–         The key to appreciation is remembering that life is a gift from God

–         Not a duty to be performed or a goal to be achieved, but a gift to be enjoyed

 

In Luke chapter 10 we find two sisters, Mary & Martha

–         Mary sits still at the feet of Jesus, simply listening and appreciating him

–         While Martha runs around in a flurry of busy-ness and self-righteous contempt for her sister

–         Martha feels her service for the Lord entitles her to tell Jesus what to do:

–         “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to come and help me.” But Jesus says to her…

–         “Martha, Martha. You are worried and troubled over so many things, but just one is needed. Mary has chosen the right thing and it will not be taken from her.”

 

Mary paused to appreciate the Lord – to enjoy the presence of God (in the form of Jesus) who was in front of her. We need to do the same

–         One thing I often do at the end of the day is think of the things that went well in the day: things I appreciated, situations that were redeemed, anything really that had the finger prints of God on it

–         And then I thank God for those things before going to sleep

 

‘H’ is for hope, ‘E’ is for energy, ‘A’ is for appreciation and…

Lament:

‘L’ is for lament

–         Lament is an old word that we don’t hear very often, which is a great shame because it is a practice that is needed more than ever today

Lament is a way of expressing the sad, bitter, angry & painful truth of what we are feeling inside

–         The opposite of lament is denial – pretending everything is okay with us when it isn’t

The psalms are full of laments – people grieving with raw honesty, pouring out their rage, their sadness, their doubt before God

–         Apparently God is big enough to handle it

We might practice lament in a number of ways – perhaps through music & song, maybe by writing a poem or painting a picture or simply with our tears

–         Lament takes a stink feeling, a sucky feeling, and does something creative with it

At the end of Matthew 23 Jesus laments over Jerusalem saying…

–         “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing. See, your house is left to you desolate.”

Jesus could see the coming destruction of the city with the unnecessary suffering of its people – and the waste of life, the futility, grieved him

–         It didn’t have to be this way – it’s not what God wanted

–         God’s instinct is to gather and protect his people but on this occasion, as on so many other occasions, God didn’t get what he wanted

There’s been a lot to grieve about this past week

–         Give your grief to God – tell him honestly & respectfully how you feel

–         Ask him to do something creative with it

 

Inter-dependence:

In the movie Guardians of the Galaxy there is a character called ‘Groot’.

–         Groot is a tree in the shape of a human

–         All through the movie Groot says only one thing: “I am Groot”

–         It doesn’t matter what the question is or what the topic of conversation he always says: “I am Groot”

–         Until the end of the film when he lays his life down to save his friends and says: “We are Groot

‘I’ is for inter-dependence, in contrast to independence

–         Inter-dependence is about being connected to one another in a good way

–         It’s about depending or relying on one another

–         Inter-dependent relationships function on trust

–         In contrast independence is about being isolated or alone

–         Independence is often the result of mistrust

 

Healing, wholeness, growth – these things don’t happen in isolation, they happen in community

–         If you injure your finger the doctors don’t seek to heal the finger by separating it from the hand – no, they keep the finger attached

 

Our body is an inter-dependent unity. As the apostle Paul says…

  •  25 And so there is no division in the body, but all its different parts have the same concern for one another. 26 If one part of the body suffers, all the other parts suffer with it; if one part is praised, all the other parts share its happiness. 27 All of you are Christ’s body, and each one is a part of it.

 

The death this past week has affected a lot of people and that’s because we are all connected

–         Whether we like it or not, what happens to one part of the body affects the rest – and that’s true whether you were close to the one who died or not

If you are hurting, don’t do your grieving alone – talk with someone

–         There will be people available to pray with you here, by the water cooler, after the service or you can catch up with Daryl or me

–         It has been really good to see the way many people in the church have come together to lend support to each other – especially the youth & young adults. There is healing in community

‘H’ is for hope, ‘E’ is for energy, ‘A’ is for appreciation, ‘L’ is for lament,

‘I’ is for inter-dependence, and…

 Nurture:

‘N’ is for nurture, as opposed to neglect

–         Nurture is about taking care of someone or something

–         One of the primary images we are given of Jesus is that of a shepherd

–         A shepherd takes care of his sheep

It’s interesting how Jesus restores Peter

–         After Peter had denied him three times, Jesus tells Peter to feed my sheep

