(watch here: https://youtu.be/6f77oOOiUF0)
(sermon note: 03-10 sermon note)
As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, crying loudly, ‘Have mercy on us, Son of David!’ When he entered the house, the blind men came to him; and Jesus said to them, ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’ They said to him, ‘Yes, Lord.’ Then he touched their eyes and said, ‘According to your faith let it be done to you.’ And their eyes were opened. Then Jesus sternly ordered them, ‘See that no one knows of this.’ But they went away and spread the news about him throughout that district.
After they had gone away, a demoniac who was mute was brought to him. And when the demon had been cast out, the one who had been mute spoke; and the crowds were amazed and said, ‘Never has anything like this been seen in Israel.’
Greetings, fellow ELCA congregations of Superior, from your brothers and sisters in Christ here at Our Savior’s. What a strange and winding year it has been for us all as we’ve navigated this global pandemic of ours! It has no doubt been a difficult year for us all as we’ve tried to piece together some semblance of shared ministry. Our worship services, Sunday schools, confirmation classes, visitations, committee meetings, and Bible studies have all suffered from our disjointed efforts to stay connected and be the body of Christ in our respective communities. We’ve all had to adapt and overcome the unique challenges presented by the pandemic. A year ago, I had the privilege to actually get out and see your churches and meet some of you as the “new guy” in town. I’m bummed that I don’t have that same opportunity again this year but at least we can gather here virtually. It’s not the same but it’ll have to do, at least for this year.
Both Pastor Victor and Pastor Michelle have done a great job of getting our Lenten series underway in the last couple weeks. As you know by now, the overall theme of the series is health and more specifically physical health, economic health, mental health, intellectual health, and environmental health. What a relevant theme to reflect on after a year of powerful change in our world! Oh, how we need to reclaim some degree of health in our oh, so broken world! Healthiness is vital for our congregations and communities and families to survive. We NEED to stay healthy if we’re ever going to make it out of this situation of ours! God is forcing us to get healthy and help the world get healthy whether we like or not! And we’re going to do it together, one day at a time…
Hopefully many of you have had the opportunity to get your vaccine shots so you’re on your way to maintaining physical health. Judging by the news reports, President Biden is doing a valiant job of restoring economic health to our country. The mental health of our country has also taken a big hit over the last year as we’ve isolated ourselves from each other more and more. Some say that isolation was a growing concern before the pandemic with the help of technology but the pandemic certainly didn’t help that growing concern. It probably compounded it! But I’m no expert on mental health and how to maintain it. I’ve even had to seek help maintaining my own mental health after a difficult couple years. The world has become a complex world, a confusing world, and boy, I’d sure like to have some clarity back!
Lucky for us, we have a source for great clarity in our holy scripture. Our reading for today highlights a key part to maintaining any type of health; namely, faith. Faith is a strong tool for maintaining health, particularly mental health. And we’ll reflect on that a little further but before we begin, I always like to start my messages with a little something funny, as many of you know by now. My reflection on mental health reminds me of the one about a mental health hotline. Evidently, you can call a number whenever you’re presented with a mental health issue. The opening prompt goes like this: “Hello, and welcome to the Mental Health Hotline. If you are obsessive-compulsive, press 1 repeatedly. If you are codependent, ask someone to press 2 for you. If you have multiple personalities, press 3, 4, 5, and 6. If you are paranoid, we know who you are and what you want. Stay on the line so we can trace your call. If you are delusional, press 7 and your call will be transferred to the MotherShip. If you are schizophrenic, listen carefully and a small voice will tell you which number to press. If you are depressed, it doesn’t matter which number you press-no one will answer you. If you are dyslexic, press 981759812. If you have a nervous disorder, please fidget with the hash key until the beep after the beep, please wait for the beep. If you have low self-esteem, hang up. All our operators are too busy to talk to you. If you have amnesia, press 8 and state your name, address, phone number, date of birth, credit card number, and your grandmother’s maiden name. If you have post traumatic stress disorder, slowly and carefully press 911. If you have bi-polar disorder, please leave a message after the beep, or before the beep. Actually, after the beep. Or before the beep. Finally, if you have short term memory loss, press 9. If you have short term memory loss, press 9. If you have short term memory loss, press 9. If you have short term memory loss, press 9.
Who knew such a “helpful” hotline was available, eh?! Well, alas, it is not. All those mental disorders are afflictions that can befall any one of us and they are oftentimes very difficult to treat. Sickness of the mind is unlike any other types of sickness. The treatment, and possible cure, of it is very complex and time-consuming. God knows this and gives us the necessary reassurance and hope. In our reading for today, we heard two blind men approach Jesus seeking healing. Jesus’ response: “do you believe that I am able to do this?” to which they respond, “yes, Lord.” That brief interaction made all the difference for those two men. It illustrated their unwavering faith in Jesus and his healing powers. It was their faith that made them well as it made so many other people well elsewhere in scripture. Thus is the sheer power of faith alone. It can HEAL! It can do the impossible! It can conquer unconquerable sickness and many believe mental sickness is an unconquerable sickness. Recall the words of James, “the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven.” (5:15) Our God raises the sick through faith! What a powerful tool for wellness! Faith is arguably the strongest tool we have for fighting sickness, particularly mental sickness. Believe in God and God’s goodness! Believe in God’s ability to heal the unhealable! Believe! The prophet Jeremiah believed as we heard him cry out, “heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved; for you are my praise.” (17:14) Such faith, such belief! He knew he would be healed! He knew God would show mercy and compassion on him! Friends, this is the faith we are to have even in our sickness. God is our redeemer!
Believe that God was with us over the last year. Believe that God will continue to be with us in the year ahead. Believe that God will heal us. He does love us…why wouldn’t He heal us?! God heals all sickness, even sickness of the mind. Put your faith and trust in him. Be assured, he will heal you! I can’t say this enough in this season of Lent and this year of recovery. God will heal us! Have faith, trust in him! He will redeem us! And for this we give thanks: thanks be to God!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.