Worship for February 07, 2021
You can join this week’s worship service by visiting here.
Below, you’ll find Andy’s reflection and Steve’s prayers for this week.
You can find this week’s Children’s Time video here.
Fifth Sunday of Epiphany
Scripture: Mark 1: 29-39
Music: In You There is a Refuge; My Life Flows On
Musician: Andy O’Neill and Brenda Barnes
During my time at seminary, part of my training was to be a hospital chaplain, which I did at the Toronto General just down the street from my college. For four months I wandered the internal medicine ward at the General, and for another four months I visited patients in the dialysis ward. I met some incredible people during those visits, people who changed the way I thought and who cured me of a great deal of my anxiety about hospital visitation.
I’d spent a lot of time in hospitals, both visiting others and even spending a week in one as a twelve-year-old, newly-diagnosed diabetic. My anxiety was not about facing mortality, it was about my role and purpose. I wasn’t there as a doctor, to give medical attention or advice, nor was I there to care for them with the sure and supportive hands of the nursing staff. I wasn’t even a minister yet, so I didn’t officially have the role of a chaplain. At the beginning of my internship, at least, I felt rudderless.
That changed the day I met an older patient from Estonia. She and I chatted a few times over the course of a few months and I came to learn more about her life before she had come to Canada. She had grown up in the city of Tallinn and she had a fond memory of walking along the river with her parents. At an advanced stage in her illness, she wouldn’t be able to visit her home and family ever again and she felt a great deal of pain about that.
By sheer coincidence, I had been to Estonia the previous summer on a choir trip that toured the Baltic region. On one of my last days visiting on the ward, I brought my scrapbook into her and showed her some of the pictures I had taken in Tallinn. In particular, I had a picture of the river that runs through city and of the iconic church that stands on its shores. When she saw it, she smiled and began to cry. We talked some more and as I went to leave she grasped my hand and said “Thank you.”
Clearly, I’ve never forgotten that afternoon. That brief moment, which we shared in the presence of God, was a blessing to me. I hope and trust that it was for her, as well. It also taught me something valuable about the difference between being cured and being healed. To be cured is to get rid of one particular ailment; to be ill, and then to be well, an experience that is framed mainly in terms of illness and in terms of ourselves. But to be healed is to experience love, to be restored to relationship, joined in peace with our family and friends, with God, and with ourselves and our lives.
I’ve also learned from my sister and her husband – both of whom are doctors – that the medical community also understands the importance of healing and medical treatment working hand-in-hand. In the Niagara region, they worked in what is called a “Family Health Unit.” In essence, patients were treated not on their own, but as members of families and larger groups. Parents and children, even entire families, were treated together, so that changes and stresses could be factored into diagnosis, and supports factored into their treatment – an approach which includes relationship as an integral part of healing.
Fascinatingly, these more holistic concepts of healing are present even in today’s reading from Mark. The story of Jesus healing Simon’s mother-in-law would have communicated two things very clearly to early Christians: first, that Jesus’ power to heal – to make things on earth as they are in heaven – is a sign of his being the messiah; and, second, that God’s love and healing are always experienced personally, but never individually.
This is not a story of Jesus waving his hand over a crowd and healing people in the abstract, nor is it a story where one person is healed in secret. Jesus heals in the home of Simon’s mother-in-law, with Simon and, presumably, others present, breaking bread, praying, and sharing in a transformation. The sense of the story is that, in that moment, something is restored to all present, something that had been lost or forgotten.
During the time of COVID, we’ve come to appreciate just how precious healing of this sort is, largely because we have not been able to gather in this way. For 44 years, I’ve taken for granted that I would be with my parents during Christmas and, as for many of you, that changed this year. We’re all discovering a new level of appreciation for our blessings and our relationships. No one would ever choose to go through a time like this, but we can choose to try and learn about ourselves, and our life together, as we go through it.
There are a few things I know I will take from this time. One, form early on in the pandemic, is how important it is to have a shower and get dressed at roughly the same time each day, even if getting dressed just means changing from pajamas into sweat pants. Another is how important it is to rest, to take time for ourselves, and time to be with those closest to us, even if that’s on the phone or by Zoom. So many times I would feel like I didn’t have the energy, only to discover that it was those interactions that brought me to life again.
I’ve also found myself thinking about what we need to remember whenever things return to some sort of normal, including what we need to do to reach out to those who were isolated and alone before COVID. We’ve all had an experience now of what life can be like when we don’t have people in our lives, so we can’t ever again forget about those for whom that’s true under normal circumstances, like those who can’t leave their homes, who have mobility issues, who are differently-abled or who suffer from social anxiety.
Our ministry will also have to concentrate on those weaknesses that have been exposed during this time, especially for families living close to the margins or those for whom work is precarious. We’ve seen how the government income support – the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, or CERB – helped so many people through the worst of the transition time last year. Which means we have a new impetus to advocate for a living wage, to speak and act on behalf of the most financially vulnerable.
This year has taught all of us that healing is not simply about miraculous recovery, but about God’s personal and loving presence in our lives. It’s about sharing in each other’s lives – friend, neighbour and stranger – and how our lives are enriched in doing so. Our healing may be personal, but it is never individual. We heal together. Amen.
Lord Jesus, when you walked on the rocky roads through Samaria and Judea or sat by the shimmering waters of the Jordan or the Sea of Galilee, you met people in their homes and communities with all of their cares and burdens and offered them healing and hope.
When you reached out to touch the leper or looked deep into the eyes to touch the heart of someone who was broken or in pain it was as if heaven and earth met and there was healing.
When you invited those who were rejected by others to join you and when you welcomed and played with the children the community was broadened and all felt God’s grace and inclusive love.
As you sat quietly and listened to the turmoil and struggles of those who were suffering and when you spoke with strength to support the least, the last and the lost the vision of God’s peace came to light.
We pray today that our world will know your healing touch and compassionate and forgiving heart.
We ask that all who have been hurt by insincere actions and hurtful words will hear your soothing and comforting voice.
We ask that those whose minds are filled with darkness or unimaginable fears will find the peace that you offer in times of trouble and turmoil.
We ask that you walk beside those who are close to giving up hope and where life seems to have no point; where people struggle to make ends meet and they fear the knock on the door.
In these tumultuous days we ask that all who are struggling with the many affects and effects of the pandemic feel the touch of a caring hand in person, over the phone or virtually and bring an end to the injustice that has become more visible during the pandemic.
pray for those places that are torn by conflict and injustice and we remember especially the people of Myanmar, Russia and Saudi Arabia where the voices of change and progress are being quashed. We pray for areas torn by conflict like Yemen, Syria and Palestine. We pray for the First Nations communities especially in the north who face inadequate housing and for all of those who have gone without safe drinking water for years. May all governments and people hear your voice calling for peace with justice.
We pray too, that all who weep and mourn, or feel abandoned and unloved hear your voice softly calling and move toward your all embracing love and hear your still small voice whispering to the them in the long dark night of their soul.
Inspire us and encourage each of us to reach out and embrace those for whom society has no time or patience.
Raise our eyes upwards to see the struggling patient and the exhausted care giver. And where young and old stumble and fall, may we be there to offer support, that all will know your love that transcends all others.
We give thanks for the generosity that helps to provide comfort and care for those who are need.
Be with us loving God, in all of our concerns and celebrations, as together we pray in the words Jesus taught us,
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name,
thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.