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My Story Will Be Taken Into Account

Isaiah 40:21-31; Mark 1:29-39 and Little Stones at My Window by Mario Benedetti

Sunday February 7th, 2021

Welcome to this Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany!

Thank you for joining us today! We are still here and still hanging on together! This is the time in our gathering where we dive a bit deep together, reflecting on the message from our sacred texts. I invite you to take just a few moments to be present, let yourself show up more fully, to arrive as much as we can to a place of openness. As you are so moved, I invite you to join me in a spirit of prayer and centering from Psalm 19.

God, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen

“I'm going to keep anxiety locked up

and then lie flat on my back

which is an elegant and comfortable position

for receiving and believing news”

These words by Mario Benedetti made me laugh because they seem spot on. I am hearing that many of you are hitting a wall, feeling overwhelmed, mentally groggy, sad, depressed, angry, anxious. “I am going to keep my anxiety locked up and then lie flat on my back…”

That might just describe many of us and a bunch of the world right now. Because it is not socially acceptable to let all of our anxiety out, but keeping it locked up forever won’t work either. And it isn’t realistic or socially acceptable really to just stop everything and lie there indefinitely.

This week, it will be 11 months since we have been disconnected and separated. And we aren’t designed to be distant, not like this. Obviously it is important that we carve out time for silence and sacred space, but science and the teachings from our tradition, tell us that touch and just the nearness of others is essential for our thriving and we haven’t had that outside of our households for coming up on a year.

As P.C. Ennis writes, “Some theologians even suggest that to be “created in the image of God” means that we are created for relationship, for “it is not right that human beings should be alone,” as we read in (cf. Gen. 2:18).” Further Ennis writes, “scientists and psychologists have conducted tests on primates, as well as on infant children, that were deprived at an early age of human touch, with the results showing devastating effects on the developmental skills and sociability.”

What if we are created for relationship? For connection? For our stories to be shared? For the healing touch of our caring community to be felt?

Last week, we heard the first part of this story in the Gospel of Mark. We met Jesus in the synagogue where he performed his first exorcism and today we meet him in a home- the place of Simon’s mother in law who was in bed and very sick. The scripture says that Jesus touches her hand and touches her whole body by lifting her up. And we read that after that she was healed. Then later at sundown Jesus is among a crowd and the healing continues.

Note, there wasn’t a sermon claiming that being sick is a sin or that being possessed by a demon is a dealbreaker- in fact the text says that Jesus was able to keep the demons from speaking “because they knew him.” Jesus knew the demons too? To me that means he had his own demons and maybe too that he had seen them in others and he wasn’t afraid to love whatever was there.

I have long been curious about what demons really are in the Gospel stories. Of course in a pre-science world, it could have been any number of things, but what if some of what he was referring to was those who struggled with mental illness? Or what if it was the demons that arise from distance, from the disconnection that would have been required in that time where some people were deemed unworthy for things like skin maladies or neurological differences? So while some things need medicine and time, this story made me wonder if part of what Jesus is pointing us to, is the power of being proximate, the healing that comes by coming together.

Again from scholar P.C. Ennis who writes, “The power of touch, intimacy, of nearness, to make whole: Jesus must have understood that which we are too often slow to comprehend: Love not expressed, love not felt, is difficult to trust.” I will say that again because it takes a minute to soak it in: Love not expressed, love not felt, is difficult to trust.

So to be about love, to say that God is love, that we are a community grounded in love, means that we must express ourselves in love too, that part of what our business together should be is ensuring each one of us is seen and feels loved. And that has felt harder to do since we have been apart.

Because the truth is that we are created for relationship, for connection, for the healing touch of a caring community. And many of us don’t have that so fully right now that collectively and individually we are struggling.

Perhaps you have been reading of the rise in mental health crises in our youth and the increase in anxiety and depression in adults. We are learning in these years, more than any other time, how much our connections with one another really mean. Our showing up to share coffee and sit close in, to hug, to hold hands and sing, to be in close proximity with people we care about. We haven’t had this for so long.

The Greek word used when describing the healing of Simon’s mother in law is egeiro or “to get up” and rise up and as Ofelia Ortega writes, “The expression of healing is surprising, and it can almost be seen as a paschal announcement, because it uses the same verb used to describe Jesus resurrection in chapter 16.” Egeiro!

Relationship, connection, having our individual story be taken into account, being seen, being blessed by the proximity of others who care is like a resurrection!

This is what is missing for many right now and we see that lots of the people we love and even some of us are not okay. Today, I want you to know that being unwell, being sick, feeling distant from the best that is you, is not a sin and also it is good and right to ask for help. So if you have demons in your life right now, don’t forget that something Greater might be able to offer support and keep them from speaking. Healing often happens in the context of a Higher Power and a caring community.

Over the next weeks and months we are launching important conversations about mental wellness. Suicide prevention and awareness, substance abuse, addiction and recovery, depression and anxiety. We feel the need to respond to the hurt and to let the demons know, whatever names we have for them, that we see them too. We are not afraid to name them. We feel moved to create spaces where more people hurting will be seen and touched. “Love not expressed, love not felt, is difficult to trust.” The poet reminds us that “joy throws little stones at (the) window, it wants to let (us) know that it's waiting…” And in the meantime, it’s okay if there are days where you need to “keep (your) anxiety locked up and then lie flat on (your) back,” but not every day. Because the truth is that we are created for relationship, for connection, for the healing touch of a caring community; we are each created with a story that must be taken into account. So Beloved of God, let us see one another, let us hear one another, let us offer a healing touch however we can, let us not give in, so that all who are down, might soon be lifted up. May it be so. Amen.

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