October 25, 2015 “ 22 Pentecost B, Proper 25
Jeremiah 31:7-9; Hebrews 7:23-28; Mark 10:46-52
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.
Recently I had occasion to spend several hours in the Emergency Room. Hand written on the small whiteboard in the room was the biblical phrase all things are possible. When I’m in such a situation I don’t really need the doctors and nurses to be too Jesus-ey. I’d really rather them be concentrating on their medical skills. But that little phrase written on the board brought a little peace and perspective. No one drew attention to it. It spoke for itself. No matter who might have ended up in that room on that Friday night and no matter what crisis they might have been in, all things would be possible.
I have a friend in the parish who has recently undergone surgery to remedy something not immediately life threatening but certainly life altering. The day after surgery she was reporting, with excitement and relief, how well things had gone. She said, And I know the Holy Spirit is with me because I have absolutely no pain. I gently reminded her that tomorrow or the next day might well bring some pain. She said, And the Holy Spirit will be with me then too. The presence of pain does not mean the absence of God.
I have another friend in the parish who has been diagnosed with an extreme and immediately life threatening and life altering condition. She and her husband spent this past week in Lourdes, France, where on Wednesday morning our time she was going to bathe in the healing waters there. She asked a number of us to pray during that specific time and not just to pray in general terms but boldly to pray for a miracle. And so a number of us did just that.
All things are indeed possible. And when a miraculous sort of healing takes place, we have an abiding and exciting sense that God is actively involved in this world. Libby Poole, our Financial Administrator, has a son, Kenton, who is now 25 and has suffered the devastating effects of Cerebral Palsy his entire life. Confined to a wheelchair and unable to walk or talk or care for himself, Kenton would need a miracle for that situation to change. Libby and her husband Mark are people of deep faith and regularly they pray for a miracle. They pray that Kenton might be delivered from his condition and be able to stand up and walk one day. But they don’t think God is withholding anything from them while Kenton still suffers.
All things are indeed possible. I’ve seen several people over the years experience dramatic and miraculous physical and emotional healing. But that phrase, all things are possible in my experience becomes even more true when the great miracles we ask for do not come about. Yes it is remarkable that God’s grace would intervene in an immediate way and remove tumors or heal blindness or allow a couple to bear a child after years of infertility. Yet what gets my attention even more are those times when such miracles do not occur and still we come to have a sense that healing and wholeness is not only still possible but is an abiding reality. Those times when the harshness of life seems to win out and good and faithful people suffer, those horrible and hard times reveal in perhaps an even deeper way that with God all things truly are possible. The presence of pain does not mean the absence of God.
It doesn’t happen all that often, but remarkable and unexplainable miracles do occur. But when they don’t that’s when an even bigger miracle occurs and that happens so often we may not even notice it. The bigger miracle is when our hopes are dashed and still we have a sense that God is here and caring for us, helping us to be healed deep within where we accept that all things being possible is so true that when we face something impossible it is still true. When I realize that something I hold dear is going to be taken away from me and there is nothing to be done about that, my acceptance of that loss brings a new sense of life and promise. Yes, this particular thing may be impossible, but that doesn’t mean that everything is impossible.
When I suffer a loss, one of the first things I come to see is that life goes on. The sun still rises, the world still goes busily about its way, you still have your work and your family to tend to. At first that seems a little insulting and I wonder why the rest of the world could be so cold as to keep on going like nothing has happened. But eventually life going on comes to be a source of comfort. My losses, my death, do not mean the death of you. Your losses, your death, do not mean the death of me. Then I come to see life going on has further meaning. As your death does not mean the end of my life, nor my death mean the end of your life, I come to ponder the even greater mystery: your death does not mean the end of you; my death does not mean the end of me. As I observe, following a loss or a death, that life goes on in this big old world, I come to see it has meaning for little old me. Even as I am forced to live with the fact that certain things are just impossible, I come to see the real truth behind that statement, With God all things are possible.
In the gospel lesson Jesus heals a blind man. He exhibits divine power. The spiritual workings of the Almighty God get enacted in a physical way. The man’s sight is restored: a miracle of healing.
Maybe we’re left thinking that God’s healing is hit or miss, that sometimes he gives it and sometimes he doesn’t. Maybe we’re left thinking it’s a matter of our faith, that if we have enough of it, no suffering whatsoever will come to us. Maybe we think that sort of stuff used to happen but it won’t now. The simple straightforward message is that the blind beggar is in need of healing and that Jesus, as the Son of God, brings that healing. Jesus heals. God heals. Sometimes we’re so busy trying to figure out the formula for how we might get the healing to occur that we miss the big message: Jesus heals; God heals. All things are possible. We get lost in questions of how, when, why, and where. God heals. All things are possible.
Me getting my miracle might make it easier to see that truth. But me not getting my miracle doesn’t make the truth any less true. For me to be given the hope to go on in this often crummy, hard world without me getting a miracle I have asked for, for me to be given the hope to go on when life has thrown its very worst at me, that’s where I see the biggest miracle, the miracle of believing that all things are possible because God is constantly healing, not just here and there with the big and obvious, but always and evermore exuding grace which holds all things together. True restoration doesn’t take away the pain of what has been lost. True restoration takes what has been lost and builds from that a brand new hope of all that can be.
Pray for a miracle but don’t just pray for something bad to go away. Pray for all that is good to come into your heart. Pray that you may know that with God all things are