Saturday, June 27, 2009

Healing and the Image of God: 3 things to do

I was blessed early in the week with a phone call from one of my mentoring pastors, and it turns out that she needs someone for pulpit supply this Sunday, so I'm preaching on Mark 5:21-43, the healings of the woman who is hemorrhaging and of Jairus' daughter.

Three pieces inspired me in sermon preparation this week. You may not hear my sermon, but perhaps these pieces will also inspire you to three actions.

A) This fact: an estimated 18,000 people a year die because they don't have health insurance, so they can't afford and don't get treatment for preventable or treatable illnesses. "Uninsured adults have a higher risk of dying before age 65 than do insured adults, resulting in roughly 18,000 excess deaths annually." See the pdf brief from the Institute of Medicine report, Insuring America's Health.

1) Write, call, email your representative in Congress and in the U.S. Senate and say, now is the time for universal health care coverage.

B) Inspired by an excerpt from a poem "The Daughter of Jairus," from Soul Sisters: Women in Scripture Speak to Women Today, by Edwina Gateley.

The miracle was surely
as much in your father
as in Jesus
who was moved and struck
by such blind and naked faith.
It is the kind of faith
which leaves respectability and convention
curled up
like a small irrelevant ball
in the face of mystery.
It is a faith
for which we deeply hunger,
yet shun.
For it requires a fall
into the grace of God within us—
and we are afraid to fall.
Nor do we, unlike Jairus,
weep and cry in public,
allowing ourselves to acknowledge
how broken up we are—
and daring to reach for deep healing. …

Ah, we need you, Jairus!
We need the passion that burned in you
for the health and life of your little one.
We need the desperate determination
which sent you running and humbled
to the feet of Jesus
begging for new life!
We need the kind of unselfish love
that will topple us from high places
of righteousness and political strategies,
of retaliation and sanctions
and lead us, instead,
to look with compassion
into the eyes of children in pain
who know nothing of sanctions—
but only of the hurt
and the ache in their bellies.
It is the children who must drive us,
like you, Jairus,
into public places,
weeping for mercy and
stretching out for healing.
Miracles will come about only
when we fall from arrogance and power
to a place of deep conversion.
It is our tears, then,
which will bring about
the healing of our world.
And maybe then,
when we come to honor and love
all the little ones,
putting them first and before all else,
our lives will shine, splendid and pure,
in the light of God—
as brilliant as that
which must have shone
in your father's eyes,
daughter of Jairus,
when you were raised from death.

2) Have faith and fall into God's grace.

C) And this story from Rabbi Rami Shapiro found in his book, The Sacred Art Of Lovingkindness: Rabbi Shapiro was speaking at a benefit for 2004 tsunami victims, and he said,
"There is one thing rabbis are trained to do, and that is to teach Torah. So let's study the Bible together for a few minutes. The book of Genesis tells us that we are created in the image and likeness of God. Yet when God actually creates us, Torah refers to us only as the image of God and not the likeness. Let's take a look at what these terms mean, and why the difference in wording matters.

"What does it mean to be the image of God? Being the image of God means that we are God manifest. Just as a wave is the ocean extended in time and space, so each one of us is God extended in time and space.

"What does it mean to be the likeness of God? Being the likeness of God means that we have the potential to act in a godly manner. It means that we can, regardless of our ideology, theology, and politics, engage each moment and each other with loving kindness.

"According to Genesis, God intends for us to be godly, to honor the image by living out the likeness. This is not a metaphor. The Hebrew Name of God, the four-letter Name Y-H-V-H, yod-hey-vav-hey, when written vertically takes on the shape of a human being. Each one of us is the Name of God incarnate."

If you can, do this with a friend and in a group, otherwise go to a full length mirror.

"The letter yod is like a seven. Starting on the right side of your neighbor's forehead, run your finger across the forehead, then down the nose, over the lips to the chin. That is the letter yod, the first letter of God's Holy Name. Draw it, feel it on the body.

The second letter of God's name is hey. This letter is the shape of the shoulders and arms. Start with both hands on your partner's sternum and then draw a line outward across the shoulders and down both arms, leaving a slight space between the shoulder and elbow of the right arm.

The third letter is vav. It runs down your torso or spinal column. Use your finger to draw a line from just below the sternum to the pelvis. Don't linger at the pelvis.

The fourth and final letter of God's Name is another hey. Draw a line across your neighbor's hips and down both legs to the feet.

Now step back from your neighbor and visualize the Name of God as their body. Don't imagine it is written on the body, or that it is glowing through from inside the body. The body itself is the Name of God. Now close your eyes and sense the same thing regarding your body. You are the Name of God. You are the image of God. Now open your eyes and tap as many people as you can easily reach on the forehead, saying, 'Image of God!'"
The rest of the story and the book is well worth reading too.

3) I invite you to take this practice with you and visualize the Name of God on each person you meet, starting with yourself in the morning as you look into the mirror. If we truly see God in the other, won't we be bringing healing and wholeness to them and to ourselves and to the world? Jesus surely understood this as he did his healing work. You can think of this as an active prayer, a way to pray without ceasing with each person that you meet.

In the Name of God, yod-hey-vav-hey, amen.

1 comment:

  1. The sermon went fine. People liked being able to stand up during the sermon--point to remember--and liked the image of God idea as a way to look at people. It was being reminded 2 minutes before the service started that I was going to do the children's story--which I had forgotten all about that nearly threw me. But giving thanks to the "always be prepared" skills of being a mom, I reached in my bag and pulled out a bandaid and, eureka, I had my children's sermon visual aid. The Spirit continues to inspire.