–         Jesus heals Peter by giving him some people to nurture and take care of

–         The wisdom of Jesus seems to be that healing, well-being and growth of our soul doesn’t happen by self-analysis alone – it happens as we look outside ourselves to the nurture and care of others

Sometimes when we are hurting or in pain we can become quite self-absorbed and our perspective gets smaller & smaller until we find ourselves locked in self-destructive thought patterns – the temptation in grief is to self-pity

–         Nurturing others, looking to the well-being of others, actually enlarges our perspective and frees our mind, lifting our thought patterns out of the rut we sometimes get ourselves into

–         Self-pity leads us to neglect our soul. Nurture, of others, saves us from self-pity

Giving:

Related to this idea of nurture is our final letter: ‘G’ for giving

–         Jesus said: It is better to give than receive

–         By giving I don’t think Jesus just meant giving money

–         I think he meant giving in the broader sense of that word – being generous in our attitude toward others, giving time to listen, giving people the benefit of the doubt, forgiving others, giving ourselves

The thing is we can only give what we have received – we can’t give what we don’t have, so giving implies receiving, not earning or taking, but receiving as a gift. God offers us life as a gift, both to enjoy and to share with others

The classic illustration for the benefits of giving is the Dead Sea

–         While the Dead Sea receives water from the Jordan River, it doesn’t have an outlet and consequently the salt & mineral deposits increase to such an extent that nothing can survive in the water there

–         It is similar with our soul – when we don’t give, our soul becomes constipated or bunged up with bitterness

Jesus encouraged generosity, not to make us feel guilty about not meeting some impossible ideal, but in order to set us free from the constipation of greed

 

Conclusion:

There is a lot more we could say about each of these things (and at some point in the future we might explore them further) but that’s enough for now

–         As you process the events of the past week (whether it’s been a good week for you or torrid), which one of these words or areas of well-being do you think you need to focus on, both for your own healing & growth, as well as that of those around you?

 

Let us pray…

Father God, you are just and merciful. You understand us completely because you made us. You are the ground of our being.

Jesus, Son of God, you are our brother and our hope. Because of you we have friendship with God and a future to look forward to.

Holy Spirit, you are the source of our energy, the wind in our sails, the warmth in our heart, the one who connects us to Jesus.

God you are our home – we come from you and we return to you. In you we can be ourselves. We pray for those in NZ and in the world at large who have nowhere to live. Provide each one with affordable accommodation and a caring community to belong to.

God of the easy yoke we pray for those who are weary and heavy laden. Help each of us to take care of the soul you have given us. Save us from the constipation of greed. Keep us from that self-pity which leads to neglect of the soul. Help us to express our grief in creative & satisfying lament. Give us eyes to appreciate the good news all around us. Strengthen our trust in one another that we would do the ups & downs of life together, in an inter-dependent way. When we find ourselves in the doldrums help us to keep our balance and maintain healthy rhythms, while we wait for the wind of your Spirit. And when our mood is overcast and we lose sight of hope, hold on to us and remind us that the clouds of depression will pass. Restore us as we care for and nurture your lambs. Give us wisdom to live generously & well, in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

 

Questions for discussion or reflection

1.)    What stands out for you in reading this Scripture and/or in listening to the sermon?

2.)    Jesus’ metaphor of the easy yoke can be understood in a variety of ways – how do you understand it?

3.)    Where is your hope placed? (What is your picture of the future?)

4.)    How are your energy levels at the moment? Are you rowing against the tide or catching the wind of God’s Spirit?

–         What can we do when we find ourselves in the doldrums?

5.)    What form of lament works best for you? (E.g. music, writing, painting, crying, something else creative?)

6.)    What has God given you to share with others?

7.)    Which of the 7 areas (words) of well-being, mentioned in the sermon, do you need to focus on for the welfare of your soul (and for others)?

8.)    At the end of each day this week, think of three things in the day you appreciated and give thanks to God for them.

 

https://soundcloud.com/tawabaptist/27-may-2018-healing

 

 

[1] Note to self for future sermon: use the story of an exhausted Elijah being feed by an angel, rested and carried by the Spirit (God restores Elijah’s physical & spiritual energy)

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